5 Ways to Improve Your Posture

Posture can be a tricky animal.  On the one hand, poor posture is not a emergency in the same way that, say, a broken arm requires an immediate trip to the hospital.  We can go about our day to day lives with poor posture, and in many cases we might not even notice.  Poor posture is particularly insidious because it is often developed over time due to years and years of poor habits.

That’s not to say that poor posture is not a big deal.  Going through life hunched over can affect your breathing and general well being.  It can affect your mood.  It can even impact the way that others perceive you in the workplace.  Maintaining good posture is important for healthy living, and thats what I am taking a closer look at how to improve posture today.

Because the body tends to adapt to the positions and movement patterns that it encounters most frequently, poor posture can be learned (and unlearned!).  It is part musculoskeletal, part neuromuscular and part mental.  It is really the confluence of pretty much every facet of the body.  Consequently, there is no one sort of training that can improve posture in itself.  Instead, I’ve personally found that a multi-faceted approach tends to work best.  Here are 5 techniques you can use to improve your posture, some of which you might not have thought of immediately.  In my opinion, it is worth trying them all!

Foam Rolling

When we talk about poor posture, we’re often talking about postural kyphosis, a head-forward posture that mimics the position that we commonly take in front of a computer monitor.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere, kyphosis can often start at the hips, which form the baseline of the kinetic chain.  It then continues up the kinetic chain to the shoulders and neck.

Computer Hunch

Computer Hunch

A foam roller can be used to release muscles that become tight while sitting.  Start by using the foam roller to release the hip flexors.  Then, move up the kinetic chain to the upper back.

Strength Training

I’ve already written quite a bit about strength training as a means to improve posture.  In short, we want to strengthen the muscles that oppose movement patterns reinforced by computer work.  Typically, that means the primary muscles of the posterior kinetic chain including the glutes, lats and hamstrings.

Posterior Kinetic Chain

My favorite exercises for doing so are squats, deadlifts and pull ups.  However, there are all sorts of other exercises you might try, including rows, hamstring curls, glute bridges and even cleans for the more advanced lifters.

Meditation

This is an interesting one.  Many folks tend to focus only on the immediately visible, physical indicators of poor posture.  However, posture is also mental, and in some cases reinforced by tension and negative attitudes about ones self.

Meditation can help relieve anxiety and refocus your energy towards positive ends.  It can relax the body, which in turn relaxes the shoulders, allowing you to more naturally place your shoulder blades down and back.  Don’t ignore mental health as a critical component of overall health!

Stretching

Stretch the hip flexors!  Stretch the pectoral muscles!  Stretch your neck and back!  Stretch when you wake up.  Stretch before you go to bed!  Stretch at work!  Get up and stretch whenever you can!

Last week, I talked a bit about how the single most important factor in improving workplace health is to move around.  No fancy workout routine, ergonomic device, food supplement, meditation guru or medical procedure is a replacement for simply moving around more.  Getting up to stretch every few minutes is the single best thing you can do to improve your range of motion in the workplace, and therefore your learned movement patterns and posture.  Particularly, you want to focus on stretches that counteract movement patterns you are learning while not stretching:

Sleep (Well)

We spend roughly a third of a time on this planet sleeping.  Therefore, it makes sense consider the position in which you place your body while catching some z’s.  Many folks may sleep with too many pillows or in a position that actually counteracts the posture work that we are doing during the day.

Consider purchasing a firmer mattress and sleeping on your back.  Doing so will naturally reinforce a proper posture by aligning your head, neck, back, torso and legs.  After all, the ideal posture is essentially a position in which you can imagine a straight line from your feet to the top of your head.

In addition, by reducing the number of pillows you use, you may be able to avoid positioning your head awkwardly, or forward in a manner than mimics the head-forward position reinforced by computer work.

Conclusion

There are many ways to skin a cat, as they say, and posture work is no exception.  Give these various approaches a try, and see which ones work best for you.  Personally, I have adopted all of these.  Poor posture is developed over time, and therefore will not disappear over time.  However, by taking steps such as those outlined above, we can gradually improve our posture for healthier living.

 

To Go Ergonomic, Or Not?

