Sneaky (and Super Easy!) Arm Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

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While walking to the bathroom and back to your desk five times a day might help you add in some steps to your FitBit, it doesn’t really do much in the arm department. But believe it or not, there is a way for you to sneak in a biceps and triceps workout without leaving your desk, or at least going far from it. 

We teamed up with Eric Von Frohlich, trainer and founder of Row House NYC and EVF Performance, on Facebook Live for a lesson in quick and easy arm exercises you can totes do in the office. 

You might be thinking there’s, like, only one move you can do, but prepare to be majorly surprised. 

Eric started us off with a few stretches for your wrists and forearms, and you will hugely appreciate these if you’re at a desk all day long typing away. 

RELATED: Here's What Cycling Exclusively for a Month Did to My Body

From there, we moved onto unexpected moves like bicep curls with water bottles, dips on your chair (maybe don’t do this with one that rolls), and even push-ups against a desk. FYI, it was a challenge! 

Check ‘em all out by watching the video above! 


Hi Facebook I'm Victoria [UNKNOWN] I'm the Editor of Mimi and this is exercise in disguise. In this segment we will show you little exercise moves that you can work into your every day Every day regular daily routine or maybe you can sneak into your work day and hopefully at your desk. So in previous segments we've worked our legs, we've worked our ****, we've worked our core But for this segment, we're gonna work our arms. And to do so, we have Eric Von Frohlich. He's a trainer and the founder of Row House and also EVF Fitness or Performance. I'm sorry. Yeah. Thank you so much for joining us. Hi, Facebook. Thanks for having me. So I feel like this is really great for me because I am a runner, I'm a swimmer and I do a lot of spin. But I feel like I never know what to do to work out my arms. So before we even get started why are arms so hard to To tone and to focus on.>> I think most of the problems with arm training is that people dont do it. It's not that the arms are particularly hard but people like to walk, they like to run, they like to bike but they dont really do workouts that involve their arms. So that's why we created Rowhouse its a full body movement so we Putting a lot of focus on working your entire body, every muscle, every stroke. That's awesome. But that's primarily the biggest reason people just don't do exercise that involve their upper body a lot. Yeah, and for this workout specifically we're doing arms and shoulders Correct. Okay cool, so let's get started with the first exercise. Right, so one of the problems you have when you're sitting at a desk all day is your wrists and your forearms get really tight and so we've all heard of carpal tunnel and people are always trying to find some kind of relief for their arms. Yeah, I feel like that's hard, too. I don't think that's completely first nature is to figure out how to stretch this part. I feel like there's. Booth stretch, but I feel like this is a difficult part of your arm. it is, and it's a problematic part. But it's really, really simple to do. And so if you put your hands together, and you just kinda push your fingers back on each side, just kind of Just get them moving a little bit and then we can take that a little deeper and then what we're gonna do is take our finger tips, grab your finger tips and extend your arms and pull your finger tips down and you can feel how that stretches out the forearm, right? Yeah, definitely. And we'll do that on the other side. ANd just pull them back as you straighten your arm out. And now we're gonna work on stretching out the muscles on the top of the arm so you grab the back of your hand And you're gonna push the wrist down towards the forearm. I like when I do that. Sometimes I'll get a little pop. Like a little click, yeah. Kinda tells you it's a little tight in there, right? We'll do that on the other side. And then something I like to do regularly. I would do this if I had an office job or worked on a computer Computer will do these, at least every half hour or maybe every hour. And to lock your fingers and do these little figure eight. You just kind of rolling your wrist back and fort and that helps get blood flow in there and just kinda loosen everything up. And then, you're just gonna shake them out and all those things are great for just loosening up and keeping the The lower arm in the best shape as you can without getting too crazy. So you said do that every half hour? At least every hour. If I was typing for a half hour though, I would do it at least every half hour. Okay, and what about just before a regular workout? Is that kind of a stretch you would do? I always do it because I'm always doing things that involve my upper body. So I'm gonna be doing push-ups, I'm gonna be doing pull-ups. And so I'm always doing things that I'm trying to get That area loosened up. If I can get that area loosened up, then I feel like I can get a much more effective workout. Does that make sense? Yes. Can we just repeat the first part? Sure, so we are going to push our fingertips back. Right? Or another deeper version of that is to grab