5 Exercises Every Executive Should Know

No one seems to empathize with the top dog. Being an executive is an unbelievable physical challenge- long work hours, long meetings, putting out “fires”as well as managing a team of employees. There is no “Nine to five” and this kind of schedule presents a barrier to maintaining physical health.

Somehow, a large number of CEO’s, CFO’s and COO’s found their way to my practice and in most cases- you just want to know how to get rid of the problem and aren’t looking for a one hour routine. If you spend enough time with any group you start to see some patterns emerge. Executives commonly experience low back and neck pain, tennis elbow and shoulder pain. If you are an executive-hang in there for a five minute read and I will review these common problems and how five easy exercises can help. Don’t worry- no gyms or cutoff shirts are needed! After introducing the exercises and their purpose, you can watch a video to learn the technique. Don’t let the incredible videography distract you from learning the movements- I am highly trained in the visual arts!

The handshake has a lot of meaning for an executive- greeting, parting, offering congratulations, gratitude or completing a deal. It conveys trust, strength, respect and equality. So, what happens when this causes elbow pain? The light just went on for the ladies or gentlemen who realize they have this pain and it’s related to how many hands they need to shake in a day. I have had patients and clients switch from a “righty” to a “lefty” because this hurts so much. Tennis elbow, a common condition, is often the culprit here. No-believe it or not, you don’t need to play tennis to get tennis elbow.

Exercise #1

A good exercise for tennis elbow is wrist extension. There are two methods- eccentrics(shown in first video) and heavy slow resistance (HSR). Both are effective for reducing tennis elbow pain- the difference is the technique. With eccentrics, you work half of the motion(you will see in video) with a lot of repetitions- 3×10, 3 times a day. With HSR you will move the wrist up and down against the resistance of a band or dumbbell for 3×8 with 5 second counts as the wrist moves up and back down. This is performed every other day. If the elbow is too irritated, you may need to start with an isometric (no movement) contraction, which is shown in the second video.

Low back pain is experienced by most people in their lives- about 84%. I wrote a much larger and more detailed article on this, which can be found here:


Exercise #2

We will keep things much shorter for this article. Low back pain for executives can often be a result of not using the back! That’s right- sitting all day long and lower levels of activity mean the back doesn’t get what it needs- range of motion and work! There is good evidence that although the spine is resilient and made to handle large loads throughout the lifespan, the less it is used, the weaker and more painful it can become! This first exercise is a “Feel good” movement that works on spine mobility.

Exercise #3

The next exercise addresses the paraspinal muscles- the muscles tasked with extending (straightening) your spine and helping you stand back up after bending forward. There is evidence that some of these muscles will become overactive, weak and atrophy with low back pain so maintaining the health of this tissue is very important.

Exercise #4

Neck pain sits at the top of healthcare costs. According to The Journal of The American Medical Association- neck and low back pain are the third largest healthcare cost ($87.6 billion), right behind diabetes and ischemic heart disease. When your schedule requires a lot of sitting, reading and typing, a few things can develop- upper cervical tightness and decreased deep neck muscle endurance. This matters because if tissues become chronically shortened over time, they can get overactive, irritable and weak. When small stabilizing neck muscles becomes weak, the larger muscles in then neck are now causing movements from a less stable surface. Check out this video to learn how to perform one movement that helps both upper cervical motion and deep neck flexor muscle endurance.

Exercise #5

Shoulder pain can often be related to the position of your scapula. This concept of sitting and working postures can often times get overplayed in rehabilitation. It’s not the end of the world when you are sitting or standing without perfect posture! The key- if you have pain related to a slouched position and correcting this with a few counter movements improves pain, then we have a plan of action. The idea isn’t that you do some exercises and it gives you perfect posture- it’s just breaking up a movement pattern enough throughout the day that it allows irritated tissues to take a break. This (last) video shows an easy movement that can be performed anywhere!

That’s it! Five easy movements that be be done in the office. If you want to break up the day with these movements- perform one set of each, 2-3 times a day. If you want to focus on building muscle endurance and strength, perform 3-5 sets in one bout. Please share this with your colleagues so they don’t have to come in to see me!


Leave a Comment