Exercises to Do at Your Desk: Burn While Your Earn!

Do you leave work feeling like you spent the day crammed in a box with screaming knees and a crimp in your neck?

Having a full-time desk job doesn’t mean that you have to spend 8 hours a day in the same static, seated position, and in fact, it is totally possible to workout at work!

In this article, we will give you exercises to do at your desk to strengthen your body, fit in a little chair yoga at work, and even throw in a little desk meditation to help you find your chill.

I have found a video demonstration for each one and start it just at the right spot for the exercise so you don’t have to waste time fast forwarding!

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Strength exercises at a desk…

Woman stretching with her foot by her computer, one of the best exercises you can do at your desk

Though it may sound odd (or look odd, shut your door!), there are plenty of strength exercises you can do at a desk.

These are simple will stop you from feeling guilty about not heading to the gym after work!


Seated leg raises – extended knees

Seated leg raises with extended knees will quickly fire up your quads, glutes, and abs. Think it looks easy? Give it a try and find out otherwise!

  1. Sit up tall with your feet together on the floor.
  2. Extend your legs at the same time, lifting them to a 90 degree angle with your body.
  3. Hold there for 3-5 seconds.
  4. Repeat 10 times. Who needs a gym?!

Danyell Johnson from eHow Fitness demonstrates this below:

Seated leg raises – flexed knee

The magic is in the bend! While it is very similar to the exercise above, bending the knee and then raising your legs will work your hip flexors and abs and you will FEEL IT!

  1. Keep your left foot firmly planted on the floor and bring your hands to your hips.
  2. With your right leg bent, lift it as far as you can while still keeping your back straight.
  3. Repeat 10 times on each leg.

Casey Printers from eHow Fitness demonstrates this below:

Seated calf raises

Another one of the best exercises to do at your desk is seated calf raises that work your calves, obviously! Feel the burn while you earn that paycheck!

  1. Sit up tall with your feet on the floor.
  2. Lift your right heel as high as you can off of the ground while keeping your toes on the floor.
  3. Do 10 on each side.

Donovan Green from Chair Workouts demonstrates below:

You will be seeing more from Mr. Green in this post as his videos and YouTube channel are fantastic!

Chair squats

Give your legs a SERIOUS burn with chair squats, working nearly most muscles in your legs AND your glutes!

  1. Stand a few inches in front of your chair, standing up straight and engaging your abs.
  2. Keeping your abs and glutes engages, slowly lower yourself to a sitting position.
  3. Pushing off of your heals, bring yourself back up to a standing position.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Natalie Jill from Natalie Jill Fitness demonstrates it below. Keep watching to see how to make this even more challenging by modifying it to a seated pistol squat!

Thigh adductor and abductor exercises

Get your squeeze on and get a great thigh workout to do at work!

  1. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor.
  2. Keeping the knees bent, lift the right foot off of the floor a few inches.
  3. Bending at the hip, rotate the right leg as far as possible to the right.
  4. Lower the right foot to the floor.
  5. Lift the right foot back up a few inches.
  6. Pull the right leg back to center and lower the right foot back to the floor.
  7. Repeat on each leg 6 times.

Back to Donovan Green from Chair Workouts for a fantastic demonstration below:


Seated sit ups

Who says you can’t get great core exercises at your desk?? Try seated sit ups and work your rectus abdominis muscles.

  1. Sit up in your chair with your feet on the floor and hip distance apart.
  2. Put you hands behind your head or cross them in front of you.
  3. Keeping your back straight, bend at the hips and lower your torso down to your legs.
  4. Come up, keeping your back straight.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Jessica Smith from JessicaSmithTV demonstrates below:

Seated scissors

Get a great ab workout at work with another one of the best ab exercises you can do at your desk, seated scissors. If you keep your entire torso engaged, this one has the potential to shape your entire core.

  1. Scoot to he front of your chair.
  2. Straighten your legs in front of you.
  3. Keeping your core tight and back straight, lean back so that the tops of your shoulders touch the back of your chair.
  4. Lift your feet off the ground a few inches and move your feet away from each other.
  5. Bring your feet back together.
  6. Repeat this scissor action 10 times, trying to keep your feet off of the floor between reps.

