Isometric Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

An excerpt from "The Entrepreneur Diet"

Woman stretching at her office desk
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Are you a desk-bound entrepreneur? If so, then you have to get a little extra exercise to make up for the fact that you're sitting all day. Exercise will also reduce stress, increase your energy and clear your mind. But the gym can seem like a waste of time. It's not the 45 minutes working out that's a problem -- it's the additional 45 minutes of prep, travel, and cleanup.

In his new 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.

Quick-Start Exercise

At its most basic level, exercise is nothing more than your muscles, bones, and heart working as they were designed so well to do -- to move. And even with a crowded schedule, you can work physical activity into your life just about anywhere and with minimal equipment.

If you're at the office, take a 15-minute break in the morning or afternoon to complete this session -- and you'll have your first workout under your belt before you go home. If you're at home, take 15 minutes before lunch or dinner to knock out the routine. The movements are unobtrusive -- you can think of them as "stealth" exercises.

This first step will serve as a springboard to more fitness and dietary changes in your life. And once you learn these movements, the more challenging habit changes will be easier. But even when you become more advanced, or if you are right now, these simple exercises provide a refreshing break during the day. They can also serve as a fast workout for those inevitable times when your schedule is too hectic for longer workouts.

Still, if you do nothing with this book other than take away these exercises and this chapter's action plan, you'll be doing something powerful for your body and mind.

A note on terminology: A "repetition" or "rep" is one complete movement of a given exercise. A "set" is a given number 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 this week.

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 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, then repeat four more times.

Wall Push-Off
Muscles strengthened: Chest, triceps, shoulders
Stand about three feet from a wall, and place your hands flush against the wall, 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, grasping the arm rests 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 ten, then release. Do 5 to 8 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. Nex,t lean to the right and hold.

Cross Arm
Muscles stretched: Upper back
Sit upright and bring your right arm across your upper body at 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 can put too much stress on your upper spine.