I tried a five-move stretching routine to fight the effects of sitting at a desk all day—here’s what happened

If you want to soothe your muscles after a long stint at your desk, this is just the thing

Pliability director of performance Cody Mooney demonstrating the dragon pose
(Image credit: Pliability)

Stiff hips and a sore spine are byproducts of a sedentary lifestyle, but they can be hard to avoid when you sit at a desk all day. 

That’s why mobility app Pliability has launched its Workforce Hub; a collection of stretching routines designed to "counteract the detrimental effects of prolonged sitting by alleviating muscle tightness, enhancing flexibility and maintaining optimal posture". 

The routines take just 11-19 minutes, so I decided to step away from my laptop screen, roll out a yoga mat and give one a go. 

How to do Pliability’s Workforce Hub stretching routine

  • Half front split
  • Elevated pigeon stretch
  • Samson overhead turns
  • Twisted cross stretch
  • Dragon pose

Hold the five stretches above for 90-120 seconds. If the stretch focuses on one side of the body, hold it for 90-120 seconds on each side. 

1. Half front split

Pliability director of performance Cody Mooney demonstrating the half front split

(Image credit: Pliability)
  • Start in a high kneeling position. Extend your right leg in front of you so your heel is on the ground and your toes are pointing upward.
  • Lean forward and place your hands on the ground either side of your right knee for support (you might want to place your hands on an elevated surface like two yoga blocks here). Let your head hang heavy as you relax your neck and upper back. You should feel this stretch in the back of your right thigh. 
  • Breathe and relax for 90 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.

My results

The hamstrings are the large muscles on the back of the thigh responsible for bending the leg at the knee, and coming into this mobility session mine felt incredibly tight. 

Luckily, this move delivered a deep stretch immediately, while my neck and spine appreciated being allowed to hang loose rather than craning forward to look at a phone or laptop screen. 

"This pose improves flexibility within the hamstrings, lower back and hip region, while stimulating the abdominal organs and strengthening the legs," Pliability’s director of performance Cody Mooney says. 

2. Elevated pigeon stretch

Pliability director of performance Cody Mooney demonstrating the elevated pigeon stretch

(Image credit: Pliability)
  • Stand opposite a box, couch or other sturdy surface that’s between knee and hip-height. 
  • Lay your lower right leg across the box, perpendicular to your body, with your right knee at 90°. 
  • Allow your hips to sink down and extend your left leg as far as you can behind you. You should feel this stretch through the outside of your right hip and upper glutes (butt muscles). 
  • Breathe into this stretch, attempting to push the front knee into the surface you’re on and lean over your right shin. Continue this for 90 seconds, then switch sides. 

My results

Due to an old soccer injury in my left knee, pigeon pose and I don’t always see eye to eye. However, I had no problems with this elevated alternative. 

It provided an intense stretch on the outside of my hips, leaving them feeling looser at the end of the 90 seconds. 

"This stretch targets the glutes, piriformis muscles and hip flexors, improving the range of motion in the hips and relieving lower back pain by stretching the tendons around the spine," Mooney explains.

3. Samson overhead turns

Pliability director of performance Cody Mooney demonstrating Samson overhead turns

(Image credit: Pliability)
  • Start in a lunge position with your right leg forward and your left knee on the ground, then push your right knee over your toes to feel a stretch in the front of your upper left leg. Keep your back flat and upright as you do this. 
  • Raise both arms overhead and clasp your fingers together with your palms facing upward to increase the stretch. 
  • Gently turn your chest to the right, then to the left. 
  • Continue this for 90 seconds, attempting to sink deeper into the stretch with each repetition, then repeat on the other side. 

My results 

This was a good one, and it did even more for me than Mooney suggested it might. 

"This pose transforms your overall hip mobility, working all the muscles in your lower body including your glutes, hamstrings and quads," he says. 

I felt it in my hips, sure, but it also highlighted how tight the muscles in my upper back were when I extended my arms overhead. As a result, I felt a huge stretch down the side of my torso when I leaned in the opposite direction. 

It also made me realize how little I train this movement pattern—bending from side to side—and my spine felt less stiff once the 90 seconds on each side were up. Motion really is lotion folks. 

4. Twisted cross pose

A Pliability model demonstrating the twisted cross pose

(Image credit: Pliability)
  • Lie on your front, reach your right arm out to the side, then place your left hand underneath your left shoulder. 
  • Press into the ground with your left hand. As you do this, reach your left foot up and over your right leg then plant it on the floor. 
  • Hold this for 90 seconds, keeping your right shoulder on the ground, then repeat on the other side. 

My results 

I’ve been experiencing some tightness in my shoulders after stepping up my regular CrossFit training, but after doing this stretch I experienced notable improvements in these joints for the rest of the day. There’s an enjoyable stretch for your chest and spine to be had too.

5. Dragon pose

Pliability director of performance Cody Mooney demonstrating the dragon pose

(Image credit: Pliability)
  • Start in a lunge position with your right leg forward and your left knee on the floor at a right angle. 
  • Lengthen your left leg behind you, then lean forward over your right knee, placing your hands either side of your right foot for support. Sink your chest toward you right knee to increase the stretch.
  • Hold this for 90 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.

My results 

This was my favorite move of the five, providing a comprehensive hip stretch and lightly loading my ankles to increase mobility in this joint (something I struggle with during exercises like squats, as I have long limbs). 

"This pose has numerous benefits; increasing hip mobility, stretching the inner thighs and easing any tension in your hamstrings and spine," Mooney says.  

Even if you don’t do the routine in full, I definitely recommend giving this one a go. 

Would I do this routine again?

I’d happily use this routine as a regular way to break up my work day. Pliability has several routines in its Workforce Hub too, with each focusing on different parts of the body, so I have a few options to choose from.

My body felt looser and more relaxed after the session, which took just 15 minutes to complete. My hips and spine in particular enjoyed the break from my office chair. 

I also really enjoyed the brief screen break. I followed the routine on the Pliability app, but after a  glance for a technique check at the start of each move, I was able to just use the audio instructions. 

As a result, I used the 15 minutes to slow down, breathe deeply and chill out—something I rarely make time to do, and really appreciated it in the middle of a busy day. 

For more tips on how to limber up after sitting in a chair all day, see our guide to hip stretches and hip strengthening exercises

Harry Bullmore
Fitness Writer

Harry Bullmore is a Fitness Writer for Fit&Well and its sister site Coach, covering accessible home workouts, strength training session, and yoga routines. He joined the team from Hearst, where he reviewed products for Men's Health, Women's Health, and Runner's World. He is passionate about the physical and mental benefits of exercise, and splits his time between weightlifting, CrossFit, and gymnastics, which he does to build strength, boost his wellbeing, and have fun.

Harry is a NCTJ-qualified journalist, and has written for Vice, Learning Disability Today, and The Argus, where he was a crime, politics, and sports reporter for several UK regional and national newspapers.