5 Mobility Exercises to Deal with Standing Desk Soreness

5 Mobility Exercises to Deal with Standing Desk Soreness

Burning more calories, overcoming low-back pain, improving circulation, boosting concentration - reasons abound to switch to a standing desk and pair it with a multi-surface mat. Yet as with any seismic lifestyle shift, going from all sitting to all standing overnight creates a big delta for your body to deal with. As a result, you might end up with some aches and pains in your feet, ankles, hips, and other areas that you didn’t anticipate, particularly if you get stuck on Zoom calls all day (not like that ever happens, right?) Here are a few mobility exercises we learned from Kelly Starrett, DPT, creator of The Ready State, that can help you overcome standing-related stiffness that will also prepare you to move better during your next workout.

1) Foot Rolling

Are you hearing your aching dogs bark? While you might have gifted yourself a nice pair of comfy slippers as a reward for braving the COVID-19 work-from-home calamity, they’re merely a BAND-AID. What your aching feet really need is some mobility TLC. In addition to shifting between various different underfoot conditions during the day, try rolling out your feet every evening and during your lunch break. To do so:

  • Place a soft ball or roller under your left foot
  • Starting at the heel, slowly move your foot across the mobility tool
  • Slowly progress all the way up to your toes, spending extra time in any particularly sore spots
  • Accumulate five minutes and then switch to your right foot

2) Pigeon Pose

As Bret Contreras and Glen Cordoza share in their bestselling book Glute Lab, your butt muscles are the biggest and most powerful in your entire body. In addition to providing the horsepower for exercises like lunges, deadlifts, and kettlebell swings, your glutes also play a significant role in standing. And if you’re doing it for several hours a day as you pound away at your keyboard, it’s likely that those buns are as toasty as the ones you’d find at your local burger joint. To help relax, try that yoga staple, the pigeon pose:

  • Sit on the floor and put your right leg out in front of you so the outside of your shin is flat on the ground
  • Put your knee at a 90-degree angle
  • Stretch out your left leg behind you
  • Fold down and forward at the hips, as if reaching for your right foot
  • Twist your torso to the inside, toward your groin
  • Hold for 10 to 15 seconds, release, and lean toward the outside of your hip
  • After 10 to 15 seconds, return to the start position and then fold forward
  • Repeat this sequence four or five times
  • Switch legs. You can also try a standing version of the exercise on your desk during the day, starting by putting your foot on the edge of your desk or a stool and folding forward at the hips.


3) Calf Smash

If you went out to shoot hoops with your kids in the driveway for eight hours, chances are that you’d stumble back inside with your calves feeling fried. While the sensation might not be as acute after a long work day, your calves have still put in some significant effort while you’ve been standing all that time. So give them a little roller relief.

  • Sit on the floor and place a roller or ball under your left calf, just below the knee
  • Slowly move your lower leg from side to side across the mobility tool
  • You can also make circles clockwise and counterclockwise with your foot
  • After a couple of minutes, move the ball or roller down your calf
  • Repeat until you’re just above the heel bone
  • Switch legs

4) Couch Stretch

While standing is better for your hips than sitting overall, if you end up stuck in place for too long because that darn cell phone won’t stop ringing or you’re trying to beat a big deadline, you can start to feel more sore than you’d like. This excess stiffness can extend from your hip flexors all the way down your quads, which is one of the reasons your knees might be a little PO’d after a long standing session. That’s why you should feed some slack into your quads and hip flexors with this simple yet highly effective mobilization when you’re done working:

  • Kneel in front of a wall, a plyo box, or couch
  • Place your left shin flat against the wall, box, or couch and turn your foot slightly inward
  • Your right foot should be straight and flat on the floor in front of you
  • Push your left hip toward the ground, squeezing your butt as you do so
  • Try moving into the corners by tilting your torso slightly to the outside or inside of your back leg
  • After a minute or two, put your left hand into a “sprinter’s start” position (making a bridge with your thumb and forefinger on the floor) and push your torso halfway upright
  • Repeat step #4
  • After another minute or two, push through your right foot, remove your left hand from the floor, and move your torso into an upright position. Try to squeeze your glutes. If you find yourself losing your balance, place a box, weight bench, or something else to the side of you to hold on to.
  • Switch sides

5) Low Back Smash

One of the biggest benefits we hear about when people switch from sitting all day to standing is an alleviation of low back pain. Yet if you’re not getting much micro-movement in during the day or able to go crush that midday run or lifting session, the soft tissues around your lumbar spine might start getting upset like George Constanza in Seinfeld. To remedy the situation, try this exercise:

  • Lie on the floor on your back in front of a couch, plyo box, or bench with your feet up on it
  • Place an MWOD Mush Gemini or two lacrosse balls taped together horizontally across your lower back, just above your pelvis
  • Slowly drop your left knee toward the floor
  • Come back to the middle position and then do the same with your right knee
  • Complete 20 to 25 reps on each side and then move the Gemini up your back, ending just below the base of your ribcage