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Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

by Sárka-Jonae Miller
See more articles by Sárka-Jonae Miller

(The Best Years in Life) If you've been considering buying yourself a Bowflex or similar machine for Christmas, consider a cheaper alternative: a desk. A Bowflex machine and it's competitors work with bendable cables that create resistance, but you can buy exercise cables that work the same way for a lot less.  The only advantage a machine like the Bowflex has is that it comes with a seat and something to hold the cables. Your desk can do most of that and more. There are also many effective exercises you can do with your bodyweight.

Head down to the nearest sporting goods store or Target and pick up a set of exercise cables. Then, try this workout you can do in the privacy of your home or in your office at work.

Seated Chest Flyes

Chest flyes are a popular exercise for the pecs. It's one of the core exercises recommended by cable machines. Gyms often have machines just for this exercise. It's unnecessary. You can do this exercise at your desk with an exercise cable. Position your chair facing away from your desk and anchor the exercise cable. Wrapping the cable around a leg of your desk is an easy way.

Start seated with the handles of the exercise cable in each hand. Hold your arms out to the sides without locking your elbows. Adjust the distance of your chair until the cable is taut. Depending on your desk, you might need to lower your chair or start with your arms lower by your sides.

Simply bring your arms forward until your hands touch in front of your body. Your hands should be facing each other and at chest height with your arms straight.

Open your arms back out to your sides and you've complete one chest flye. Perform 8 to 12 reps using a cable that fatigues your muscles on the last rep. Very strong people can double up on cables if necessary. 


Seated Cable Rows

Work the opposing muscles of the back by simply turning around and facing your desk to perform seated cable rows. Hold your arms straight out in front of you and then adjust the distance of your chair to make the cable taut. Turn your palms to face each other to greater emphasize the back muscles or turn them to face the ceiling for more emphasis on the biceps.

Simply bend your elbows and pull the cable toward you until the handles are near your torso. Straighten the arms again to complete one rep. Use the same number of reps as before. Switch out the cable if you are not fatigued on the last rep.

Cable Bicep Curls

Everyone knows how to do a bicep curl with a dumbbell, but you can also use an exercise cable. Slide the cable down toward the floor and stand facing your desk. Hold one straight against your side with your palm facing toward the desk and step forward or backward until the cable is taut. Bend your elbow to perform a curl. Do 8 to 12 reps and then repeat with the other arm.

Cable Tricep Extensions

Leaving the cable where it is, step one foot forward into a staggered stance and bend forward slightly with a straight spine to perform tricep extensions. Bring the arm that's holding the ends of the cable against your side with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. Adjust your distance until the cable is taut.

Extend your arm straight, pulling the cable as your forearm moves behind you and then return to the starting position. Repeat 8 to 12 times and then do the other arm.


To work your lower body, move your chair out of the way behind you and place your hands on the edge of your desk. This will give you better balance. Then, bend your knees and shift your hips backward as if you were going to sit in your chair. Straighten your legs back up to complete one squat.

Work up to 20 squats. After you've finished one set, take a short break and then do one more set.

This basic routine is a great introduction that hits all the major muscle groups and shows you how to adapt exercises performed on machines or with dumbbells for use with cables. A set of cables is lightweight, portable, and inexpensive, much less so than a Bowflex, a set of dumbbells, or a gym membership

See also:

Exercises to Prevent Core Instability

Easy Ab Workout With an Exercise Ball

Travel-inspired Core Workout for the Abs and Back

Fight the Slump: Exercises for the Upper Back and Shoulders



About the Author

Sárka-Jonae Miller is a health and fitness expert. She began working in the fitness industry in 2000 while pursuing a BS in journalism at Syracuse University. She became certified as a personal fitness trainer and group exercise instructor in 2003. She has also received training in massage therapy. Sárka also writes fiction. She is the author of the chick lit novel, Between Boyfriends. Get more health and wellness tips on Sárka's Natural Healing Tips blog or join her on Facebook and Twitter.

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