After years of working in corporate America and sitting at a desk for six to eight hours a day, one of the first things I wanted to learn and understand as a trainer was how to help myself and my clients stretch and release from the tension of a long, stressful day at work.
One of the first and most important lessons I learned about the body is that our joints have something called synovial fluid, a thick colorless liquid that surrounds the joints and splashes over them when they are activated. Synovial fluid is the lubrication to our joints, so one of the most important things you can do to make your body feel less stiff and more fluid and relaxed is to practice activating this fluid.
One of the easiest ways is by doing clockwise and counter-clockwise rotations anywhere you have a joint that allows you to rotate in circular motion. For instance, I like to start at my neck working my way down my body to the shoulders, elbows and wrists. I then rotate my hips (like I am doing the hula-hoop) and then finally my ankles. I do this twice a day, in the morning and at night, at each joint for 15 to 30 seconds in each direction.
In addition to activating your synovial fluid, there are some vitally important stretches that will keep you away from injury and a visit to the doctor’s office. If you think about the position you sit at your desk at work or at home, there are definitely some muscles that get over worked and stay contracted for longer periods of time. These muscles include your upper pectoral muscles, anterior deltoid and psoas muscles. If these sound foreign to you, I am going to break them down so you understand what they are and how they need to be stretched.
Lets start with the pectoral muscles — your chest. While you’re reaching forward to type at your keypad, you’re using your upper pectoral muscle and/or your anterior deltoid (front of your shoulder) to complete the task. After years and years of reaching forward these muscles can become overactive and lead to shoulder injuries or rounded shoulder syndrome.
Therefore it’s important to stretch these muscles at least two times a day, holding the stretch for at least 15 to 30 seconds at time. One of the easiest ways to stretch both the upper pectoral and anterior deltoid at the same time is by doing a simple doorway stretch: stand in an open doorway and place both your left and right hands at 90-degree angles on both side of doorframe. Once in this position, slowly push your weight forward through the frame, staggering your feet if needed. It’s that easy.
Two muscles that are often overlooked but key to allowing you to sit upright for long periods of time are your psoas major and psoas minor. The psoas major connects at the spine around the bottom of the rib cage and runs down to the thighbone and connects to the femur. This muscle allows you to flex your hips.
The psoas minor also connects at the spine and runs down to the pelvis. This muscle allows you flex your lumbar spine. Therefore as you sit in the ease and comfort of your chair, the psoas muscles are constantly staying contracted and doing work to keep your posture and position in place. As a result, it’s important to give these muscles some lovin’ by doing a something called a hip flexor stretch.
Although it’s simple to achieve, the hip flexor stretch is extremely affective in releasing your psoas muscles. First, assume a kneeling position on the floor. Next, bring one leg forward into a 90-degree angle. You should then flatten the other leg to the floor staying in an upright position. Once again, you should do this stretch on both sides, twice a day for 15-30 seconds at a time.
After you have lubricated your joints and stretched out your pectoral muscles and psoas, your body will feel better and you movements will be more fluid and pain free.