Updated: December 19, 2022

12 Best Desk Exercises & Workouts

You found our list of desk exercises.

Desk exercises are the workouts an employee does comfortably at home or the office. Examples include obliques, desk pushups, and side planks. The purpose of these exercises is to help employees keep fit, correct poor posture, and relieve stress. In the long term, these desk workouts help to improve an employee’s overall health, self-confidence, and productivity.

These desk exercises are related to team building workouts, online team fitness, and field day games.

This article covers:

  • work from home exercises
  • desk workouts
  • desk workout equipment
  • desk exercises for posture

Let’s dive in!

The list of best desk exercises and workouts

Regular desk workouts can significantly improve employees’ physical fitness and enhance alertness at work. Here are our best suggestions.

1. Squats

Squats are among the best workouts for developing core and thigh muscles. This exercise is simple to learn and does not need any equipment. Beginners can use a bench or chair to enhance stability while working out.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand tall and part feet slightly wider than shoulder-width. If you are using a chair, then place it behind you.
  2. Stretch your arms forwards
  3. Lower your buttocks as if sitting down, but do not touch the chair.
  4. Raise up slowly back to a standing position and repeat this process ten times.

Squats strengthen muscles in the lower body and legs and help lower back pain. This workout is recommended for employees who constantly bend, crouch, or lift—for example, folks in the mail delivery service and packaging industries.

2. Desk pushups

Desk pushups are some of the best exercises for building strength in the upper body and toning arm muscles. The employee will need an office desk for this workout.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand at arm’s length from the desk.
  2. Facing the desk, slightly spread out your hands and place your fingers on the desk’s edge.
  3. Keep your body straight, lean towards the desk and lower yourself until your chest almost touches the desk.
  4. Raise yourself to the original position while keeping your fingers on the desk.
  5. Repeat ten times

You may stand on your toes to avoid straining the back muscles and make the exercise feel easier.

3. Bench dips

Bench dips exercise the muscles in the arms, shoulders, and chest. These workouts help employees to add a bit of bulk, build strength, and increase flexibility. This workout requires a stable bench or office chair without wheels.

Here are the steps:

  1. With your back facing the bench, put your palms on the bench and grab the bench’s edge with your fingers.
  2. Stretch your legs in front until your hips are at the same level as the bench.
  3. Support your weight with the heels and lower your upper body until your elbow makes a right angle.
  4. Raise your body back and repeat this process five to ten times.

Bench dips are among the best exercises for beginners. Doing a set of this workout two to three times a week produces the best results. However, excessive bench dips can strain your muscles.

You can also vary the dips by using weights or suspending your legs between two benches.

4. Standing calf raises

Standing calf raises are among the easiest exercises for employees. These workouts build the calf muscles in the legs and improve agility when walking, jumping, or running. The employee may require a yoga mat for this exercise.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand on the yoga mat or the floor and part the feet to match your shoulders’ width
  2. Hold your palms together in front of your chest, and then slowly lift your heels as high as possible until you stand on your toes.
  3. Hold this lift for a few seconds, then slowly lower yourself back to the ground.
  4. Repeat ten times.

This exercise improves stamina and body balance. The workout is most beneficial for folks who are always on the move, for example, firefighters, athletes, and housekeepers.

5. Dumbbell chest press

Dumbbell chest presses are an excellent exercise for stabilizing the upper body and increasing core strength. Over time, this workout corrects unbalanced muscles.

You will need a bench and dumbbells for this workout.

Here are the steps:

  1. Grab a pair of equal-weight dumbbells on each hand, then lie down with your back on the bench and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Keep your elbows near the body, and lift the dumbbells slowly until your arms are straight.
  3. Slowly lower your elbows to the original position.
  4. Repeat ten times

You can do this exercise with different dumbbell sizes as long as they weigh equally on each hand. If you do not have a bench at home, you can lie on the floor and substitute this workout with the floor chest press.

6. Seated rotations

Seated rotations are among the best exercises for developing the obliques and abdominal muscles. An employee will require a chair and a medicine ball.

