Maybe you’ve put on a little flab over the winter…who hasn’t? So here’s a way to fix that in no time—meaning, no extra time out of your workday. Instead, you can squeeze in small workouts at work that are super-fast and don’t require any equipment.
This is an idea I recently discussed with Marla Altberg, a Pilates mat instructor and personal trainer who developed an “at-work workout.” She agreed to share highlights from her routine with my readers.
Take a look at this head-to-toe workout—the exercises take only a few minutes and so are easy to incorporate into even a busy workday. (Of course, don’t push yourself too hard it you haven’t been exercising at all.)
FOR YOUR NECK AND SHOULDERS
Backward Arm Raise. Do this twice a day, four to six repetitions each time. Standing straight, gaze ahead holding your head high. Drop your arms down and move them back, locking your fingers together (facing up) a few inches out from your fanny. Stiffen your arms until they’re straight, then slowly raise them as high as you can while remaining comfortable (but don’t push further). Hold them in that position for a count of five, and then drop. This exercise engages the triceps and lats (back muscles) so you’ll tone those muscles, and it also opens up the pectoral muscles in the chest and elongates the trapezius (neck to spine) muscles, releasing tension that tends to accumulate when you sit in front of a computer for hours on end.
FOR YOUR CHEST AND ARMS
Wall Push-Up. Do this sequence at least once a day. This is a great stress-reliever after a tense meeting! Stand about a foot or so from a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands flat on the wall at shoulder height, also shoulder-width apart—your feet should be far enough from the wall so that your arms are almost straight but slightly bent. Lean your body in toward the wall while keeping your feet planted on the ground. (Don’t raise your heels.) Then push off the wall so you are doing a vertical push-up. This engages your triceps. Do five reps. Step back a bit more (three to six inches) and do another set of five. The change in angle makes the exercise a bit harder because it adds resistance for your arms and works more of your core. Now, to bring your pectoral muscles more into action, come close to the wall again, move each hand about six inches further from your centerline, and do another set of five. Finally, to add intensity, step back again and do another set of five at this distance.
FOR YOUR ABS & BACK
Leg Extension. Do one or two sets a day, 10 to 20 reps on each leg. Try this while you’re sitting at your desk. Sit straight and tall on a chair (as long as it doesn’t have wheels) with your back against the back of the chair, your legs at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on the floor. Hold your abs in and up, and lift one leg straight out and hold it very firmly. Flex your foot (toes toward you) for a count of two, then extend your foot (toes pointing away) for another count of two, then drop your leg to the floor. Do this 10 times with each leg. This exercise works the quadricep (thigh muscle), rectus abdominis (that’s the technical name for the “six-pack”), the transverse abdominis (the layer of muscle at your waist that is underneath your rectus abdominis) and the hip flexors.
FOR YOUR LEGS AND FEET
Tippy-Toe Trick. Do two sets a day, 10 reps on each foot or 20 reps on both feet. Try this simple exercise during your next conference call (and remove your shoes if they’re not flexible). Stand close to your desk (or a counter or a doorway), and hold on lightly for balance. Rise up onto your toes, hold for a count of 10 and then lower your heels. A harder option that you can add, if you’d like, is to do this balancing first on one foot and then on the other. Both versions engage the calves (gastrocnemius) and elongate the muscles in the feet and toes.
I’ve been doing these exercises at my office since I spoke with Altberg, and I can happily confirm that they are quick and they leave me feeling better at quitting time. It’s a routine that you really can work into your workday.