When quarantine first began, working from the couch felt like a much-needed break from the discomforts of office life. Nothing was more appealing than rolling out of bed, grabbing your laptop, and rolling straight back onto the couch. No shower, no shoes, no problem. However, the excitement of working from the couch can start to wane once the aches and pains of too much sitting start to set in. From your neck to your lower back to your hips, sitting on a soft surface with limited back support for a full work day is considerably less comfortable than it seems. And as it turns out, working from the couch for too long is bad for you, both physically and mentally. The good news? You don’t have to give up working from the couch completely just to get a bit more healthy.
Sitting all day can have a number of negative effects on the body, but sitting slumped on a couch can be even more detrimental. “Sitting allows your muscles to become extremely tight and dysfunctional, which will compromise your posture and increase your risk of pain and injury,” says Jeff Brannigan, Program Director at Stretch*d (a New York-based dynamic assisted stretching studio). Furthermore, Brannigan goes on to explain that “working from the couch makes it very easy to sit in a not-so-great position. Many people quickly begin to slouch or slide down the couch.”
The problem? “Sitting in a compromised position drastically speeds up the onset of muscle dysfunction. You’re far more likely to feel muscle tightness, tension, and pain due to an increased likelihood of developing imbalance throughout the body.” In fact, in a 2018 study, the CDC went so far as to say that “high amounts of sedentary behavior and low levels of physical activity are associated with increased risk of premature mortality and some chronic diseases”. Yikes.
The good news is that even if you work in an industry that requires you to be sedentary for most of the day, small changes to your routine can make a big impact. Better yet, new work-from-home policies make it even easier to get up and move. Eve Lynn Chrust, a New York City-based fitness and yoga instructor (you can find her classes at Obé, SoulCycle, and Athleta) says that exercise doesn’t have to be something you force yourself to do at the end of a long work day. “Make it cumulative,” says Chrust. “If you do a little something every hour of the work day, by the end of the day you’ll have gotten more done than you might’ve expected.” Chrust says that a few exercises coupled with a few laps around your apartment every hour are enough to counteract some of the negative effects of working slumped down on the couch all day. Her advice? Set a timer on your phone to dedicate four (yes, just four) minutes of every hour to getting off the couch and moving. By the end of a standard work day, you’ll have already gotten a half hour workout in.
Here are some moves you should be doing to counteract the effects of sitting all day:
1. Walk It Out
The first one-minute move in your four-minute set? A lap around your house, a walk up and down a set of stairs or a stroll down the block! Chrust says, “there’s a mental component of getting off the couch. When you sit for too long, things can feel stagnant and repetitive and you tend to get stuck. Getting off the couch even for just a minute helps you to feel motivated, it gives you energy and might improve your focus.”
Chrust recommends doing 10 squats every hour to open your hips, stretch out your legs, and work your booty. “Doing just ten squats every hour throughout the workday is totally accessible, and by the end of an eight-hour work day you’ll have done 80 squats!” she says.
Next up is a one-minute plank. Planks are a favorite of most yogis, and with good reason. They’re an efficient way to work your entire core, front and back, says Chrust. “Abs are fundamental for posture. If you’re hunching on a couch all day, you need core strength to lengthen out your spine.”
4. Cat Cow
After you’ve completed the one-minute plank, move directly into a tabletop position, with your knees on the ground directly in line with your hips, and your hands on the ground directly in line with your shoulders. Flow through one minute of cat cow to create space in your spine, chest and neck, three spaces that are compromised when sitting on a couch for too long, says Chrust.
Images: GIPHY; Maryjoy Caballero / Unsplash
Squats have never been such a popular exercise as they are right now. Every where I look, men and women everywhere are taking up all the squat racks and Smith machines just squatting their lives away. There are booty building guides that have you doing sets after sets of nothing but squats. And still, after all my time in the gym, squats are some of the most incorrectly performed movements I’ve seen, setting people up for injury. And even after all those damn squats…I always hear people complaining about lack of results. So what TF gives?