The first “ergonomic” device I can recall purchasing was the Evoluent Ergonomic Mouse.  I had struggled for months with a nagging tendonitis in my wrist, and figured there was nothing to lose in trying out a vertical mouse.  The results were mixed, but I do believe that switching to a vertical mouse helped heal my injury.  Paired with stretching, icing and other tools to prevent tendonitis, I was able to get my wrist pain to a point that it was manageable.

The Evoluent was ahead of its time and became a classic that inspired dozens of other vertical mouse designs, many of which we have detailed in our guide to the best ergonomic mice.  It is based on science and an understanding of the biomechanics of the wrist.  In short, it’s not a product created by a bunch of pseudo-doctors for late-night tv infomercials.

Recently, however, I’ve encountered more and more ergonomic products that look like this:

Hamster wheel desk

The hamster wheel desk – dubious value.

Yeah, this guy literally built a hamster wheel to replace his desk.  Does this thing work?  Maybe.  Is it ridiculous?  Yes.

I mean, yes… moving around in the workplace is really, really important.  And, yes… working in a hamster wheel does accomplish that goal.  However, the hamster wheel is more “show than go” as they say.

Hamster-wheel-guy reflects what I believe to be an increasingly worrisome trend among ergonomic devices on the market.  In essence, we’re focusing too much on goofy appearances and things that we believe will work, and not enough on science, biomechanics and clinical studies to guide what does work.  I am worried that we are becoming snake oil salesmen.

Here are some guidelines to make sure that your ergonomic-oriented purchases will provide real value.

Does this device address a specific pain point?

As one might expect, a reasonable starting point might be to consider whether your purchase is addressing your specific needs.  Don’t just evaluate the device on a superficial level (i.e. I have wrist pain and this device “helps” wrist pain).  Instead, try to evaluate the device in terms of the biomechanical patterns that it targets.  For instance:

  • Is my injury caused by repetitive stress to a particular muscle or tendon?  If so, does this device encourage a wider variety of movement patterns for that extremity?
  • Is my injury caused by a pressure point in my existing furniture with regard to a specific muscle group or joint?  If so, does this device do a better job of distributing pressure outside of that muscle group or joint?
  • Is my injury caused by a lack of movement in my lower torso?  If so, does this device encourage me to get up or move my legs more?

Hopefully the answer to one of these questions is “yes.”  If the answer is “no,” then there is no point in wasting your money.  Instead, find a device that is tailored more specifically to your pain points (literally!).

Does this device “make sense”?

There are a bunch of laser hair-removal caps on the market.  These caps address a specific pain point in hair loss, but the likelihood that shooting a bunch of lasers into your scalp is going to magically give you a full head of hair is essentially zero (sorry guys!).

Similarly, you want to make sure you’re buying an ergonomic device that will actually address your ailment. For instance, if you’re suffering from an RSI injury, seek out a device that will reduce the number of times that you go through the particular movement pattern that is causing you grief.

In practice, this may mean diving into various medical studies or looking closely at anatomy charts.  Just a small bit of background research may help you avoid dropping a bunch of cash on a device that provides dubious benefits.

Does this device accomplish its goal in a minimalistic way?

Personally, I want a device that will get the job done and not much more.  Granted, some folks prefer a lot of bells and whistles, but, in practice, I’ve found  the bells and whistles to detract from the core functionality of many ergonomic products.

The xClubby Ergonomic Workstation

The xClubby Ergonomic Workstation — Ergonomics to Excess

Hamster guy is a perfect example of an ergonomic product gone extreme.  While his invention likely “works,” it is overkill for a problem that can be solved through taking periodic walks to the water cooler or, in the extreme, with a treadmill desk.  The hamster wheel is particularly egregious, but I’ve seen similar frills incorporated into ergonomic mice, standing desks, ergonomic chairs and other ergonomic devices.  Often these frills add quite a bit to the price tag, but not a whole lot to the functionality of the device.

With that said, if you prefer the hamster wheel approach, go for it!  But, do so with the understanding that you are essentially buying flashiness over substance.

Conclusion

The market for ergonomic devices is a real industry that provides real benefits to real people.  However, as with any medical or health related purchase, one must be careful to fully evaluate the claims made by ergonomic device manufacturers.  Unfortunately, marketing and frills can sometimes overwhelm the core substance of what these devices seek to accomplish, leaving consumers confused and without an understanding of what they are actually purchasing.  With some basic research, you can avoid these pitfalls, and make healthier, more informed buying decisions.

