So, you want to feel better, lift heavier, and get bigger muscles? Well, there's an enemy trying to block your every step: your chair.
The standard chair wrecks your pelvis, switches off your glutes, freezes your spine, and kills your ability to breathe properly. This is not good.
Fortunately, you can counteract it with this very simple two-step process:
- Throw away your chair (donation works, too).
- Replace it with a Swiss ball or exercise ball.
This particular solution falls into the category of "too obvious for most people to even try." But that's the way it is: A great many people ignore the low-hanging fitness fruit for something more complicated. One of the most important things to remember when it comes to health and strength is, simple is better.
Now, just replacing the chair is going to help you big time. Your posture will naturally shift toward something closer to a half squat than a sit-down. You'll naturally tend to move your hips around and explore the space. Draw some figure 8s and circles with your pelvis to enhance your pelvic proprioception—this is a really good thing. Your feet and legs will be more active, your core stabilizers will light up, and you won't be crushing your glutes to inactivity for eight or more hours per day.
Just making that small shift could be a 50-pound increase in your deadlift over the next couple weeks or month. All because you have a healthier relationship with your pelvis, legs, and core.
But that's not the end of the story. Now we're going to really make some big strides forward, if you are willing to put forth just a tiny bit of effort.
The Ball Chair "Muscle and Movement Break"
First, decide how frequently you'd like to take a muscle and movement break. My recommendation is once per hour, but you can start with less, or do more, of course.
The key is that you need a trigger to remind you. I first heard the phrase "trigger, habit, reward" from BJ Fogg, a behavior scientist and author, and have been making use of it ever since.
My friend James Clear goes by the three R's: reminder, routine, reward. That one seems even easier to remember—which is the whole point!
Either way, you need something to remind you to take your muscle and movement break. So, use an alarm on your phone, have your assistant remind you, use a sundial, hourglass, trained parrot...that part is up to you.
Alternately, you could also anchor your muscle and movement break to something that naturally happens—this often works better.
For example: "Before I check email, I do a muscle and movement break." Or: "After I check email, I reward myself with a muscle and movement break."
You get the idea.
So, what do you do with your break? You're going to keep it simple and do a quick series of movements that will make you feel better, and build some strength and coordination.
This move will make your shoulders healthier, strengthen your abs, and build size and strength in the triceps.
- Keep your shoulder blades protracted (pushed forward) and your neck long. Don't let your abs fall out the bottom and let your lower back take over.
- Start with your hands on the ball, then roll the ball away from you until your weight is on your forearms. Then, return to the starting position.
- Perform 80 percent of your maximum reps. Lift one leg if it's too easy.
- If you want a nice burnout, do some push-ups at the end. The Swiss ball push-up will force you to squeeze in and recruit more chest.
The farther you reach the ball away from you, the greater the leverage, and the more challenging the move. If you want to draw some circles at the end range like the "stir-the-pot" exercise, even better!
Leg Curl/Bridge Combo
This will ensure happy hamstrings, stronger and more mobile hips, and combat the typical hip flexor tightness from sitting.
- Lie on the floor and place your feet on the ball. You can do this flat-footed or with just your heels on the ball. A different foot position will help activate different parts of the leg, so experiment with both.
- Bridge your hips up toward the ceiling. Hold this position and lift one knee toward your chest.
- From here, keep your hips extended and roll the ball out until your legs are straight. Return to the start position, but don't let your hips fall!
Repeat this full cycle until you have a sweet pump in the glutes and hamstrings. You can even superset this with something like split squats to fully open up the hip flexors.
Do this a few times a day, and it'll add up fast.