Exercises For Stiff Shoulders and Desk Workers

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, M.Sc.

Creator, Turbulence Training Transformation Contest

If you are an office worker stuck sitting at a desk all day, then chances are you have poor shoulder mobility and possibly even a pain in the neck. Not only can this bother you at work, but common exercises can make these problems worse.

You could end up with rotator cuff problems or worse. Fortunately, just a few minutes of shoulder mobility exercises per day can help you get rid of this pain.

Here are a couple of exercises that will improve your shoulder mobility. If you are like me in that you sit in front of a computer for a long period of time each day, then you probably have a lot of stress and tension in your upper back, leading to reduced mobility in your shoulder, causing pain and suffering.

So I'm going to reveal 4 exercises that will help you increase your mobility in the shoulder region as well as improve your posture.

The first exercise is a very common one in my Turbulence Training programs, but also one that causes a lot of confusion on how to perform the exercise correctly, the Stick-Up.

To start, stand about six inches away from the wall, with your hips, shoulder blades, elbows, and hands all pressed against the wall. Tuck your elbows down into your sides and press your shoulder blades together.

Next, you are going to stick your hands up over your head as high as you can while keeping everything against the wall at all times. Then return to start position.

This is a very difficult exercise if you have poor mobility in your shoulders. If you start this exercise now, however, then you can avoid being a desk jockey with very poor posture and the inability to do this exercise.

Another exercise I like to use to help with shoulder mobility is the Y-squat. To perform this exercise place your hands up in a "Y" position, squat down while keeping your hands behind you as much as possible.

Next, you can do the Push-Up Plus. For this exercise you will do a regular push-up, however, as you come up to the top of the push-up, spread your shoulder blades apart.

The final exercise is a nice dynamic movement. Place one arm up and out beside your body with your thumb pointing upwards, while placing the other arm down and out with your thumb pointing downwards.

Next, you will bring your arms across your body, changing thumb positions. So, your shoulder blades are going to be together and then come apart. Once you've done 10 repetitions for one side, switch your arm positions and then perform again for 10 repetitions.

Doing those 4 exercises will give more mobility to your upper back and your shoulders, and it will be a great warm-up before you do any type of upper body exercises. Also, this is a great break from your work day where you can just get up from your desk, do these exercises and it will allow you to really reduce the tension, helping you work with less stress.

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  • barnes10 says
    I'm a government office worker and the way that I reduce the tensions is to surf the internet, take long tea and lunch breaks, chat up the hot receptionist (ok that's wishful thinking) and read the paper.
  • Kim says
    Really helpful article - definitely found the 2nd exercise hard or maybe doing it wrong. Would be really helpful to have had diagrams or sketches just to give a better description of how the exercise should be correctly done.
  • Prettyboy says
    Top article it's inspired me to set up "Richard Symmons" style exercise sessions to relive the stress at work and improve shoulder mobility! well if it doesn't we'll just go back to plan a and have a huge drinking session office party. That usually works and so much better work stories on Monday!
  • Matt says
    I was wondering about that.
  • JamesM says
    My work has a wee applet that you can set up to remind you to do exercises or take a break. Suggests ideas on how to exercise but these look a bit more refined. Might give them a go next time!
  • Nos4R2D2 says
    These problems can be alleviated by having a really comfortable chair that you use that supports your back properly.
  • Raven says
    Great to have some exercises to get the shoulders moving although I was a bit confused with the last exercise. Some pictures on the starting position would have been helpful. I felt I was like a windmill, but perhaps I was doing it wrong?
  • D Dogg says
    Bit confused as to how to do the first one properly. I'm pretty sure I've injured my right shoulder as my flexibility is really bad on it. Would help to have some diagrams of how to do these stretches properly, but sounds more interesting than the usual boring shoulder stretches.
  • This is really great to read while at work to remind myself to stretch out as my shoulders get insanely sore and cramped up and full of muscle knots!
  • Darren says
    I make sure to do some office exercise as my six pack will become a keg!

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