Stretch at your desk


Instead of a coffee break, take a stretch break for a boost of vitality. Simon Vincett has six stretches you can do in ten minutes at your desk.

Photo by Richard Jupe

Office-chairs have a bad rep, with many health authorities pointing out that sitting down for the majority of the work day increases our risk of disease. A whole lot of exercise like riding to and from work apparently isn’t enough to offset an entire workday of sitting—we need to move frequently to maintain good health. Fortunately these same chairs make a great prop for stretching, which wakes up the body’s systems and keeps us refreshed and alert.

Moreover, as bike riders we strengthen a selection of major muscles through our self-propulsion, without developing the opposing muscles or operating any of them at their full range of movement. For comfortable, balanced posture and to reduce muscle soreness, there’s nothing more effective than regular stretching, even if it’s brief.

Ideally you would stand up from your chair every 20 minutes to minimise the health risk of sedentary life. Keep a record of your work day to see how often you move about. Considering you probably already get up frequently for toilet and coffee breaks and meetings, and if you go for a walk at lunchtime, you may only need to schedule two sessions of stretches.

Once you’re familiar with them, these stretches can be done in ten minutes. Ease deeper into each as you take five breaths—holding them makes them most effective. Don’t over-stretch: discomfort is to be expected, pain is a warning sign that you need to ease off.


Photo by Richard Jupe

Are there any muscles that are better friends to the bike rider? Be kind, and give your friends a nice stretch.

  • Standing, rest your hand of a chair for balance;
  • Clasp your ankle (to keep foot at 90 degrees to shin, which minimises twist in the knee joint);
  • Draw foot towards the outside of the buttock;
  • Draw the bent knee level with, or behind, the standing leg knee to stretch into the top of the quad too.

Hold five breaths; alternate sides; do both sides twice.


Photo by Richard Jupe

These poor muscles never get to fully extend during riding, yet we need them long to release the hip flexors and lower back.

  • Place heel on chair, with hips square to the chair;
  • Stand tall, with the lower leg also straight;
  • Move your sternum towards toes to intensify the stretch.

Hold five breaths; alternate sides; do both sides twice.

Hip flexor

Photo by Richard Jupe

This tones the outer hip and buttock, stabilising the hip joint.

  • Sit on the front edge of your chair, with thighs parallel to the floor and feet below knees;
  • Place foot (area between ankle and heel) on your knee;
  • Work towards shin being parallel with the ground;
  • To deepen the stretch, bend at the hips and tilt your torso forward.

Hold five breaths; alternate sides; do both sides twice.


Photo by Richard Jupe

This counters the hunched upper back encouraged by desk work and bike riding.

  • Stand with hands behind your head and elbows wide;
  • Inhale, look up 45 degrees;
  • Move sternum in same direction as your gaze.

Hold five breaths; return to normal standing and repeat.


Photo by Richard Jupe

The deep abdominals (under the six pack) balance those powerful back muscles developed by riding—get them working for you.

  • Sit sideways on chair;
  • Hold either side of the back of the chair at waist height;
  • Twist, leading with the back shoulder, pivoting as if on a rod between tailbone and the crown of your head.

Hold five breaths; swap to twist opposite direction.


Photo by Richard Jupe

Release tension and increase flexibility.

  • Stand tall, with shoulders dropped away from your ears, looking forward;
  • Moving nothing else, drop your ear towards your shoulder.

Hold five breaths; stretch other side, then drop chin to chest.

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One thought on “5”

  1. What about adding the simple “chair arch” where you lean back, clasped hands behind head and look up at the ceiling. It reverses the thoracic curve of desk work. In a chair without wheels lean the chair back so the chair legs closest to your feet are off the ground (like your mother told you not too!) for a great back stretch for a cyclist. Never forget “The Principle of Curve Reversal!”

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