Why Use a Standing Desk?

I’m going state something considered heresy among ergonomics aficionados these days.  A standing desk will not, in itself, improve your posture, cardiac health, strength, or any other health-related metric.  In fact, if used improperly, a standing desk can lead to joint problems, back problems and other injuries.  That’s because a standing desk is not a medical device.  It is a tool that can be used properly or improperly.  When used properly, it can provide a number of health benefits, but only if used properly.

The Problem With Sitting

In order to understand what that means, it is worth considering the problems that standing desks seek to address and the ways in which a standing desk can help address those problems.  I’ve written extensively about why sitting for long periods of time is bad for you.  In short, the body tends to adapt the positions and movement patterns that it encounters most frequently.  If you were to only train your right arm, for instance, you might expect your right arm to grow stronger than your left arm.  Similarly, if you spend all of your time sitting, it is not surprising that the body will begin to “adapt” to sitting.

Sitting for long periods of time primarily impacts your health in two ways .  First, sitting can negatively impact cardiac health.  Too much sitting is directly linked to heart disease and other circulatory issues.  Second, sitting can promote unhealthy muscle imbalances.  Because a chair supports a portion of your body weight, muscles that might be activated while standing can grow weak while sitting.  In addition, the sitting position itself tends to shorten muscles which are tied to joints that are put in flexion.  The lower back, glutes, hip flexors, abs and obliques tend to be most impacted.  These muscle imbalances can result in what I call computer hunch, a head forward slouching position that rounds out the top of the back and tends to reinforce an anterior pelvic tilt:

Computer Hunch

Computer Hunch

Standing Desks Can Improve Cardiovascular Health

Standing desks can promote activities that counteract the biggest risks of sitting all day at work.  In terms of cardiac health, a number of recent studies have shown that the fundamental problem with desk work is that it involves a lack of movement for most of the body.  Even small movements throughout the day can go a long way towards counteracting a sedentary job.

So the thinking goes that, by standing at work, you are more likely to fidget or make so-called “micro-movements,” thereby keeping your muscles active.  You might take a quick walk to the water cooler or take a sales call while walking around the office rather than staying at your desk.  These small breaks and movements can make a huge difference.  In fact, several studies have shown exercise is not nearly as important as continual movement throughout the day.  According to researchers at the University of Toronto, chances of dying of heart disease or cancer were more or less the same between those who exercised regularly and those who did not.  Indeed, the evidence seems to suggest that while exercise is important, we also need to stay mobile throughout the day, even while performing non-aerobic activities.

But… and this is a BIG but… standing all day is also not particularly good for you.  According to Cornell University, standing can actually be bad for those already prone to certain types of heart disease.  It is also linked to an increased likelihood of developing varicose veins.  Furthermore, it requires more energy to stand than to sit, about twice as much according to Time Magazine.  While burning calories can be a good thing for those who are overweight, if it comes at the cost of additional fatigue at work, it can negatively impact fine motor skills and concentration.

Standing Desks Can Improve Posture

We know that sitting reinforces computer hunch, but does standing help?

It turns out that standing desks can help counteract muscle imbalances, if used properly.  Remember that when using a standing desk, it is important to still focus on proper standing desk posture.  That is, one must still work to maintain neutral arms, neck and back when working at a standing desk.  The problem is that moving to a standing desk places new stresses on the muscles that may have become weak from sitting.

Proper Standing Posture

How to stand up straight when using a standing desk.

If you make the transition to a standing desk cold-turkey, the result may be injury rather than improved posture.  In fact, as the muscles that are critical for proper standing posture grow tired, one is likely to slouch or lean on the desk, which can actually reinforce the very problems the standing desk seeks to counteract.

So What Then?

All this seems to point to the fundamental truth that there is no silver bullet for us lowly office workers.  A standing desk is a tool that can encourage more variety in your day.  Indeed, the most recent studies seem to show that variety is actually the key.  A variety of working positions and movement throughout the day is what we really seek.

By avoiding any particular work setting or movement pattern, we can avoid developing muscle imbalances in the first place.  Or, if that’s not possible, it may be possible to counteract patterns developed at work, by strengthening the anti-patterns in the gym.  By moving around, even in small ways, we can counteract the negative impacts of sitting on cardiovascular health.

