As businesses continue to support work-from-home arrangements, boundaries between work and home life get blurred, and we spend more time at our desks. Sedentary work can lead to physical problems, and as a result, more people are investing in standing desks.
But standing desks alone are not a panacea.
You also need to exercise, which is why we compiled a set of exercises you can do either behind your desk (maybe even during a Zoom call) or while you’re on a break.
We recommend the latter. You should ideally be outdoors: sweat, soak up the sunshine, drink water, and stretch.
(Related: How To Stand At A Standing Desk).
1. Touch The Spine.
Shown above: You can do this exercise without any equipment, and without stepping away from your standing desk.
Staring at a computer monitor for extended periods is not ideal. The persistent strain on your neck leads to a condition called ‘tech neck’, which causes soreness and stiffness.
You can incorporate this simple stretch that loosens up your neck area and loosen your shoulders:
- Reach for the spine: Lift your arm up, bend it, and attempt to touch your neck vertebrae.
- Feel the stretch: Use your other arm to gently press down on the elbow and deepen the stretch. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds, shake it off and repeat.
Stretching your neck will also allow you to prevent a forward-tilting posture.
2. Standing Desk Push Ups.
Shown above: control your standing desk pushup difficulty by adjusting your desk height. The lower the height, the more you will suffer.
Push-ups are a great standing desk exercise and an effective way to increase upper body and core strength. It will also open your shoulders and chest and prevent slouching.
To do this:
- First, check that your standing desk can support your weight.
- Ensure you have a non-slip surface below you and your feet remain flat on the floor.
- Start with your hands on the edge of your standing desk.
- Lean forward and push down into a push-up position.
Aim for 3 x sets of 12-15 push-ups throughout the day. These are lower impact than regular push-ups so you can aim for higher reps.
(Related: Best Under-Desk Treadmills You Can Buy In 2023).
3. Back Extensions.
Shown above: A more advanced variation of the back extension, the floor back extension, is done while lying on the floor.
As we’ve mentioned, sitting at a desk for long periods can do more than cause fatigue – it can also lead to poor posture. Lower back pain is a common symptom.
Back extensions are ideal for performing near your desk, as they don’t need much space. You can do them in the smallest of home offices.
To perform a basic back extension:
- Stand away from your desk with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Place your hands on either side of your hips.
- Lean backwards gently as far as you can go without straining.
- Hold this position for 10 seconds before slowly releasing and returning to a straight standing posture.
- You can then lean forward and lengthen your spine in the opposite direction. Don’t worry if you cannot touch your toes. Place your hands on your shins or knees for support, or let your body weight hang.
You can perform more advanced variations of the back extension by ling on the floor (see image above).
These should be repeated throughout the day while working to maintain good posture and a relaxed body.
(Related: Are Standing Desks Ergonomic?)
4. Wall Squats.
Shown above: For extra gains, torture yourself even more by holding a small medicine ball while squatting. (Don’t have a medicine ball? Use a book or a laptop).
Wall squats are an excellent all-rounder exercise for your standing desk routine. They:
- Help improve lower-body strength and power.
- Work for every major muscle group in the body – including your core, which helps keep you balanced when standing for long periods.
- Increase the strength of your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
- Do not require equipment (except the wall of your home office!).
- Start with sets of 15-30 seconds, building up to 60-90 seconds.
- Explore holds at different angles. Half of your sets should be in a deep squat, the other in a 1/3 squat.
- Add one or two weights for an added challenge and resistance as you get stronger.
Ensure your technique is correct:
- Feet should be slightly wider than the hip stance.
- Adopt the sitting position, as if sitting in a chair.
- Don’t cheat by pushing on your thighs with your hands.
- Ensure your knees don’t go past your toes.
Shown above: feel the burn and focus on keeping yourself straight.
Planks are like spinach. Noone likes them, but everyone knows that they’re good for you.
The good news is that they’re easy to perform. Simply:
- Set a timer for 30 seconds.
- Push yourself up onto your hands.
- Focus on keeping straight.
Rest for 30 seconds when the timer goes off.
Repeat 3-5 more times.
Try a more advanced variation where you alternate between being on your hands and your elbows during your set.
6. Standing Bicycle Crunch.
Shown above: standing bicycle crunch helps you build coordination and explosiveness.