the fingers as you extend the arm and we do that in both sides. And then, we're gonna take the back of the hand and we're gonna fold the rest in and it's stretching out the forearm, the top of the arm. Okay. And we do that on the other side and then, from there we shake them out And we're gonna go into this little figure eight, rolling the wrists back and forth. And all these can be done as prep for your workout or just to kind of get some Relief into your forearms during the day. But with that in mind, we want to strengthen the muscle son the forearm because you're kind of locked in this position when you're typing and you're sitting at your desk and that's best case scenario if your back is straight, you're sitting up Tall when you roll your shoulders in and you're kinda hunched over. I feel like that's something I always notice is that my posture immediately becomes like this during the day. Right, and that's again goes to that problem of why do people have problems working their arms is they're really not conscious of their posture because our mother was right. It's all about sitting up tall, getting your shoulders back. That's a good reminder of me right now. Especially, you're right because you're sitting all day. Mm-hm. And so, it's a kind of a natural to sit all day. You should be up and moving around and we see that with standing desk becoming very popular now. Yeah. Right and critically offices that can afford to do that, they're starting to do that quite a bit. But not only that, to strengthen the back of the arms, I'm gonna use a little prop because I think you should drink a lot of water everyday so I always have a couple water bottles with me. And so what you're gonna do is kind of just let the water bottles hang in your hand and you're gonna roll your wrist up, and it's kinda like a reverse wrist roll. Try this. And you're just gonna roll them up So your arms shouldn't rest on your. Your arms can rest. Can rest, okay. But you want your wrist to be able to hang down. Okay. That's kind of stretching out the back of the arm. All right. And you just go to roll them up and drop them back down. And again, this is pretty benign. It's simple. It's not really difficult exercise but it doesn't take huge amount of weights to make you stronger. You just have to be able to do these little exercises to strengthen them. So how many reps of these should we be doing [UNKNOWN]? I think 10 to 15 is plenty. And then you can take a little break and if you felt it was helpful you could do a little bit more. We're using water bottles because, say, we would be at a desk and I feel like this is not anything anyone could even see you doing, it's so Like hidden underneath of your furniture. But if you were doing this at home, what kind of, what weight should you use? And what's too heavy for this particular exercise? I would say when you're starting you want to start with something that you can be successful with. You can do 15 reps, you can definitely take the weight up. Okay. Okay? But I wouldn't sit there and say well today I'm gonna have great forearms so I'm gonna do 100 reps. Right? I would build slowly and usually we try to add about five to ten percent a week of whatever the volume that you're doing so if we're doing a couple sets of 15 maybe I would do that for a couple weeks and then next week I would add some more. Okay, cool. Okay? So let's move on to the third exercise. Okay, so we're gonna stick with our water bottles Okay And again, there's a lots of ways to work around this. We didn't have four of these bottles. I'd give you an example. We're gonna go four inch of motion, just kinda go, it's very simple, bicep hold. Just bring it up to our shoulders and then drop them all the way back down and I'm adding a little rotation to that. That's always a question I have when it comes to do biceps curl, should the weight be horizontal or should they be vertical and what is the difference? Starts vertical and turns horizontal. Why do we do that? Because the biceps has two muscles. One of them rotates the arm and one of them lifts the arm. Interesting. And so, pretty simple. Right, and again, not a very obvious exercise unless someone's staring at you. Maybe, if you have an office door, maybe close it. But, yeah this isn't too bad. It's also like a good lunch break exercise. I feel like go outside Yeah. It's pretty simple. Get a bench. If you want to make it a little tougher drink a lot of water. you can take your hands, put them underneath your desk and feel like you're lifting your desk. Kind of like an isometric hold. Right and you'll feel that a lot deeper. Again it's not gonna be a full range of motion but any kind of activity that gets blood flowing into the muscles and stimulates your neurological system is great. Okay. So we did curls, but there's a way to work our shoulders with it? Yeah. Okay. Yeah, and back. Can we try that out? Sure. Awesome. So let's start. We'll build off of that and this is gonna work your biceps also. So similar to rowing we're gonna lean forward a little bit, say 45 degrees, chest out, shoulders back. Reach your arms out so they're perpendicular to your body. We're gonna drive the shoulder blades back, chest out, and then push them all the way back. And we're keeping that chest pushed back. Your chest is