Working out on the Job – By Brian Zerega

I’m blessed in life to have a profession that keeps me on my feet.  I’ve only spent a bit of time behind a desk in my adult life.  So the times I have to spend long hours at the computer are excruciatingly difficult.  To all the Mr. and Mrs. 9-5 desk workers out there, I salute you.  You are an endurance champion beyond compare!

About five months ago my wife gave birth to our son, a healthy baby whose arrival marked the closing of one chapter and the beginning of a new one.  This new chapter no longer affords me the freedom to train in a gym whenever I want, so I’ve taken to training at home, usually in small bouts throughout the course of the day, with a couple of 20 minute sessions throughout the week.  

The practice is primarily bodyweight work and resistance band exercises, both of which are tremendous at keeping me in tune.  As far as load intensity goes things have been a lot lighter than usual but I’ve surprisingly seen a lot of improvement in my physique and strength.  One of the major reasons is the effect of sporadic training on the metabolic system.  A 60 - 90 second bout of muscular contraction increases the uptake of blood glucose into skeletal muscle, thereby decreasing the chances of it depositing as fat.  Imagine doing this 3-5 times a day as opposed to 3 times a week and you start to see the benefits this type of training has to offer.
I can’t over emphasize the value of a bodyweight practice for general strength, mobility, and the understanding of one's body.  But the focus for this article is resistance bands.  

Resistance bands continue to impress me as one of the most versatile tools for developing strength and flexibility of the upper body.  Weighing in at only a few ounces, the resistance band offers unmatched variations in application.  A light band can be stretched gently to activate stiff muscles or stretched intensely to challenge your strength.  The band can be doubled and tripled up to offer you extreme maximum effort challenges.  

Bands have a “toy like” quality and you can fiddle with them while at a desk, making it possible to relieve stress and improve your shoulder and wrist strength while you work.   Many of the best shoulder rehabilitation exercises use bands because they have variable and continuous resistance, which is the perfect combination for activating latent muscles, the ones that aren't doing their job.  

I’m referring in particular to the muscles that retract the scapula and rotate the shoulders. If these muscles are weak, their predisposition to disengage is a key component in upper back, neck and shoulder pain.  Your upper back musculature that’s severely lacking in development?  Resistance bands are absolutely perfect for targeting just this area!  Improving these muscles will prevent pain and injury of the neck and shoulders as a result of working at a desk.
So grab a cheap resistance band and start!  Get a light to medium one and begin with a few of my structured, tried and true movements.  After that feel free to use the bands however you desire.  The only limit is your imagination.

Exercise 1
  Ext. Rotation and Retraction:

  •  Hold the band face up in both hands shoulders width apart.
  • Locking the elbows and depressing the shoulders, send your thumbs to the back wall.
  • Continue to rotate your upper arms and forearms towards the back wall as you pull the shoulder blades together and down.
  • Relax and repeat to taste

There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but I recommend performing the movements slow and let your focus be on activating the muscles you are intend to work, flex them as hard as you can and then flex them even harder!

Exercise 2
Shoulder Dislocate

  • Grab the band shoulder width apart with palms facing down.
  • Lock out the elbows and spread the band apart to double shoulder width.
  • Now keeping this arm position and engagement pass the band over your head and take it down to your lower back.
  • Return the band to its original position, and repeat.

Exercise 3
Hand Cuff escape

  • Begin this movement on your last dislocate, with the band behind the back.
  • Wrap your arms up in the band a few times so your wrists are closely bound together.
  • Pull your shoulder blades back and down and externally rotate your arms as you pull your arms apart.
  • Begin this movement slowly and focus as much on stretching the shoulders as you are actually trying to split the cuffs and you will give the shoulders a great stretch as well as strengthen them in a rather disadvantageous position.

Take your time with these exercises when you first start them.  Get to know the qualities of your resistance band and you’ll find it a tool of great benefit to the upper body.