By Mary Jean McKinnon, PTA
Getting ready to hit the gym for a workout or head out on a run? We know it’s best to prepare our bodies for these kinds of activities. We stretch, start slow and warm up our muscles.
But for that eight-hour workday, how are you preparing your body?
You may be sitting at a desk or being more sedentary than during planned physical activity, but your muscles are working none-the-less. So why aren’t we warming up our muscles for these tasks? The reality is that we should be says OrthoCarolina Eastover Physical Therapy Assistant and Pilates Instructor Mary Jean McKinnon.
Here are five Pilates exercises to engage and strengthen the stability muscles that will be strained as you sit during the work day ahead:
1. THE 100
Why? This movement engages the transverse abdominis, which acts as a stabilizer for your lower back and core. These muscles help you sit up throughout the day.
How? Draw your abdomen and ribs down. Bring your legs up to 90 degrees, keeping your abs engaged. Bringing your upper body off the mat, pulse your arms up and down breathing in for a count of five, then out for a count of five. Do this 10 times through for a total of 100 pulses, keeping your belly button down and abs engaged.
2. CURL UP
Why? The Curl Up is another strengthener of the transverse abdominis, which are the deepest set of ab muscles. They work to provide support and stability allowing you to sit or stand with proper posture.
How? With arms stretched over your head, engage the abs while curling one vertebra at a time off the mat, coming up to a seated position. Inhale as you begin and exhale as you start to engage the abdominals, keeping the shoulders back and down. Complete 3-6 reps.
3. T'S - MIDDLE TRAP STRENGTHENING
Why? Your scapular stabilizers are located between the shoulder blades and spine, stabilizing the shoulder joint. These muscles are negatively impacted when we hunch over our desks with rounded shoulders.
How? While seated on the mat, bring your arms out to a T then squeeze the shoulder blades together, keeping the abs engaged. As a more advanced version, execute the movement from a prone position, lying face down on your mat. Complete 20-30 reps.
4. Y'S - LOWER TRAP STRENGTHENING
Why? The lower traps connect the angle of your shoulder blade to your spine, helping to move the shoulder blades and stabilize the spine allowing for maintenance of proper posture. They can be negatively impacted when you jut your head forward while sitting or working.
How? Remaining seated on your mat, extend your arms to a Y position. Keeping your abs engaged, bring the shoulders back and down. Complete 20-30 reps.
Why? Swans engage the multifidus which are small stability muscles located on either side of the spine. They allow your back to arch and twist.
How? While face-down on your mat, arms are next to you hinged at the elbow, palms down. While keeping the abs engaged, lift your head and shoulders off the mat. Disengage the muscle and lower yourself back down. Complete 3-6 reps.
Why? You’ll strengthen your entire back during this higher-level exercise preparing you for the strong, stable posture you'll need throughout your day.
How? Lay face-down on the mat with legs stretched out behind you and arms over your head. Draw the belly button in to engage the abs and keeps the shoulders back. Move opposite arm, opposite leg, being careful not to rock on the mat. Complete 15-25 reps.
- Learn more from Mary Jean. She's got the five gentle stretches you need after a long work day. You can also take her Pilates class.
- Trying to find an alternative to that seated position as your desk? Our physical therapists reveal the truth about using your yoga ball as a desk chair and answer your most burning questions about standing desks.
- Having pain that needs a little more attention? Find a provider or a location near you or give us a call at 704.323.2778.