Here are the steps:

  1. Sit upright on a chair without wheels while holding the medicine ball in your palms.
  2. Raise your feet and stretch your legs completely
  3. Contract the abs muscles and rotate the ball as far right as you can.
  4. Still contracting the abdominal muscles, return to the original position, then rotate as far as left as you can.
  5. Finally, return to the center to complete the cycle.
  6. Repeat 15 times.

You can substitute a pair of dumbbells for a medicine ball or cross your arms at the bosom. When exercising, ensure to breathe normally. In addition, if you are a beginner and the exercise feels strenuous, then put your feet down, contract the abs, and focus on rotating the torso.

7. Ball squats

Ball squats strengthen the lower body, including the abs, legs, and hip bones. This exercise helps to avoid back injury or strain, especially when lifting weighty objects.

You need an exercise ball to do this workout.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand next to a wall and pin an exercise ball between your lower back and the wall.
  2. With hands hanging perpendicular to the floor, slowly bend the knees and squat.
  3. Let your pelvis align with the ball angle as you move down.
  4. Hold the squatting position for a few seconds, then slowly stand
  5. Make five reps of this exercise.

Employees who wish to advance this exercise can increase the number of reps, stretch their arms forward, or squat deeper down.

8. Dumbbell rows

Dumbbell rows are one of the best desk exercises for posture. If you want to tone your back muscles and improve posture, then this workout is for you. You should prepare a bench and dumbbells to get started.

Here are the steps:

  1. Position your left knee on the bench and put the dumbbells on the right side of the bench.
  2. Hold the bench with your left palm to support your body, and stretch out your right leg slightly.
  3. Use your right hand as a hook to lift the dumbbell off the floor to your side, and ensure not to bend your right knee.
  4. Make ten reps
  5. Switch sides and repeat the process

Besides the upper and lower back, dumbbell rolls are also a fantastic exercise for the shoulders, biceps, and abs.

9. Burpees

Burpees are one of the most effective desk exercises. This cardio workout is quite demanding as it combines jumps, squats, pushups, and planks. You may need a mat for this exercise.

Here are the steps:

  1. Get down to a squatting position and spread out your hands slightly.
  2. Touch the floor with your palms, and then jump back into a plank position.
  3. Lower and raise your body once, as in a pushup.
  4. Next, jump forward to the space between your palms as you stand with your hands raised.
  5. Repeat ten times.

Burpees exercise several muscles at a go and are great for building strength. In addition, this workout helps to improve balance and mobility.

10. Side planks

Side planks are among the most common work from home exercises. This workout is great for the shoulders, core, and abdominal muscles. An employee will need an exercise mat to get started.

Here are the steps:

  1. Lie on your right side with the leg touching the floor, from the feet to the hip.
  2. Put your right elbow down to support your torso and place your left hand on your left hip.
  3. Lift your body so that only the elbow and the right foot touch the floor.
  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds, and then switch sides.
  5. Do ten reps.

When doing this exercise, ensure that your body maintains a straight posture and your elbows at right angles.

11. Bird dog

Bird dog is among the best exercises to relieve back pain and align the spine. You may need to use a mat for this exercise.

Here are the steps:

  1. Bend down, with your knees under the hips and palms under the shoulders.
  2. Keeping your back straight, raise the left leg until it levels with your back and the head.
  3. Raise the right hand and stretch it out in front to level with the rest of the body.
  4. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Or, bring the elbow and the knee of the stretch limbs to meet.
  5.  Change sides
  6.  Repeat ten times.

Bird dogs are great stretching and warming-up exercises to include in your daily desk workout routines.

12. Hamstring rolls

Hamstring rolls top the list of exercises to loosen overworked muscles. To get started, gather your roller foam and exercise mat.

Here are the steps:

  1. Sit on the mat, stretch out one thigh, and place the roller foam underneath it.
  2. With your hands below the shoulder, bend the other leg’s knee.
  3. Start rolling forth and back over the roller foam from the buttocks to the knee. You should avoid letting your buttocks touch the floor until you are done with the exercise.
  4. Maintain this motion for 30 to 60 seconds, then change sides.

You can substitute roller foams with medicine balls. These exercises release the hamstrings and enhance flexibility.

The list of best desk workout equipment

Workout equipment is essential for providing support, weight, or comfort for particular exercises.