Niki from SugarySixPack offers this great demonstration below:

Seated bicycle crunch

To get a full ab workout at work you can’t ignore your obliques! One of the best exercises you can do at your desk to whittle your sides are seated bicycle crunches.

  1. Sit at the end up your chair with your feet on the floor, a straight back, and engage your abs.
  2. Put your hands behind your head.
  3. Bending at the hip, raise your right knee while you twist your torso toward it, touching the left elbow to the right knee if you can.
  4. Lower down and bring your torse back to center.
  5. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Nicole from SparkPeople demonstrates below:

Sustained seated side crunches and toe touches

Take your ab workout at work to the next level with one of the best core exercises you can do at a desk. These I found while cruising around on Donovan Green’s Chair Workouts channel and they will leave your abs burning!

  1. Sit back in your chair with feet on the floor and more than hip width apart.
  2. Shift your weight to your right side and, keeping your knees bent, lift your left foot off the ground as high as you can.
  3. Hold it there for a count of 10, engaging your core and resisting the urge to tip over to your right.
  4. Lower down, come to center, and repeat on the other side.

Donovan Green from Chair Workouts offers a perfect demonstration below:

Super secret seated ab exercise

Want your ab workout at work to be super incognito?

One of the more simple core exercises to do at a desk is to place your right hand on your right thigh, then push your hand down as you try to lift your thigh. Hold for 10 seconds while keeping your core tight. Repeat on the left side. Workout at work with nobody knowing what you are doing!


Seated or standing glute squeezes

It was nearly impossible to find glute exercises to do at a desk that wouldn’t get you fired if someone walked in on you! A glute workout isn’t exactly discreet, but I have scoured the internet and put together a glute workout to do at work that will sculpt your rear and not make you have look for another job! The first is seated or standing glute squeezes which are simple and incognito!

  1. Stand or sit up straight in a chair.
  2. Tighten and squeeze all of your glute muscles and hold it for as long as you can.
  3. Repeat several times throughout the day, preferably not while talking to a coworker

Octavia Henderson from Oh Fitness LLC demonstrates below:

Piriformis burners

One other simple and discreet exercise for a glute workout you CAN do at work is this easy yet effective piriformis activating exercise.

  1. Sit tall at the end of your chair with your feet flat on the floor
  2. Put your right foot on top of your left thigh making a “4” shape our of your legs
  3. Put your right hand under your right thigh just above your knee
  4. Press your right knee down into your hand while your hand resists and pushes up against it
  5. Hold for 5 seconds
  6. Reverse this by putting your hand on top of your right thigh just above the knee
  7. While keeping your arm straight, push up with your right knee while your right hand pushes down against it
  8. Hold for 5 seconds
  9. Repeat on the other side

Missy from Movement IQ demonstrates below:


It was not easy to find exercises at a desk for arms that didn’t include equipment. Sure, if you had a set of dumbbells that would open up a whole new world of arms strengthening possibilities at your desk, but I’m guessing if you’re here it is because you don’t have a whole gym’s worth of equipment hanging around in your cubicle!

For an arm workout at work, you’ve got to get creative.

Luckily, there are several folks who are innovative who have shared moves that will make your arms burn without pumping iron!

Desk push ups

This is one of the best exercises at your desk for your arms with the benefit of working your chest, as well! Bonus!

  1. Make sure your desk is sturdy enough (obviously), or the counter in the break room will work as well
  2. Put your hands shoulder-distance apart on the edge of your desk
  3. Keeping your arms straight, step back away from your desk and then lower your torso to the desk
  4. Push yourself back up, trying to retain a straight line in your body fro the crown of your head to your heels
  5. Repeat 10 times

Certified Trainer, Kirk Charles, demonstrates this below:

If your desk is a little too sketchy to trust for push ups, try the wall push up demonstrated below by the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center:

Desk Chair Dips

Whip those triceps into shape without dumbbells with the best tricep exercise for office workers, the desk chair dip!

