5 Desk Exercises for an At-Work Workout

by | Updated: December 4th, 2016 | Read time: 3 minutes

A late meeting was called. A project needed attention. A storm rolled in. Being stuck at work…happens. And the change of plans can result in another day of missing your workout. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether it’s long hours you face, or just a schedule that doesn’t allow gym time on weekdays, you can still squeeze in exercise—no matter where you are. If that location happens to be a desk, give these exercises a try. They can be done all at once, or spaced throughout the day to keep you moving until quitting bell time.

5 Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

Lower body

Chair leg lifts

Sit with your back flat against a chair and your right leg stretched straight out with your foot flexed.  Lift and lower your right leg, concentrating on the quadriceps muscle to do the lifting. Since you’ll only be using your body weight, try between 15-20 repetitions, then switch to the left leg. Rest and repeat two more times. Repeat the exercise with your flexed foot facing out, concentrating on your inner thigh.

Chair squats & rear leg lifts

Stand behind a chair with your chest lifted, shoulder back, feet straight ahead and hands on the back of the chair. Squat down, as if you were sitting down in a chair, keeping your head straight and making sure not to roll your shoulders forward. Stand back up pushing through your heels. Do 15 repetitions. Then try single rear leg lifts. Stand in the same position, flex your right foot leg straight and lift to the back. Do 15 reps and repeat with the left leg. Take a 30 second break and start again with chair squats.  If time allows, complete three rounds.

Upper body

Arm circles

While they may seem like an old-school exercise, arm circles work! Sit straight in a chair with your back flat against the chair and arms out to the side. With your palms facing down, circle your arms forward making small circles. Try to circle for 30 seconds, then take a short rest and repeat in reverse.

Water bottle curls & kickbacks

Again, sit straight up in your chair. Grab one or two full water bottles (if you only have one, do single-arm exercises; if you have two, work both arms at the same time). To exercise your biceps, hold the bottles with your arms straight down and palms facing out; curl your arms up just past 90 degrees, hold for a squeeze and then lowes your arms. Do 15 repetitions, rest and repeat. For a triceps workout, hol the bottles with your palms facing inward and elbows up; extend your arms back. Do 15 reps, rest and repeat.


Pedal the bicycle

Sit on the edge of your chair seat, supporting your upper body on the armrests. While really concentrating on your core, alternate each knee bringing it toward your chest and pretending to pedal a bike. Pedal in controlled circles. Pedal for 30 seconds, rest and repeat.

Trainer tips: During the day, remember to get up from your desk at least once an hour and just move around. Whether you walk down the hall or stretch for a few minutes—just get moving! While you’re up, refill your water bottle or make yourself a cup of energizing tea.