Let’s start off how I love to start off everything: with the basics, baby. The basis of the squat move is pushing your body away from the floor, extending up from the hip and knee joints. So, going from low to high. Sitting to standing. Sounds simple right? Like, Grandma Edna who is 80 can go from sitting to standing. Now add into that…
- The range of motion of your ankle joint, making sure that your heels NEVER leave the ground (and I mean NEVER, even if you’re doing a heel elevated squat where your heels are on propped on plates, your heels should not leave contact with the plates).
- Focusing on pushing your hips back as far as they can go (this will ensure that the movement is firing your glutes and hamstrings as much as it fires the quadriceps).
- Engaging your core as you lower AND as you rise.
- Flexing and squeezing your glutes at the very top of the squat as you stand back up.
It’s a lot to think about, guys, I know. When done correctly, squats are a fantastic movement for determining strength. I mean, it’s the cornerstone movement of many Olympic lifts such as the snatch, cleans, and jerks for a reason. It is a super effective movement for developing strength and size in your lower body…just maybe not so much for your butt.
Studies have shown that the basic squat is actually activating much more of the quadriceps than the hamstrings and glutes, the areas we really want to target. It’s no wonder that those who have only been squatting in hopes of butt gains aren’t usually satisfied with the results. Please don’t get me wrong, squats are GREAT, but for the purpose of booty gains, there are better options out there to help you achieve your goals more effectively.
Instead of squatting like a basic fitness commoner, a study in 2015 (and results I’ve seen IRL) have shown these movements to be more effective in gluteal activation during an EMG test: a single leg squat, a side step up, and hip thrust. I explain the correct way to do each of the moves below. If you’re a beginner, don’t add weights until you’re comfortable with the movements of each exercise.
Single Leg Squat
- You can use the assistance of a TRX rope to help you move through this exercise.
- Standing on one leg, flex your other leg so that it is more parallel to the ground in front of you. This way it’s not touching the floor, so you’re not cheating yourself.
- Push your hips back and begin to bend the standing knee like you’re sitting in a chair behind you.
- Pushing from your HEEL, slowly push yourself back to standing.
- Stand right next to a bench or elevated step. The leg closest to the step will be the one working.
- Stepping laterally, push up on the heels to lift yourself into standing position on the step.
- Slowly lower, keeping your working leg on the bench.
- Lying on your back, place your feet on the ground, knees bent.
- Driving up from your heels (sense a pattern here?), lift your hips straight up into the air.
- Engage your core to stabilize yourself and prevent OVER-extension of the lumbar (that’s not doing you any favors, don’t be extra).
- Slowly lower your hips back down to the ground.
When it comes down to it, squats are a great exercise, they just aren’t doing exactly what you want them to. No one likes to waste time at the gym, so it’s all about figuring out which exercises are the most efficient in terms of meeting your goals. Try these other ones out, and you might finally get that Instagram-model ass you’ve been squatting toward for years!
Images: Giphy; Unity Intensity; Gfycat
Getting in shape isn’t always easy. And let’s face it, you may never have perfectly sculpted abs or toned arms, no matter how many times you go to hot yoga or lift things up and put them down. For whatever reason, so many people are hesitant to reach out for help when their workout routine just ain’t cutting it. So we connected with Matt Sauerhoff, the founder and CEO of The LIV Method, to share five reasons why having a personal trainer is actually beneficial for achieving the results you’ve been dreaming about, but not seeing IRL.
1. You’ll receive a completely customized workout plan according to your unique needs and goals.
NEWS FLASH: What J.Lo does at the gym isn’t guaranteed to work for you too. That’s because celebs have…wait for it…personal trainers! Everybody (and every body) is different. Personal trainers are literally trained to make sure you’re working out to the best of YOUR ability to get maximum results based on YOUR body type and goals.
