Being an office worker can be a REAL hazard to how your muscles naturally align, how strong they are, and in too many cases how SHORT they can become!!
We tend to think of upper body strains e.g. that tight NECK and SHOULDERS but we need to address your lower body as well. This is especially true if you’re sitting for long hours and to be fair who isn’t RIGHT??
What happens is that your hip flexors tend to shorten, this in turn creates tightness of your quadriceps, and to make matters WORSE this causes your hamstrings to pull up feeling stiff and short.
We now have tight and shortened hamstrings that have close links to weakened buttocks and tight deep hip rotators. The remedy is to take the time to stretch your upper body which is our necks, shoulders, and chest, AND include stretches to your lower body – butt, hamstrings, quads, and calves.
So, when you’re waiting for those files to download or just taking a well-earned break, you can apply these two stretches in an easy seated position. I mean what could be EASIER!!
Stretch number ONE is for your buttocks or gluteus. But let us first have a little background about this muscle group. The gluteal muscle group is composed of three muscles– gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. This team of muscles creates the shape of your buttocks and work together when you sit to stand and walk, run, sidestep, the list goes on.
The gluteus maximus is one of the strongest muscles in our body and is mainly responsible for the backward movement of the thighs and legs, aided by the two remaining gluteus muscles. Let’s unpack the damage long periods of sitting does – your gluteus minimus tends to weaken and some people complain of the feeling of a “numb-bum”. This can be caused by restriction to the blood supply to the muscle or it can be that the shortened muscles impact some of our nerves. The sciatic nerve is deep in the gluteal group but we will talk about that in a separate article. Stretching the buttocks region (as shown in this small video) is one way to alleviate this feeling of pain or numbness.
To do this while sitting down, first, you need to swing one leg over the other in a crossed position, while making sure that you are not crouching forward. The KEY is that your back STRAIGHT sits as tall as you can and just bend forward from the hips. What you are actually feeling is a stretch in your glutes and not a curve in your back. Again, most people get this stretch wrong by doing a curved crouching position. You need to keep in mind that you’re doing this stretch for your buttocks and NOT for your BACK. This is a good glute stretch and tries to stay there for about 20 seconds, repeat for the other leg to definitely reap its benefits.
Now, after the glute stretch, we want to do the hamstring stretch. Again, let me tell you about the hamstring muscles. Hamstring muscles are located in the posterior compartment of our things. This muscle group consists of three muscles: biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. These muscles help in movements of the knee, hip, and legs while running, walking, bending your knees, and squatting. So the most common injuries in the hamstring muscles come from a sports injury. While this holds true, sitting for long periods of hours can make your hamstrings tight so it’s best to stretch those muscles to avoid tightness.
We stretch the hamstrings in the seated position too! All you need to do is to move a little further forward on your chair. Straighten out one leg but don’t LOCK the knee, we want to focus on the muscles and NOT the nerves in this manoeuver.
Now just lean forward as far as you can.
Again, you need to make sure that your back is straight and not curved so that the focus of the stretch is not on your back but on your hamstring muscles. Your ankles can be more relaxed here too so you can focus on your hamstrings and NOT the calves. Yep, that will be in another article for you to focus on! You can do this stretch for about 15 to 20 seconds for each leg.
Both glute and hamstring stretches are easy to do and can be managed into your workday without disruption. Work time, break time – really anytime within your day.
I hope you find these stretches useful. Try to apply them especially if you suffer from lower back pain and watch out for my next article in my journey to keep you balanced, stable, pain free and self-managed in work, rest or play.