So in short, try to move around as much as you can.  And the best part… you don’t necessarily need a brand new $2000 standing desk to do so.  Go on a walk.  Take a break every now and then.  Shift around from your desk to the couch to the counter top.  Basically, do what our ancestors have done for millions of years.  That’s it!

Stand Up Desk Store 60″ Crank Steel Adjustable Sit to Stand Up Desk Review

As part of our ongoing series devoted to standup desks, today we are taking a look a a dedicated standup desk from none other than the appropriately named Stand Up Desk Store.  The Standup Desk Store is a provider of all sorts of stand up desks, including both desktop and dedicated models.  They make standup desks with a single platform, split-top with a separate keyboard tray, motorized, non-motorized and pretty much any other configuration you might be looking for.  So, if this particular model isn’t up your ally, you might want to browse some of the rest of their models to see if another one might fit your needs.

Today I am going to dive specifically into the the 60″ crank model, which is one of their more popular designs.  Although the name would imply that the main platform is 60″ inches wide, it is actually 59″.  With 60″ inches of usable space, however, it is unlikely that you will need the extra inch.  Interestingly, it also features a split-top, which is much more commonly found on desktop standing desk models.  In the case of a desktop standing desk, a split-top allows you to use the desk in both the retracted and extended positions without the need to move your mouse and keyboard on and off the tray.  With a dedicated standing desk, the advantages of a separate keyboard tray are not as clear.  In fact, in some cases, it may actually be a hinderance, as the available space for other items such as speakers becomes somewhat more limited.  It may have the advantage, however, of mitigating the need for a new monitor stand, since the desk itself elevates the monitor.  The platform sits about 3¾” inches above the keyboard tray, which may or may not be sufficient depending on your height.

The Stand Up Desk Store 60" Inch Model Provides a Wide Range of Adjusability

The Stand Up Desk Store 60″ Inch Model Provides a Wide Range of Adjustability

The frame itself is somewhat industrial in appearance and is made of powder coated steel.  It is very sturdy, however, and adjustable over a particularly wide range.  From a keyboard tray height of 29″ inches, all the way up to  40¾” inches,  it is clear that the Stand Up Desk Company designed this desk with taller folks in mind.  In fact, you’re probably more likely to have issues on the low end of the range if you happen to be on the shorter end of the spectrum.

In terms of portability, the 3″ inch casters make it relatively easy to move the desk around the office, provided that your office does not have particularly thick carpet.  In reality, since the desk alone weighs almost 90 lbs., you will probably want to move your desktop items and the desk separately.

The crank mechanism is straightforward, reliable and easy to use.   It is also relatively sturdy, but the desk comes with extra parts just in case.  It’s also worth noting that the Stand Up Desk Store also makes the same desk in an electric model.  In fact, the crank model even comes with the mounting points for the electric hardware.

Stand Up Desk Store 60" Crank Steel Adjustable Sit to Stand Up Desk

All this is to say that the Stand Up Desk Store has built a winner with the 60″ crank model, especially at such a reasonable price point.  There are, however, a couple areas that could be improved.  First, the platform itself is not real wood.  Though available in both black and dark walnut, it does not feel like wood either.  Second, I found the grey powder coating to leave something to be desired.  Though sturdy, the frame just feels a bit too industrial, which may or may not be appropriate for your work setting.

Pros of the Stand Up Desk Store 60″ Crank Steel Adjustable Sit to Stand Up Desk:

  • Wide Work Space – With 60″ inches of width, the desk easily accommodates two monitors and more.
  • Portable –3″ casters allow you to move the desk where you want it.
  • Reliable – The crank mechanism is easy to use and functional.
  • Split Platform Design  May mitigate the need for a monitor stand.  Also, a potential downside for some.
  • Price – Affordable entry level standing desk.

Cons of the Stand Up Desk Store 60″ Crank Steel Adjustable Sit to Stand Up Desk:

  • Platform – Not real wood.  Unclear that it will stand the desk of time
  • Industrial Steel Powder Coating  – May not blend in at the office.