  1. Make sure that your chair is sturdy and steady enough
  2. Put your palms down on the edge of the chair next to your thighs
  3. Keeping your hands in place, scoot your body off of the edge of the chair, supporting your weight with your arms
  4. Lower your body until your hands are in line with your armpits, then push yourself back up
  5. Repeat 10 times
  6. Make it more challenging by straightening your legs out in front of you

HoffackerFitness demonstrates below:

Super discreet seated arm exercises

Push ups and dips are great and all, but what if you need your workout at work to be a little more incognito?

Brett Cap made the perfect video for this exact situation!

He incorporates several exercises that build your arm muscles while sitting that require nothing but your own self! Niiiice!

Give it a watch below:

Desk yoga

Nothing beats practicing yoga at your desk when you’ve been stuck in a chair for a couple of hours!

You’ll wake up your body, lengthen your spine, and release those aching shoulders.

Here are just a few of the best desk yoga poses that you can practice frequently throughout your day.

Chair pose…in a chair

One of the best desk yoga poses to activate your glutes while getting a great stretch is chair pose – in a chair!

  1. Come to a standing position, keep your spine long
  2. Slowly reach your hips back, and lower down as though you’re going to sit in a chair
  3. Let your sit bones lightly touch your chair, and then come back up to standing.
  4. Repeat this 4-5 times.

Veronica Torres from PRiME WOMEN Media demonstrates below:

Side Stretch

This desk yoga pose is simple, but feels SO amazing after a long day in your chair!

  1. Growing tall through the crown of the head, take a deep breath in through the nose as you lift your arms to reach towards the ceiling.
  2. Take the left wrist with the right hand, and lengthen through the left side of your body as you lean towards the right.
  3. Try not to crunch and squash the right side of your body too much – visualize some space here too.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Yogi Devidutt Sukhtankar from anandayoga channel demonstrates below:

Seated boat pose

What is a great hamstrings stretch yoga pose that you can do in your cubicle? It is the yogic posture everyone loves to hate, boat pose! Along with being an incredible hamstring stretcher, it also burns your core (which is where the hate comes from). Add this yoga pose to your ab workout at work and tighten your middle right at your desk!

  1. After making sure your chair is stable enough, sit in the middle of the seat
  2. Keeping your back as straight as you can, lean all of the way back so that your upper back is supported by the back of the chair
  3. Keeping your feet together and legs straight, bend at the hips and bring your feet up, preferably above your head, making your body into a “v” shape
  4. Hold your arms out in front of you while keeping your elbows straight
  5. It this is too challenging, bend the knees, bringing your shins parallel to the ground

Calgary Iyengar Yoga offers a fantastic demonstration of the seated boat pose below:

Upward dog at your desk

Believe it or not, upward facing dog can be performed at a desk! This is an incredible shoulder and core stretch for when you’ve been stuck at your desk all day.

  1. Stand about 1 meter away from your desk with your hand on the desk – as though in a plank position
  2. Drop your hips towards the table, reaching the chest through the shoulders, looking slightly upwards, and keeping your shoulders down
  3. Move your feet further away if you need more space

Kelly McGrath demonstrates this below for the Montreal Gazette:

Downward facing dog at your desk

Downward facing dog can also be done at your desk, It is another great hamstrings stretcher yoga pose and is one of the best exercises to do at your desk for lengthening your spine. Try doing upward and downward facing dog in sequence at your desk!

  1. Stand facing your desk and grab the front edge of the desk with your hands shoulder-distance apart
  2. Walk your feet back until your arms are completely outstretched and your spine is in a straight line from your tailbone to your hands
  3. Keep a microbend in your legs as you push your torso toward the floor slightly, stretching your upper back and shoulders
  4. Return to standing and repeat or alternate with upward facing dog

The Montreal Gazette and Kelly McGrath offer another great demonstration below:

Seated forward fold

A great exercise for office workers glued to their chair all day is a seated forward fold that offers an incredible stretch both in your legs and lower back. This one feels goooood.

  1. Sit up tall in your chair and bring your right ankle on top of your left thigh just above the knee
  2. Fold forward completely letting your arms and head hang loose
  3. Shake out your arms and move your head around slightly to release tension
  4. Come up and repeat on the other side

The always wonderful Adriene with Yoga With Adriene demonstrates below:

Sage twist in a chair

Continue stretching your knotted up back with an easy seated twist. You will not be sorry!