Here is a list of basic desk workout equipment:

1. Exercise ball

This big ball is useful for various ball exercises, including squats, bouncing, pushups, and wall sitting.

2. Medicine ball

You can hold this ball in your palms while doing exercises like obliques, squats, lunges, and deadlifts

3. Dumbbell.

Dumbbells are free weights that employees use for weight workouts such as bench presses, and squats.

4. Exercise mats

Exercise mats come in different sizes and widths to provide extra comfort and grip when exercising. Laying down mats when exercising also prevents the floor from scratches and friction.

5. Treadmill

Treadmills help in walking and running exercises. The folding or standalone variations let you choose the design that fits your office space.

6. Foam roller

Foam rollers are great for upper-body and lower-back exercises such as calf rolls, wall squats, and plank jacks.

When sourcing workout tools, select tools and equipment that meet the health standards and individual workout needs. Also, consider the available space first when trying to get bulky equipment.

Desk workout tips

Below are essential tips to help you exercise better and get the desired results.

1. Breathe

Holding breath is a common mistake that raises blood pressure and decreases the supply of oxygen to the body. As a result, you can experience dizziness and passing out, which may cause accidents and injuries. It is therefore best to breathe out when exerting force.

2. Start small

Workouts may feel tiring and discouraging if you are a beginner or have not exercised for a long time. Beginning with fewer reps and easier exercises is among the best ways to get in tune.

3. Be consistent

Busy schedules may be a major challenge that makes employees not exercise. You can improve your consistency by creating a workout routine and spelling as little as five to ten minutes daily for workouts.

4. Stop exercising when it hurts

Listening to your body as you work out will help you not strain your muscles. If you feel pain, then it is a warning that you are overstretching and that you should stop that exercise immediately.

5. Hydrate well

Working out causes more sweating and increases the need for more water. It is best to exceed the standard eight glasses per day when you exercise.

6. Exercise with colleagues

Inviting fellow team members to join your workout routine is more enticing than exercising alone. In addition, group workouts improve bonding and spread the benefits of exercise.

7. Warm up first

Doing warm-ups help to improve blood circulation and ease tension in the muscles. As a result, you will enjoy working out because of better movement and increased flexibility.

These simple tips efficiently give you an awesome workout experience and achieve the targeted outcome from the exercises.


Desk exercises are effective at improving employees’ physical and mental health. The workouts can regulate body movement, correct defective postures, stretch tight muscles, and increase blood circulation. As a result, employees who exercise may feel happier, more active, and more confident.

Including desk workouts in daily work routines also improves productivity and builds team spirit at work. Some handy tips to help employees benefit from desk exercises include being consistent, drinking sufficient water, and doing warm-ups before the workouts.

Next, read mental health awareness and employee wellness programs.

FAQ: Desk exercises

Here are answers to common questions about desk exercises.

What are desk exercises?

Desk exercises are workouts that in-office and remote teams can do at the office or home. These exercises may require simple tools like dumbbells, medicine balls, and exercise balls. In addition, you can use office furniture like chairs, benches, or desks to facilitate these workouts.

What are some good desk workout ideas?

Good desk workout ideas fall into these categories:

  • stretches, for example standing calf raises, hip rotations, and hamstring stretches
  • upper body exercises, such as dumbbell bench presses, best pushups,  and plank raises
  • lower body workouts, like squats and lunges
  • exercises for the core, for example, bird dog and planks

These workouts should help employees build strength, exercise internal and external muscles, and improve posture.

How do you get exercise at your desk?

If you want to exercise at your desk consistently, then you should create a workout routine and fix it in your schedule. You can try exercising with colleagues for added fun and better motivation during workouts.

What exercises can I do while sitting at my desk?

Some of the best sitting exercises include obliques, seated rotations, and seated stretches.

What are the benefits of desk exercises?

Desk exercises help employees to be physically fit, have better moods, and feel more relaxed. The workouts also improve overall health and reduce conditions such as heart disease and depression. Employees who engage in desk exercises become more attentive and productive at work. In addition, team exercises improve teamwork and employee relations.

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People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at TeamBuilding. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.

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