Isometric Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

An excerpt from 'The Entrepreneur Diet'

Woman stretching at her office desk
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If you're a desk-bound entrepreneur, you have to get a little extra exercise to make up for the fact that you're sitting all day. Isometric exercise reduces stress, increases your energy, and clears your mind.

In his book "The Entrepreneur Diet: The On-the-Go Plan for Fitness, Weight Loss, and Healthy Living," author Tom Weede offers eight simple exercises you can do to build strength, tone, and flexibility without leaving your office—and no matter what condition you're in already.

Take 15 minutes in the morning or afternoon to knock out the routine. The movements are unobtrusive. You can think of them as "stealth" exercises.

A note on terminology: A "repetition" or "rep" is one complete movement of a given exercise. A "set" is a given number of repetitions done in sequence. Start by doing one set for each exercise. If you feel good, you can add a second set. Do two sessions in the week you decide to begin and add or maintain as you see fit.

Strength Exercises

Chair leg extension (muscles strengthened: quadriceps [thighs]). Press your tailbone firmly against the back of the chair. If the chair is adjustable, move the height so that your thighs are parallel to the ground. Lightly grasp the armrests or the edges of the seat pad. Keeping your back straight and looking straight ahead, slowly extend your right leg with your foot flexed toward your shin. At the top of the movement, your leg should be fully extended, but don't forcefully lock out your knee. Slowly return to the starting position.

Do 10 repetitions, then repeat with your left leg (this is one set).

Isometric hand press (muscles strengthened: biceps, triceps, chest). Sitting upright in your chair, grasp your hands together in front of your chest and firmly press them together. Make sure you continue to breathe throughout the exercise. Hold for 10 seconds and then relax for 10 seconds. Repeat four more times.

Wall push-off (muscles strengthened: chest, triceps, shoulders). Stand about three feet from a wall, and place your hands flat against it, about shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower your body toward the wall by flexing your elbows. When your elbows are aligned with your torso, push back up. Do 10 repetitions. Make this exercise more challenging by using your desk: Stand several feet away and position your hands on the edge of the desk, shoulder-width apart. Then repeat the raising and lowering of your body by flexing your elbows.

Overhead press (muscles strengthened: shoulders). Sitting upright in your chair, flex your elbows so that your left hand is in front of your left shoulder, and your right hand is in front of your right shoulder. Your elbows should be slightly flared out to the sides, just below shoulder-level. Lightly clench your fists with palms facing forward. Next, fully extend your elbows without locking them out, with your hands moving toward the center over your head. Slowly return to the starting position.

Complete 10 reps. To make the exercise more difficult, use a book to press overhead.

Drawing-In maneuver (muscles strengthened: mid-section). Sit upright on the edge of your chair and grasp the armrests or the edges of the seat pad. You can also stand with your hands on your hips, feet shoulder-width apart. Next, pull your stomach up and in as far as possible. Think of pulling your belly button toward your spine. Hold that position for the count of five to 10, then release. Do five to eight repetitions.

Flexibility Exercises

Side bend (muscles stretched: back and sides). Sit at the edge of your chair with your back straight, and interlace your fingers with your palms facing away from you. Reach your arms straight above your head, then lean to the left from the waist and hold. Next, lean to the right and hold.

Cross arm (muscles stretched: upper back). Sit upright and bring your right arm across your upper body to about shoulder level. Your elbow should be slightly flexed. With your left hand, grasp under your right arm just above the elbow. Gently pull your right arm across your chest, toward the left, and hold. Don't shrug your shoulders; keep them relaxed. Repeat with your left arm across your upper body.

Neck stretch (muscles stretched: neck). Sit or stand with your head upright. Slowly turn your head to the right as far as comfortably possible and hold, then turn slowly to the left and hold. Next, let your head fall gently toward your chest and hold. Avoid tilting your head backward; it weighs about 10 pounds, so this move can put too much stress on your upper spine.