Final Conclusion

The Stand Up Desk Store 60″ Crank Steel Adjustable Sit to Stand Up Desk is another fantastic product from the Stand Up Desk Store that will get you in the standing desk market at a reasonable price.  It leaves a bit to be desired in the looks department, but it is fully featured and will get the job done.

Check Price

Final Verdict: A reliable, simple and get-it-done product from a company you can trust.

 

LUXOR Standup-CF48-DW Stand Up Desk Review

Over the past couple weeks, we’ve taken a close look at the best desktop standing desks on the market. Desktop standing desks provide a simple way to get into the standing desk market without breaking the bank by adapting your existing sitting desk into a sit/stand desk.  They’re simple, easy to set up, and easy to use.  In contrast, a dedicated standing desk replaces your existing sitting desk.  Typically they have some mechanism to raise and lower the entire desk, which is usually either a motorized device or a crank shaft.  So with all the advantages of a desktop option, why would anyone consider purchasing a dedicated sit/stand desk?

Well, dedicated standing desks tend to be sturdier and also typically provide a larger workspace.  In addition, some folks just prefer a more permanent solution or find dedicated standing desks to be more aesthetically pleasing.  Many dedicated standing desks look like a regular desk, and can even be purchased with real wood tops that would be right and home in an executive board room.

Today we’re taking a look at the LUXOR Standup-CF48-DW stand up desk.  The LUXOR desk is designed to be a dedicated standing desk that still retains many of the benefits of a desktop standing desk.  As a dedicated standing desk, it can be used by itself when you are both sitting and standing.  However, the LUXOR desk also has casters, which allow you to move it around the office nearly as easily as a desktop sit/stand desk.

The fit and finish of the LUXOR is top notch and gives a professional appearance that would be at home in any sort of office setting.  It is constructed from high quality powder coated steel which provides the sturdiness that you need in a standing desk, but still blends in when in the office.  The LUXOR has a height range of 29″ to 42.5″ inches.  The desktop itself has a realistic dark walnut finish, and though somewhat thin at about 3/4 of an inch, is plenty sturdy for nearly anything you can throw at it.

LUXOR Standup-CF48-DW

LUXOR Standup-CF48-DW

In fact, the LUXOR illustrates what is, in my opinion, the primary advantage of a dedicated sit/stand desk — load capacity.  Whereas the desktop sit/stand options tend to support loads in the range 25 to 50 pounds, the LUXOR can handle up to 75 pounds!  In addition it is available both 48″ and 60″ inch wide models, which provides plenty of usable desk space for nearly anything you might want to put on it.

The LUXOR does have a few downsides.  As one might expect with a desk this size, it does not come pre-assembled.  In addition, the assembly instructions leave something to be desired, which means that putting the darn thing together might take some time for those who aren’t mechanically inclined.  In addition, when fully extended, the desk does have some play, though not any more than most standing desks I have encountered.

One thing to keep in mind is that the LUXOR uses a crank rather than motors to raise and lower the desk.  The crank system works great, but it involves some elbow grease to raise or lower, 88 cranks from fully retracted to fully extended to be exact.  You can think of it as a bonus if you’d like — a standing desk AND an arm workout in one!  However, for folks with limited mobility, the crank may be a problem.

Pros of the LUXOR Standup-CF48-DW Stand Up Desk:

  • Sturdy Frame – Powder coated steel frame.
  • Fit and Finish – Top notch looks and feel that will be at home in any workplace setting
  • Mobile – 3″ casters allow you to move the desk as you see fit.
  • Price – Price point is reasonable/affordable for an entry level dedicated standing desk.

Cons of the LUXOR Standup-CF48-DW Stand Up Desk:

  • Poor Instructions – Some assembly required
  • Crank System to Raise and Lower  – Can be a pain to raise or lower.

Final Conclusion

The LUXOR Standup-CF48-DW standing desk is a fantastic entry level desk for those looking to fully dive in to the standing desk movement.  It is built from quality materials that will last a lifetime, but doesn’t break the bank.  While the crank system may not be ideal for some, it gets the job done and potentially decreases the weak points that might wear down over time versus an electronic motor approach.

Check Price

Final Verdict: If you’re looking for a sturdy, affordable way to get into the world of standing desks, this is the product for you.