Six-pack abs are a dream for many of us, and ab exercises are great at strengthening your core for postural awareness.
Strengthening our core supports us to sit, stand, and move more efficiently throughout the day. For standing crunches:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Place your hands behind your head.
- Bring your right knee to meet your left elbow, then return to the starting position.
- You can also hold a dumbbell in one hand and lean towards the ground, using your abdominals, before standing up to attention (one side at a time).
Aim for 15-20 reps on each side with all ab exercises. Ab work is also great for balance. As an add-on, you should incorporate a 30-second wall sit to strengthen your abdominals before returning to work.
7. Rear Leg Raise.
Shown above: focus on keeping your leg straight to improve your mind-muscle connection.
Increasing your heart rate is the way to go if you’re looking to burn fat while working.
Rear leg raise is an excellent strength exercise that is surprisingly aerobic. You can incorporate it into your standing desk workout to increase metabolism flow and burn calories.
- Begin on all fours, back straight.
- Keeping your hips level, push your rear straight to the rear.
- Use a mirror to check your form.
Perform 10 repetitions, then change legs to complete the set. Aim for 3-5 sets.
8. Standing Lunges.
Shown above: maintain correct lunge posture by keeping your posture upright.
The benefit of a height-adjustable desk is that you can utilise this to support your exercise breaks.
Lunges are a great way to stretch and strengthen multiple muscles, with many variations available to suit your body.
Follow these steps:
- Stand feet parallel, hip-width apart.
- Lunge forward.
- Sink deep into the lunge, focusing on keeping your torso upright.
- Don’t let the knee of your other leg touch the ground.
- Push back up into the starting lunge position.
Repeat the sinking motion 10 more times. Rest for 3 minutes before repeating the set on the other side.
9. Lunge Stretch.
Shown above: lunge stretches seem much easier than they are.
Lunge stretching is the most underrated exercise you can do at a standing desk.
Here’s how you do it:
- Take a very large step forward with your left leg.
- Plant your right hand flat on the ground.
- Reach directly for the sky using your left hand, rotating your torso.
Hold the stretch for 15 seconds, gently release and stand up. Repeat the same on the other side to complete the set.
Do another 3-5 sets.
Bonus Exercise You Can Do At Your Standing Desk: Arm Circles.
Our arms can take a lot of strain when working, whether seated or standing.
Many office workers experience ‘computer elbow’ from their arms being bent in the same position all day. Repetitive strain injury is also common from typing at awkward angles. Both conditions result in pain and a loss of mobility.
A simple but effective way to prevent this pain is by adding arm circles to your routine at standing desks.
- Find a place in the room with adequate space around you.
- Take your arm by your side and rotate up in a full circle (forwards).
- Try 3-5 times before reversing the direction (backwards).
- You can then place your arms directly out to extend your wingspan.
- Rotate both arms at the same time in small circles.
- Increase to big circles before coming back down to small.
- Reverse the direction and repeat.
This non-weighted exercise targets your shoulders, joints, and upper arms for increased blood flow and supported posture.
Why Should I Do Exercises At My Standing Desk?
Finding time for exercise can be challenging, but doing so at your standing desk is a convenient way of squeezing a routine in.
You can schedule these into your day and block time out so you are not interrupted. We recommend setting hourly alarms to step away from your desk for 5 minutes. You will return revitalised.
Regular exercise benefits the following:
- Improved circulation.
- Improved posture.
- Improved mobility in daily life.
- Improved heart rate variability.
- Reduced back pain.
- Higher productivity.
- Better mental health.
If you can implement the discipline to ensure the below exercises are part of your daily routine, you will reap the rewards outside your working life.
(Related: Perks And Pitfalls Of Home Office Life).
Bottom Line On Standing Desk Exercises.
Incorporating exercises into your workday is an excellent way to stay active. Better yet, incorporating exercises whilst you work from a standing desk will minimise the strain on your body that prolonged sitting can cause.
Whether you’re looking to burn extra calories or keep your body mobile throughout the day, these exercises for a standing desk are a great way to stay active and energised while you work.
Like any habit, discipline is required. It won’t take long before you experience how good it feels to tune into your body and move in a way that supports you.