out. Shoulder blades are back. There we go. Those little movements that are so hard to like adjust. Yeah. Well I think that that's the problem with sitting at a desk all day. Is that, and then, you know, depending on your choice of exercise. I mean all exercise is good, but some is better for what your problems may be. Right? Definitely. So, we're gonna do one more of those. Okay. And then we'll put those water bottles down for a second. So, we just did about ten reps of those, but what should your set be if you're doing that kind of exercise? I do set a ten until someone notices you're doing it,- [LAUGH] Yeah. Okay. Cool. and then maybe it's a good way to drop out of it. But similarly, if you're setting at your desk, and you wanted to be less than obvious,- Okay. you could just hold yourself up a little bit And then we'll take that to a little more exaggerated okay space. And this would be like a dip, but it's an isometric. We're just kind of pressing our shoulders down and holding ourselves up. You can feel your triceps activate when you do that? Yeah. So it's working your chest up [UNKNOWN], is there any muscles that is addressed? On that one is just the back and the arms, it's just the triceps. Okay. I mean if you were to pick your feet up, it would really work your abs quite a bit. Yeah, I don't know if I can, I don't know if I'm ready for that one yet. You just have to bend your knees and kinda push them up but it's something to work towards, right? Definitely. And I An easier version would be and it's a little more of a full range of motion but because we're stopping at the seat you're gonna come off up the seat by pressing our arms and come back down. And drive up, and now the legs The less you use your, the less you use your legs, the harder it's gonna be. So if I was to take my weight off of one leg, it will be a little tougher. If I was to extend my legs out in front of me, it would be a little tougher. Okay. If I wanted to like no one, everyone's out at lunch and I'm really going for it I'm coming all the way down. And those are dips. Those would be dips, right. So if you're just tuning in, this is exercise in disguise and in this segment we show you little workout moves and exercises that you can work into your day to day routine or maybe at your desk. So let's try the dips. Sure. Cuz I feel like we've done, this is the less intense version. So let's kick it up a notch and try the intense version. Okay great. So we're gonna step away from our seat a little bit. Okay. Keep your belly nice and tight. Chest is out, so the shoulders are back. And then we're just dropping down nice and low so that the top of the arm is parallel with the elbow. Okay. So we'll be sitting 90 degrees and drop them down. And again. This is harder. You'll take one leg out. I feel like with these exercises like I've done these before in the past and I think one of the things that I'm always confused about is How close are you supposed to really be to the chair? Like are you supposed to have your back far from the chair or are you supposed to be like skimming the seat of the chair? Yeah, the idea would be to skim it. To put more of the weight into the arms. Okay. And the further that you. Put the weight towards the legs, more weights gonna be on your leg. So it's really scalable for anyone. So I could put more weight in my legs by leaning forward a little bit to almost to the point where, I'm doing it one arm. So is that like a modification And say you have an arm problem? No I think it's a modification based on whether or not you actually do any arm exercises. Okay. I do push-ups more or less every day. Yeah. So for me it's not going to do whole lot but if I've never done push-ups it might be a nice way to start waking up the neuro-pathways and waking your body up and getting range of motion and the biggest problem with sitting Not just for your upper body, but for your entire body is that you fixed in a position. Yes. And the longer you stay there, the more adhesions you get in your muscles. The tighter you get. That's why people are kind of considering sitting the new smoking If you do it too much. Hm-mm. It's really problematic for your body. So, getting up every hour and just kinda moving around. Then you have these simple solutions to make your body feel better. Whether it's your wrist stretch, whether it's some sort of calf raises at your desk. Whatever it is, just kinda get the body moving until you can get to the gym and do some workout. And I feel like these exercises too, I know that [towards?], if I don't work out in the morning And I'm just going through my day, at the end I feel like really tight. And I just want to stretch. And I feel like working these things in would make me feel a little bit more loose in my arms. And honestly, maybe give me a little bit more energy, because you're not feeling so you know like. Restricted, like you kind of got out some energy throughout the day as well. I think that's exactly what it is. When you're sitting at your desk we all have a tendency to slouch. We all have a tendency to drop our shoulders. We become internally rotated. We get in that position and then we expect that whole workout, that one hour a day which never really is a full hour by the time you get in class and get out of class and do all the