5 Incredibly Functional Stretches Using Nothing but Your Chair

If you work a 9–5 or have ever binged a TV show, you know how detrimental prolonged sitting can be. You feel stiff, sore, and drained. The shoulders gradually round forward, the hip flexors begin to get tight, your low back cries out in exhaustion…you know the drill. As cliché as it sounds, sitting is absolutely the new smoking in many regards. While I won’t address all the consequences of sedentary behavior, I do want to give you practical tips for adjusting (and improving) your posture effortlessly.

One of the best pieces of health advice I can offer you is to sit up from your chair every 20-30 minutes. This will re-ignite your circulation, relieve any co-contraction through the back muscles, and boost your productivity and wellness. If you can pull this off, fantastic! The challenging thing with this tip is that it’s often not possible or realistic for one’s environment and/or workplace. The next best thing is to reset your posture within the comfort of your very own chair.

If you're serious about putting these 5 stretches into your routine, you’ll notice huge improvements in sitting endurance, soreness, and overall functionality. The reality is, we were made to move. Your next posture will always be your best posture.

It is not good enough to exercise for 30 minutes a day and throw the other 23.5 hours in the trash. We must intentionally foster wellness throughout all areas of life!

5 Stretches To Improve Your Posture and Mobility

If you’re tight for time, simply hold each stretch for 20–30 seconds. The goal here isn’t to improve flexibility (sorry to say…but that won’t come from a 20 seconds stretch), but rather to move your tissues and release the tension that can come with prolonged immobility. As a general stretching tip, take deep, slow breaths from the diaphragm. The more relaxed you can be, the better.

As always, seek help from your health provider if you’re hesitant about attempting any of the positions below. Everyone will respond differently to new stretches, so listen to your body and only push as far as you’re comfortable with!

‘Figure 4’ Glute Stretch

Application: 20–30 seconds / side

Cues: Sit up in your chair and slowly rotate the hip until your leg rests on the opposite knee. Keep the spine tall and remember to take deep breaths from the diaphragm. If you’re not feeling enough of a stretch, simply hinge at the hips to lower the chest towards the floor.

Hamstring Stretch

Application: 20–30 seconds / side

Cues: Sit up to the edge of your chair. Next, extend one leg while keeping the other knee bent. Now hinge with your hips and lower the chest until you feel a warming stretch at the back of the leg. As a bonus, you can also lengthen the calves by flexing the toe towards the shin.

Thoracic Rotations

Application: 20–30 seconds per side, or continual rotations for 20 reps

Cues: In a seated position, bring the arms up to shoulder height. Now slowly rotate your trunk from side to side. This simple act will mobilize the thoracic (mid-spine) which can frequently pay from sedentary behavior. If you want a progression to this, you can also add a reach behind with your leading arm to stretch out the chest and shoulder.

Upper Trap / Levator Scapulae Stretch

Application: 20–30 seconds / side

Cues: Place one hand under your bum and then drop the opposite ear towards the shoulder by guiding with your hand. Always be cautious around the neck so begin with a small range of motion and gradually deepen the stretch as you get more comfortable. If you want to target the levator scapulae, simply lower your head so that the chin draws close to your armpit.

Thoracic Extension Stretch

Application: 20–30 second hold or 5 reps with 5-second hold each

Cues: Yes, I know this one involves getting up…but you don’t need to travel far. Move to behind your chair and grab onto the backrest. Step away with your feet until you can hinge with your hips without bending at the elbows. Next, focus on lowering the chest towards the floor while keeping the arms straight. This will significantly improve your overhead mobility while giving you a moment to decompress the spine. Feel free to hold this position or do a rep-based approach where you hinge and hold for 5 seconds before resetting and doing it again.

In Closing,

Switching your posture every 20–30 minutes is one of the most powerful decisions you can make for your long-term health. Even the simple act of going through a few poses in your chair can make a world of a difference. Take the collective 10 minutes per day to give your tissues the movement that they deserve. In return, you’ll experience immense improvements in postural endurance, muscular fatigue/soreness, and overall mobility.

This small decision can change the trajectory of your spinal health and overall functionality. Commit to it and enjoy the vast benefits that come with moving your body as it was designed to move!