  1. Sit with your feet on the floor or your legs crossed
  2. Inhale to lift your arms above your head, and exhale as you twist to the right – placing your right hand behind you or on the back of the chair, and your left hand on your right knee
  3. Keep the spine straight, and feel the twist from your upper back as opposed to your lower back
  4. Repeat on the other side

Chuck Burmeister with Yoga Chuck demonstrates below:

Wrist and finger stretches

Your workout at work isn’t complete without taking care of your moneymakers-your fingers! These are especially important when you’re working at a desk and typing or writing for large portions of your day.

  1. Reach your right arm out in front of you and draw circles with the wrist, first in one direction, and then the other
  2. Following this, point your right fingers towards the ceiling, and then gently pull them back using the fingers of your left hand
  3. Repeat both exercises on the other side.

Doctor Jo from Ask Doctor Jo demonstrates 5 hand and wrist stretches below:

Meditate at work

Who doesn’t have stress on the job? Unfortunately, it often comes along with the job, but we should all be on a mission to combat and manage workplace stress.

Our workplace is the place where we spend the majority of our time – if we spend it feeling wound up and stressed, we will spend the majority of our week feeling this way!

Luckily, you can quickly and quietly meditate at work and there are many easy, yogic breathing exercises (pranayama) that you can practice from your desk to keep you feeling calm throughout your day.

Alternate nostril breathing

Alternate nostril breathing (nadi shodhana) is one of the most popular forms of pranayama, and for great reason: It reduces stress and helps us to focus – two of the things that we are often most in need of in the workplace.

  1. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through the nose
  2. Using your right hand, block the right nostril with your thumb as you exhale through your left nostril
  3. Inhale through your left nostril, then use the same hand to block the left nostril with your ring finger
  4. Exhale through the right nostril, inhale through the right nostril, and then block the right nostril with your thumb as your exhale through your left nostril
  5. Repeat this pranayama for as long as you need to achieve a state of calm and clarity, or add it to a desk meditation

Erin from Banyan Botanicals demonstrates below:

Belly breathing

Do this really simple breathing exercise with a desk meditation to bring awareness away from your surroundings and thoughts, and towards your breath.

This pranayama breathing exercise will help you to take full, deep breaths, filling your body with oxygen-rich blood, as well as creating space in the abdomen – which can be particularly great after a large lunch!

  1. Sit up tall and place both hands onto your abdomen.
  2. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through the nose, really focusing on filling up from the base of your belly, and then the lungs.
  3. Exhale slowly through the nostril.
  4. Repeat for 3-5 minutes.

A physician at Mass General Hospital demonstrates below:

Desk meditation

Pop on some headphones and take a mental break from work with a short guided meditation at your desk.

The calming guided meditation from Great Meditation below is under 11 minutes and can calm your mind on a stressful workday!

Take it up a notch…

YouTube yoga can offer some high-quality classes, but if you find yourself wasting too much time scrolling and searching through to find a decent class, why not take your practice up a notch?

YogaDownload offers over 1600 classes in every yoga style you can think of taught by world-class yoga instructors, and with several subscription offers, it is incredibly affordable.

Exercises you can do at your desk banner from YogaDownload

YogaDownload offers a program of classes designed just for those who work at a desk with highly qualified instructors such as Elise Fabricant and Jackie Casal Mahrou.

Elise Fabricant, instuctor for YogaDownload and program for  exercises you can do at your desk
Elise Fabricant – YogaDownload
Jackie Casal Mahrou, yogadownload instructor for class for exercises you can do at your desk
Jackie Casal Mahrou – YogaDownload

In conclusion…

A sedentary desk job doesn’t mean that you have to forget about the wellbeing of your body and mind! Start implementing some of these easy practices into your workday and watch your patience, productivity, and body reap the benefits. Meditate at work and get your mind right and manage your stress! Any of these things, even in small doses, will be better than nothing!

Thank you for reading and take care!


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