things you need to do. You expect that to undo the eight, ten, 12, 15 hours of sitting that you've done. That's a lot to ask. So I think helping yourself during the day, or finding at the very least an activity that works your entire body. And again, for us it's rowing. I've been on the search for the perfect workout for 35, 40 years. I've been working out for 35 to 40 years. So rowing to me when I did it, was like my god this is amazing. Strengthens my back. Makes me sit taller, makes me feel stronger. Works my core, works my legs. Certainly works my arms and your shoulders. Yeah, I think it's all about finding a workout that like really works for you and fulfills that. And I love about the rows that we were doing is that you said it works your posture too. Sure. Which is something that like I, and I've mentioned before, I struggle with daily. And I notice. And I'm like, okay Victoria. Put your shoulders back. Yeah. You don't want to sit like this forever. If you walk through your office and you just look around at everyone sitting in their cubicles. Everyone is internally rotated, everyone's kind of slouched forward. Everyone's dropped into that position. They all have neck problems. They all have. Yeah there's always some tension there. Yeah we call that turtle-ing. Yeah. So there was some recent studies. Studies that were done. It was this huge head talk on how body language and body posture affects your attitudes and affects your hormones. They found that if you assumed a negative posture, your cortisol went up, your stress hormones went up, and your testosterone drops. If you assumed the dominant posture, chest out, shoulders back, Back- [CROSSTALK] right now. Sitting tall, sitting proud, right? Then the opposite happened. Your testosterone went up, your cortisol went down. You felt better, you were more energetic. So it was almost like a fake it till you make it type of attitude. And it only takes two minutes to change that. Yeah. So it's become super important that we become really, really conscious, almost hypervigilant To what our posture is. If you think about, what do you do when you leave your desk? You grab your iPhone and you drop your head. You look back down again. Again, universal posture for defeat is head down and shoulders internally rotated, so we spend twelve hours a day like this at our desk or ten hours a day. Then we sit there and do that with our phones. Phone. And then we wonder why we don't feel great, why we don't feel energetic. Yeah. And so we getting that all worked out. Shoulders back. Shoulders back, chest out, sitting tall, being proud. So you know what speaking of shoulders, wanna hit the shoulder exercise? Yeah. Let's do a shoulder exercise. Okay so for this one, it's super important, particularly and can we talked about it just from a vanity perspective. Okay. If you want the definition in your arms You need something that helps create that definition and that's the medial deltoid, the shoulder. That separates the triceps from the bicep. And so if you have great shoulders, even if you don't have great arms, if you have great shoulders, that's what the eye gets attracted to. Mm-hm. So this one, we're gonna take our water bottles again. Okay. I'm using 32 ounce bottles because I have to drink that much. [LAUGH] And again, if the arms are bent a little bit it's easier. If the arms are longer it's a little harder but we're gonna Pour the water, essentially. And then bring it right back down. And then again. It's just like you're pouring the water. And you're coming right back down. And this is great if you're a little more conscious of your posture. Okay, so how high should our arms be going. You just come up until your arms are parallel to the floor. And wrists pointing down. And your wrists are pointing down and the elbows leading the motion, right? So it feels like someone's pulling you up from your elbows. And wanna do five more? Can we do five more? [LAUGH] We can do five more but I definitely feel it in my shoulder. Yeah it's a little muscle, it just doesn't get the love it needs. And I love shoulder exercises. Yeah shoulders are awesome. Alright that's five. Alright so far so good right? So our last exercise is like maybe something new Might not be able to do at your desk If you have an office, close the door. It's a little bit more intense. Well, I think it's a good one to do at your desk. Yeah, just go for it. Go for it. It's a lot better to do it at your desk than it is to do it on the floor. If you do on the floor, you're going to Gonna. Yeah, so let's try this out. All right, so [UNKNOWN] throw the classic, it's been out there for 3,000 years, the push up, there's a question about push ups, right? It's a question people have asked for millennium and that question is how deep do you have to go for to be a push up. Yeah. Well if you don't go all the way down, it's not a push up and the reason that people have trouble doing push ups, it's because no one never said You have to go all the way down or it doesn't count. Yeah. So doing that little range of motion is fine to start with. But if you really wanna progress, you wanna see big changes, then you have to be willing to kind of go through that period where maybe you're not the stud and you're not really rocking it. I think with push ups, too, for