A Healthy Foundation

In our busy lives as engineers, product managers, and designers, it is difficult to dedicate time to keep our bodies healthy. This is a shame because you reap substantial mind-body benefits when your body is strong and healthy — you’ll be more confident and engaged while striking a beneficial balance between work and your health. As our team […]

In our busy lives as engineers, product managers, and designers, it is difficult to dedicate time to keep our bodies healthy. This is a shame because you reap substantial mind-body benefits when your body is strong and healthy — you’ll be more confident and engaged while striking a beneficial balance between work and your health.

As our team at LendingHome has grown, we’ve done more to foster health and fitness, from organizing daily plank circuits to using standing desks. This has been especially important for me as a recent student-athlete who constantly fought off injuries through preventative techniques and strength training.

Here are four simple techniques that promote good posture, core stability, and flexibility.

Hips are the Entryway

Hips are the most important part of your body that no one ever talks about. As a refresher, here’s a diagram of your hip region.

Your hip flexor is comprised of most of the muscles on the left [1]

Sitting at a desk all day compresses and tightens your hip flexors. This will inhibit your legs’ range of motion while causing your quad and hamstring muscle groups to feel tighter and your lower back to hurt. Left unaddressed, you’ll be creaky, inflexible, and weaker throughout your whole body.

There is a simple solution though! Rolling out your hips with a foam roller will do wonders to loosen your hip flexor and glute muscles. Using a foam roller to stretch and strengthen these overlooked hip muscle groups will reward you with improvements in posture and flexibility. It only requires a few minutes, so squeeze in a quick roll-out during your morning routine or just before bed. Here are videos demonstrating how to use a foam-roller effectively on your hip flexors, IT bands, and glutes.

After rolling out, it’s important to hone in on tight muscle areas with some deliberate stretching, which will help you increase your flexibility. Here is my favorite stretch:

Leg over body stretch

This stretch will focus on your lower back and outer hip regions. My rowing teammates and I love this stretch because back issues plague rowers.

Your Core is Your Foundation

Slouching at your desk is easy but dangerous. There is probably nothing worse for your core stabilization muscles than sitting bent over all day. Slouching while sitting is just as bad as slouching while standing — it leads to poor posture and imbalances throughout your back and shoulders. When you don’t sit up, you compress your spinal region, causing back pain.

Good posture while seated will prevent these muscle imbalances. Good posture entails not leaning on your desk while you work, keeping your back straight, and engaging your core as you sit up straight.

Jenny showing us good seated posture

You adopt good posture habits while standing as well and reap the same benefits. Many engineers at LendingHome have moved to standing desks and seen improvements in their posture and core strength.

Dante staying level with well-supported posture

Keeping good posture for an entire day is tiring! And you may find it difficult to sustain. However, a few minutes of focused core exercises a day will give you the stamina to maintain solid posture for an entire day. For example, one of our engineers leads an optional 10 minute plank circuit at 5pm every day, which appeals to the dancers, athletes, and other teammates who just want a break in their evening. Other exercises like sit-ups, crunches, and leg raises will also help you build core strength.

Support your Posterior Chain

A strong core is just the first requirement for maintaining good posture for the whole day. You’ll also need a strong posterior chain. These muscles run from your upper back all the way to your upper hamstrings. By strengthening this region, you’ll notice improvements in your balance and posture while reducing any back pain you might experience.

My favorite exercise to do here is the glute bridge, which looks like this:

Glute Bridge [2]

I particularly enjoy this exercise because it engages the essential muscles that power good posture. It is also customizable and can be done with any combination of the following twists:

  • Holding the pose for a set period of time
  • Some number of up-and-down repetitions
  • Putting a weight on your pelvis that you have to lift as well
  • Raising one leg while grounding with the other.

Loosen your Hamstrings

The most stereotypical test of flexibility is to bend forward to touch your toes. Most of us can’t without a serious amount of strain and discomfort. It shouldn’t be this way though. Flexibility through your largest muscle groups, your hamstrings and quadriceps, is an essential foundation for body wide flexibility. Tight hamstrings are also the single largest contributor to lower back tightness and can affect even those who use standing desks.

A great way to stretch your hamstrings is with a band, which you can see here. You should ground your hips and back, and then slowly start pulling your leg towards your chest. It’s important to refrain from extending to the point of discomfort or pain. Every 10–20 seconds, give yourself a break of a few seconds before re-engaging that leg. As you progress through the stretch, you should find your flexibility improving as the muscle loosens. A few minutes of this stretch with both legs will do wonders for your hamstring flexibility.

When stretching your hamstrings, it is essential that you don’t go too far, too fast. Hamstrings are delicate muscles that are easily strained. I recommend supplementing static (stretch and hold) stretching with dynamic (active) stretches where you progressively increase the extent of the stretch throughout the exercise.

Be Consistent

Just ten minutes a day of these exercises can make a world of difference in how your body feels. Consistently working these techniques into your daily routine will yield compounding returns for your health and happiness.

Pro-tip: Use a slackbot or similar reminder scheme to hold yourself accountable

Interested in working a company that values and understands the importance of a healthy lifestyle? Our engineering team is growing! We’re hiring engineers in our San Francisco and Columbus, OH offices. See our careers page to learn more. We look forward to hearing from you!

Thanks to Matt McFarland for reviewing this post!


A Healthy Foundation was originally published in LendingHome Tech on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: LendingHome