Your first session with a personal trainer is usually complimentary (it always is at The LIV Method), and it’s basically just a casual hang sesh, so don’t be scared or expect to go full-force right away. Matt says, “At The LIV Method, we have a 15-minute chat as a preliminary meet to best understand what our client’s wants, needs, and challenges are, so we can best prepare for their first session. No one’s workout is ever the same, as no two people are the same. Our sessions are as unique as our fingerprints.”
“It’s also an opportunity for you (the client) to see if this person is someone you like and want to invest in. While knowledge is power, chemistry is EVERYTHING.”
2. You’re frustrated and don’t understand WTF you’ve been doing wrong.
You’ve been going to the gym for a year now soooo like, where the f*ck are your abs?
So many of my friends who do yoga are super thin and toned. Other friends of mine lift weights and have arms to literally die for. But when I took yoga classes and weight trained at the gym, I basically stayed physically stagnant (probably because I didn’t know what I was doing, but still).
People who usually go to Matt and The LIV Method fall into two categories: 1) active and frustrated, or 2) inactive and frustrated. Just because you’re working out doesn’t mean your workout is productive. So what are we doing wrong?
“While classes can be a great outlet and workout, there isn’t enough consistency or progression on a week-to-week basis to allow the body to adapt in any specific way. Trainers utilize a variety of science-based principles to remove the guesswork from exercise. Everything we do has a purpose and is part of a larger plan.” Yay, science!
3. You’ll learn what to do inside AND outside of the gym to get optimal results.
It’s not just what you do inside the gym that drives results. It’s actually everything you do, including how many pints of ice cream you eat after your workout, and the amount of delicious, sugary margaritas you drink on the weekends.
“The biggest impact we can have on our clients is OUTSIDE the gym where they spend the majority of their time,” Matt told us. “There are 168 hours in a week, and we are lucky to be able to see our clients for more than one to two of them, which is why we focus so heavily on education and empowering our clients to make better decisions on their own.”
Simply hiring a personal trainer does NOT mean you will automatically see results. At the end of the day, it’s entirely on YOU. But the knowledge you gain from them will last a lifetime, which is what makes training with a professional 100% worth your time all the time (whether you use it or not).
4. You’ll have someone to hold you accountable, and help you in your fitness journey every step of the way.
You can’t find a treadmill at the gym on January 1 if your life depended on it, then the parking lot is back to its usual half-empty self come February 1. You buy an influencer based workout DVD and expect to look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel after week two, then give up because life gets in the way.
You know the deal. While motivation comes and goes, a personal trainer is always there to keep you accountable and consistently working toward your goals.
“When chatting with any new client, we always take our time to help our clients identify not just the “what” but most importantly the “WHY” so we can continue to remind them as to why we started in the first place.”
“Most people start their journey with a high level of motivation, and full intentions to achieve what they are setting out to accomplish. But seeing results is not an immediate thing. It takes will power, grit, and determination to have the longevity necessary to see it through.”
5. You’ll become your best self – mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Working with the right personal trainer can be a life-changing experience that’s worth every penny. If visible results are what you want, and you’re not getting them on your own, then it might be time to consider hiring someone to help you.
I asked Matt to give me one thing personal trainers wish that regular gym-goers knew about their services and how they can help, and his answer really hit home for me.
He said, “If self-improvement is the objective, then hiring the RIGHT personal trainer is a game changer. I have built my life around helping others become the best possible versions of themselves. The LIV Method is my mark on this earth and my mission to help as many people as I can to realize their full potential. I have surrounded myself with the best trainers in the industry who all share a common vision and purpose and who look forward to showing you what LIVing is all about!”
I’ll raise a glass of wine to that! Or a salad? IDK. I’m just a writer who works out a couple of times a week, and I clearly need a personal trainer. #SOS
Images: Pexels, @thelivmethod / Instagram (5); Giphy