You Don't Need A Standing Desk

The workspace alternatives may be snake oil. Tier X manager Justin Jacobs has the solution.

You’ve read the headlines: Sitting is the new smoking, increasing your risk of Type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and many types of cancer. Plus, it makes it harder to stay strong and limber. “The muscles that help you stand and extend—such as the spinal erectors, glutes, and mid traps—aren’t used when you’re sitting, so over time they weaken,” says Justin Jacobs, Tier X manager at St. James in London. “Prolonged sitting also causes the muscles that assist in flexing the hips and spine to stiffen.” 

So when standing and treadmill desks emerged as health-promoting alternatives, c-suite types everywhere ditched their traditional workstations en masse. But, according to a recent meta-analysis from Cornell University, standing and treadmill desks introduce their set of own physical imbalances, because the type of work done at a desk (typing, using a mouse, writing, etc.) is best done in a stable, seated position. There goes the magic bullet. 

To offset damange, focus on active sitting during your workday, and then consider tweaking some of your go-to workout moves. “The gym is a great place to start,” says Jacobs, who designed these smart alternatives to eight of the most popular seated strength exercises. “In addition to decreasing your sitting time, going through these movements under load can help counteract the damage that sitting has done.” Make your next workout count even more by taking a stand.

How It Works: These moves should not be done as a circuit; instead, incorporate a few of these moves into your standard routine, replacing the seated version (as suggested) with the move listed. Perform your usual number of reps and sets. And instead of resting between sets, try the inline half-kneel balance to help stretch your hip flexors and boost your core stability.

Instead of: Seated Shoulder Press
Try: Half-Kneel Unilateral Kettlebell Press
Kneel with right knee on the floor and left foot on the floor in front of it, knees bent 90 degrees. Hold a kettlebell in right hand in front of right shoulder, palm facing away from you, and extend left arm at your side. Extend right arm, pressing kettlebell overhead, then bend right elbow to return to starting position.

Instead of: Seated Pull-Down
Try: Superband Bent-Over Pull-Down

Anchor a superband at hip height and stand facing it, holding an end in each hand. Bend knees slightly and bend over from hips until torso is parallel to the floor. Extend arms overhead and step feet back until band is taut, feet shoulder-width apart. Bend elbows, bringing hands toward chest; extend arms to return to starting position.

Instead of: Seated Row
Try: Reverse Sled Pull

Stand facing a sled and hold a handle in each hand with arms extended 45 degrees in front of you, hands at hip height and palms facing each other. (Ropes should be taut.) Bend knees and hinge forward from your hips, then bend elbows straight back, drawing your hands toward your waist. Extend arms, rise up, and step back until ropes are taut again to return to starting position.

Instead of: Seated Curl 
Try: TRX Bicep Curl

Stand with your feet hip-width apart under a TRX’s anchor point and hold a handle in each hand with palms facing the ceiling. Lean back until arms are fully extended. Bend your elbows, pulling chest toward your hands; then extend arms to return to starting position.

Instead of: Machine Crunch
Try: TRX Mountain Climber
Get in plank position with the tops of your feet in the foot cradles of a TRX. Bend right knee, bringing it toward chest, then immediately extend right leg as you bring left knee forward. Continue at a quick pace.

Instead of: Leg Press
Try: Kettlebell Front Squat

Hold a kettlebell in each hand in front of shoulders with palms facing each other and stand with feet slightly wider than shoulders, toes slightly turned out. Squat deeply, then rise up to starting position.

Instead of: Leg Curl
Try: Good Morning

Hold a barbell on your upper back with palms facing away from you and stand with feet slightly wider than shoulders, knees slightly bent. Push your butt back as you hinge forward at your hips until torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Slowly rise up to the starting position.

Instead of: Machine Press
Try: Barbell Bench Press

Lie faceup on a flat bench with knees bent and feet on the floor. Hold a barbell above your chest with hands slightly wider than shoulders. Push your feet into the floor so that your butt is barely touching the bench. This engages the hip extensors in a way that you can't while seated. Bend elbows, lowering bar toward your chest. Extend arms, pressing bar up to the starting position. 

Instead of: Static Rest
Try: Inline Half Kneel Balance 
Kneel with right shin and left foot on the floor, knees bent 90 degrees and left heel aligned with right knee as if you were on a tightrope. Extend arms at your sides. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.

Photographed by Mike Rosenthal; Art Direction + Styled by Ashley Martin Heckman