Programming Principles for Desk-Workers in the Gym


After a year or two of; working behind a desk, being a student or Netflix junkie without regulary exercising, our body can start to feel a little stiffer than it should.

Once we finally decide it’s time to do something about it or want to trim the ol’ waistline and join the Gym, we may find we don’t move the way we should do. These initial stages in the Gym are probably your most important.

At PPS we perform a detailed movement screen on all prospective clients. Some common tight spots and imbalances we come across in the sedentary population are:

  • Tight Lower-Back & Hamstrings

  • Stiff Neck, Pecs & Shoulders

  • Sleepy Glutes & Core Muscles

It doesn’t take much to correct any of these issues, providing we can address them from Day 1 in the Gym.

By loading weight on top of an already imbalanced body, we can increases of our risk of injury or reinforce poor movemen patterns. But if we are smart about our training and load our bodies correctly we can:

  • Increase Strength

  • Improve Posture

  • Correct Imbalances

Our basic guidelines for Desk-Workers starting in the Gym:

The Push:Pull Ratio

The Push:Pull ratio will help to correct these common postural issues seen in desk-workers

The Push:Pull ratio will help to correct these common postural issues seen in desk-workers

To prevent our Chest from over-powering our Back and encouraging a Rounded-Back posture, we should implement a balanced Push:Pull ratio into our programming.

This means for every Push movement (Bench-Press & Shoulder-Press for example) we should perform a Pull movement (Barbell Row or Lat-Pulldown for example) of equal sets x reps - This is a 1:1 Push-Pull ratio.

If you already show signs of rounding in the upper-back or shoulders, you may want to implement a 2:1 Push-Pull ratio - where you Row twice as much as you Press.

Stop Shrugging

Sitting at a desk is plenty of work for your Traps, give them a rest in the Gym

Sitting at a desk is plenty of work for your Traps, give them a rest in the Gym

As a desk-worker you already know what a stiff neck feels like. You probably already possess a pair of golf-ball like knots in your upper-traps. This is why we avoid your typical Barbell or Dumbbell shrug in most of our gen-pop clients.

A smarter alternative would be to focus on movements that target the lower-traps such as an ‘Incline Dumbbell Shrug’. This will help to balance out your trap muscles and releive tension in your upper-traps.

Less Sitting (In the Gym)

If you are already spending 8-10 hours of the day sitting at a desk, why should we encourage more sitting when we are at the Gym?

Many seated movements have standing variations which encourage the use of Trunk Stability (Core Strength) as well. This is exactly what we should be targeting as a desk-worker in the Gym.

One common example would be the ‘Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press’ vs the ‘Standing Overhead Press’

Standing movements will help to improve your Core-Stability more than Seated alternatives

Squeeze Your Cheeks

This one is a little cheeky.
But as a desk worker we all suffer from; Tight hamstrings, rock-hard quads and a stiff lower-back right?

The easiest fix for this issue is to wake up your sleepy butt!

Start by avoiding movements that already isolate these already dominant & tight muscles such as leg-extensions & back-extensions. Focus more energy into movements that strength & activate your glutes.

Basic movements such as; Deep Squats, Deadlifts & Barbell Hip-Thrusts are a must (providing they are performed correctly).

Direct Glute work is a must be Desk-Workers

Single Leg Stability

Another great ‘Booty-Builder’ is any movement which requires use to stand on one-leg.

Lunges, Bulgarian Split-Squats, Single Leg-Romanian Deadlifts, Single-Leg Hip-Thrusts

Assuming you (like most of us) has one dominant side, these types of movements are also vital in your programming. Not only will they fire up your sleepy glutes, but prevent any over-compensation in your lower-body, helping to reduce stress on your poor lower-back.

Single-Limb work will help reduce hip or back pained caused by imbalances

By following these basic training principles, not only will you notice more effective progress in the gym (while avoiding injury), but you’ll become more of a productive worker as well.

We offer free movement screens as part of our initial consultation process at Physique Performance Specialists. Simply click the button below to enquire about booking in.