Back and neck giving you grief? That’s because your desk job is actually changing your muscle composition. (Photo by EJW/Westend61/Corbis)
Your typical typing pose probably isn’t pretty: shoulders rounded forward, chin stuck out, upper back hunched over.
Not exactly the look you’re going for, right? But spending your day frozen in front of your laptop can change the length and composition of your muscles to force poor posture. Enter, computer body.
When your muscles are placed under low amounts of tension for long periods of time—like your back muscles are when you spend eight hours a day at a computer—the muscle tissue elongates. “Think of it as if you’re trying to slowly push your hand through a plastic bag,” said fitness expert Mike Boyle, owner of Boston-area Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning and creator of Men’s Health Thrive. “That’s kind of what happens to the muscle tissue.” Your back muscles become locked into a lengthened position, while your pecs, abs, and the front of your hips actually shorten. Plus, the makeup of your muscle tissue changes in a way that makes your muscles stiffer, Boyle told Yahoo Health.
Lucky for us desk dwellers, we can cure computer body in 10 minutes per day. Simply stretch out muscles that have shortened—and massage tissues that have tightened. To perform self-massage, you’ll need a foam roller, which you can find for less than $20 at any sporting goods store or online. “Think of foam rolling like kneading dried-out Play-Dough,” Boyle said. “Your back is like Play-Dough that’s started to harden. But if you simply pick it up and knead it, it starts to get that suppleness back.”
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For your best results (posture like a prima ballerina) do each of the five exercises below every day—we suggest during commercial breaks at night. The whole shebang should take no longer than 10 minutes.
1. Back self-massage
Sit on your butt with your feet flat on the floor. Place a foam roller behind you, perpendicular to your body. Lean back on the foam roller and lift your butt off the ground. Move your hips to press to roller up and down your back. Roll in slow, steady strokes from your lower back to the top of your shoulder blades (avoiding your neck) and back down again. Repeat 10 times. Tip: If that’s too intense, prop your hands up behind you to help control the pressure.
2. Warrior I pose
Warrior I pose stretches out hips that have shortened from spending too much time sitting. (Photo by Paul Damien/National Geographic Society/Corbis)
Start standing. Take a big step forward with your right leg, bending your right knee. Turn your left toe outward. Keep your hips facing straight, in line with your shoulders. Raise your arms straight up to the sky. You should feel the stretch in your left hip and thigh. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch sides. Tip: At your desk, repeat this move every half an hour to stretch out tight hips.
3. Dumbbell row
Hold a pair of dumbbells. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend your knees slightly. Bend at your hips to lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the ground. Raise the dumbbells to your sides by bending your elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together; skim your sides with your elbows as you raise and lower the dumbbells. Lower the dumbbells at a controlled pace. That’s one rep. Do two to three sets of 10 reps.
4. Pec self-massage
Lie facedown with a foam roller to the right side of your body, parallel to your torso. Drape your right arm over the roller. Prop your chest up with your left forearm, and angle the roller slightly toward your head. Men: Slowly roll along your pectoral muscle from shoulder to chest and back. Roll 10 times. Women: Reach overhead and rotate your arm to massage your pectoral muscle for about 30 seconds.
5. Floor slide
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ground. Raise your arms above your head with your palms and the back of your upper arms in contact with the floor. Inhale with your nose as you slide your arms along the floor into a ‘W’ position, your elbows near your sides. Exhale with your mouth for five to six seconds as you slide your arms back up to the starting position. Watch the video below to see how to do the floor slide with proper form.
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