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Ask Dave – My seat in Work is Trying to Kill me

How’s it going man? My seat in work is trying to kill me and it occurred to me the solution I’m trying to work out for myself might serve as fodder for you for one of your articles for the site. What can a chair-bound wageslave do to alleviate their sitting pain in 5 minutes or so? Because my lower and upper back and right leg are giving me shit at the moment I’ve been trying to formulate a quick stretching/BW routine I can do while I wait for my lunch to heat up in the microwave.

The limits are that I can’t do anything that involves lying on the ground (possibly forwned on in work). So far I’m doing wall slides and rotator cuff stuff, BW windmills (I still suck at them), squats facing the wall and a bit of devils chair if I have time. I’ve also been doing some other stretches too.


Well Peter,

First off, good to hear from you again mate.

My initial advice to you would be get yourself to a good physio, ideally one that is involved in some form of physical training themselves, be it sports, martial arts or simply weight training.

My first thoughts on the few details you gave me are:

Being seated all day long is a crime against nature and it ravages the body. Most never seem to notice, or at least never seem to care, but the few who are active in their free time are often the ones who suffer the most at the desk.


Well, as we train we are working various muscles in various movement patterns. This will naturally cause some tightness in the tired muscles which goes away with rest and recovery. Now here’s a kicker. If those worked muscles are rested in a shortened position, they can start to “stick” in that position and “forget” to return to a proper length.

This is very common for the lower body muscles. When we are seated our hip flexors are shortened as are our hamstrings and the glutes essentially switch off. Assuming that are training involved work from the quads/hip flexors , I know Peter does some BJJ and Kickboxing, both of which require a lot of hip flexion, then spend 8 hours at a desk in further flexion, it stands to reason that the body gets pulled out of whack.

It is often forgotten that the hip flexors are anchored to our lower back, they go from the front of the leg, through the pelvis and attach on the lumbar part f the spine. So when these guys are tight, guess what, yup, back pain. Thats not all, tight or over active hip flexors will shut down the hip extensors. What extends the hip? Our glutes, which are being hit by a double whammy of 1 – the hip flexors shutting them off (reciprocal inhibition) 2 – being used as a seat and therefore going to “sleep”

So how can we counter this?

Firstly look at your training program. A large part of any office workers training must be aimed at undoing the damage caused by the office. So a heavy emphasis on posterior chain work is vital. High in the exercise priority must be:

Rowing moves, be it dumbell rows, bent over barbell rows, inverted rows, doesn’t matter, just ensure to pull back the scapula and pause for a second or two at the top of the lift. Do them, do lots of them and don’t be shy about using weight within safe parameters of course.

Glute activation. Supermans, Bird Dogs, Hip Bridges, Clams, X band walks, all of these can be found on google, but do them in every warm up, do them between sets, do them when you get home, do them when you get up in the morning. Your booty is not just a seat, getting it working right is one of the best things you can do for your spinal health and overall athleticism.

Hip extension lifts. Following on from glute activation, we now are loading and integrating the glutes into the rest of the muscular chain. We have Deadlifts, full ROM squats, Barbell Glute bridge, Kettlebell Swings, Romanian Deadlifts and of course single leg variations of all of the above.

Core strength & stability. Treat the core as an entire unit, definitions as to what the core is vary from coach to coach. I myself have two definitions depending on who I’m talking to. The simplest is the Water Bottle analogy from the Level 1 Kettlebell Manual. Take your water bottle and try to squash it, bet you can’t. Now take the lid off, now it crushes easily. The reason you couldn’t before is down to air pressure, the sides, base and lid all were structurally sound enough to resist the air pressure increases within the bottle as you squeezed it. But by removing one element (the lid) it was no longer structurally sound, the same would have happened if you’d punctured one of the sides with a pin. Your core works in a very similar fashion, all the muscles including the Diaphragm (lid) and Pelvic Floor (base) work together to provide structural integrity to the body. If one part or one area is out of balance you are sacrificing the integrity and will be more at risk of pain/injury.

The next thing is to ensure the tightness’ are stretched. I’ve written numerous times about flexibility for the hip and quads, try HERE, HERE and HERE and even about how to incorporate stretching into a daily routine (click HERE for that one).

If you’re looking to incorporate some stretching into your work day, may I suggest:

Standing Quad Stretches

This is how Spidey stays limber, he’d do better by keeping the knees tightly together though.

“No Money” drill

This can be done at your desk, in fact use it every time someone asks you to do something accompanied with a suitable phrase such as “Wasn’t me” or “I don’t know”

Wall Slides

Again, can be done at the desk.

And also spend a good bit of time standing on one leg, explaining why is an article in itself, so just do it. Ok? Good.

Hope that helps, if not, quit working and just spend your days training….

Chat soon


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