me, I always struggle with knowing I know your elbows aren't supposed to be. Right. Out, they're supposed to be- For the same reason. Down. Well, let's try it this way. Yeah. If you're here, you're internally rotated. That's a problem at our desk all day, right? That creates all kinds of problems on our posture and our neck. If our shoulders are back and our chest is out Just the way I want you to sit, then we can go that full range of motion. Okay! We can bring the chest all the way down and they don't kind of have it right, they have it right in yoga. So essentially it's a chaturanga. Chaturanga! Right- Still hard for me. Elbows in, Chest out, shoulders in front. Not straight down in alignment, so we're gonna demo those so you people will get a better feel for what they really look like. Let's try them out. All right. So we need to go tho the sides of the table. So you're gonna go to the side, I'm gonna go to the front. Okay. I'll go four inch of motion, you go with whatever you feel comfortable with. Okay, I'm gonna watch you do it first. All right, so Make sure you're using a sturdy desk, right. I'm gonna squeeze my elbows in. I'm gonna push my shoulders in front and then push right back up. Now, the beauty of a push-up is if you do it right, it pretty much works your entire body because I'm squeezing my glutes. And what makes the movement really, really effective is that, and I think you've seen this Is that the body is moving as a unit. There's nothing that's moving independent of each other. RIght? Where you get into problems with push ups is when you see people kind of snake their way up. It's not that their triceps aren't strong or their chest isn't strong, it's that their core is weak. And so having a strong core. Well I was going to ask you, like, a push up, I feel like I would always think of it as an arm exercise, but it really does work your core because you're holding everything. If you're doing everything right. It works your core as much as your arms. Interesting. Problem is most people forget that it involves your core which means your glutes, your back, your belly, right? All of those things that you try to use when you're having good posture. Every time you bring your posture is, why do we love it? We love it we're growing. Growing is postural exercise and that's why you come to studios, you see. Everyone really tall. Yes. [CROSSTALK] Shoulders back. They look great, right? It's a good benefit. So. So we're gonna try push-ups. We're gonna try it out. We're gonna do these together. Okay, yeah. We'll do- All right. Five. Okay, sounds good. Okay, so hands are shoulder width. Okay. Okay. We're gonna push the shoulders forward tight on the belly, squeeze your glutes nice and tight, and then drive yourself back up. Ok and then come all the way down and drive yourself back up. Again your range of motion is fine but this is something that we're going to work towards. As you get a little stronger and you're doing more of them youre just going to start coming lower and lower. And so you can see this is a really low desk I mean this isn't fair because most people's desks are up here right and so that would be a lot easier if you were at a much higher desk. You'd be able to do that. Or you could even do them off the wall. Yeah. I feel like you get to a certain point and then you get down and the I feel like I start to shake. Yeah. It's cuz I'm not used to going down that far. Exactly. So it's neurological primarily. When we get strong our neurological connections have to be built, it's like traffic on a road. If there's a lot of traffic, then you can't move quickly and muscles don't communicate with your brain quickly. But if the traffic's open because you've been using this a lot, then very, very quickly you can go to that full range of motion. But you can't get full range of motion push-ups, if you never do full range of motion push-ups. Gotcha. Just like everything else, right? Yeah. So you have to do what the The real way. And then. And then it will come on a lot quicker. And that's what I found with push ups through the years is is most people's problems. So they just don't wanna go all the way down struggle. Yeah, so we actually have a reader question. Robin wants to know if it's possible for a six year old to get rid of arm flab. A 60 year old. Thank you, 36 year old. [LAUGH] No. There's a lot of components, right? We can't get away from what our lifestyle was so it's important to go back to what I thought the question was originally, to get people started as young as possible. And you can make big changes and you can have a lifetime of fitness and health and your body will be. It's genetic potential but there is a genetic cause to whether we have excessive weight gain. You can certainly firm up and get stronger and I'm a huge advocate of doing that Because your body is what carries you through the rest of your life. Yeah. So, even if you can't get rid of the flab, at the very least make your arms as strong as they can be so that you are able to move independent through your entire life. Okay, that a good tip. Alright Facebook thank you so much for joining us, if you have any questions please leave them in the comments below. Bye. [BLANK_AUDIO] So great job. [BLANK_AUDIO]
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