 

 

Best Desktop Standing Desks

Are you looking for the best desktop standing desk?  Today we’re taking a look at some of the best desktop standing desks on the market in the hopes that we can provide you with the information you need in order to make the best purchase for your needs.  Or, if you’re the type that prefers to just cut to the chase, click here to see our #1 pick on Amazon.com.

What is a Desktop Standing Desk?

When most folks think of standing desks, they tend to picture something like this:

60" Crank Adjustable Height Standing Desk

60″ Crank Adjustable Height Standing Desk

This is a crank-adjustable standing desk from the Standing Desk Store.  These are desks meant to replace your existing desk with a completely stand-alone option that will allow you to both sit and stand at your work station.  There is nothing wrong with this approach to fixing the sitting desk problem.  In fact, I personally use the Jarvis Standing Desk at home and it has served me well for a number of years.  However, stand-alone options tend to be relatively expensive and require you to completely replace your existing desk.

Varidesk Pro Plus

Varidesk Pro Plus

In contrast, we’ve seen a number of desktop sit/stand options come on the market in recent years which provide the advantage that you do not need to replace your existing desk, and they are often priced more affordably to boot.  These standing desks sit on top of your existing desk and essentially behave like a monitor stand when fully retracted.  However, they can be extended in order to provide a standing workspace as well.

Top 3 Best Desktop Standing Desks 2016:

Key Factors to Consider When Buying a Desktop Standing Desk:

Sturdiness

It goes without saying that sturdiness is important.  In fact, this may be the single most important factor to consider when evaluating a desktop standing desk.  If you are deep in thought coding or typing, the last thing you want to worry about is whether your flimsy standing desk will be able to properly support your $1000 Apple Thunderbolt monitor.  What’s more, it can be incredibly distracting if your monitor bounces or sways as you type.  It can even promote poor standing desk ergonomics.

As a result, you will likely want to purchase the sturdiest standing desk you can afford.  Luckily, all of the desktop standing desks on our list are rated at 35 lbs. or more fully extended and will get the job done if you are only going to be supporting your monitor, keyboard and mouse.  However, if you want some additional peace of mind, or are planning on putting additional peripherals on your desk, consider purchasing a desk with additional safety margin.  The last thing you want is to have to replace your monitor because you cut corners on your desk purchase.

Fit and Finish

In addition to the pure rigidity of your new standing desk, you may also want to consider the overall build quality as reflected in the fit and finish of the desk.  While not immediately apparent in the utility of the standing desk, selecting a desk that reflects quality workmanship will mean that the desk will wear more slowly and last longer.

In addition, in some cases poor workmanship can affect usability.  For instance, if you prefer to mouse directly on the surface of your desk, protruding screw heads will obviously become a nuisance.

Adjustable Range

If you are particularly tall or short, make sure that you select a desk that will fit your desired working range.  If you are short, you will want to seek out a sit/stand option with a separate peripheral tray such as the Varidesk Pro Plus.  Desks which do not have a separate peripheral tray tend to not sit flush with your existing desk when retracted.  As a result, they may increase the minimum working height of your desk, which is a problem if your existing desk is already relatively tall.  You can avoid this problem by moving your peripherals on and off of the platform when you go from sitting to standing, but doing so can become a hassle.

Similarly, if you are particularly tall, seek out a desk that will be tall enough for you to work comfortably when extended.  In some cases, this may actually mean explicitly avoiding desks with a separate keyboard tray, as the keyboard tray effectively reduces the maximum height by a couple of inches.

Ease of Use

Particularly if you anticipate going from sitting to standing frequently (as I do), seek out a desk that is easy to raise and lower.  Standing desks tend to offer different degrees of adjustability as well.  For instance, the Varidesk Pro Plus offers 11 different height settings, whereas others on the market may offer just 3 or 4.  The easier your desk is to adjust properly, the more likely you are to use it and to use it properly.

Our Favorite Desktop Standing Desks:

Varidesk Pro Plus 36 Height-Adjustable Standing Desk

(Full Review)

Pro Plus Series Varidesk

Pros:

  • Sturdy for a Sit/Stand Desks – Rated up to 35 lbs.
  • Easy To Use – Straightforward levers on either side make it easy to raise and lower
  • Height Adjustability –14″ range and 11 different height settings
  • Separate Keyboard Tray – Great if you don’t want to constantly move your peripherals on and off.

Cons:

  • Maximum Height – 14″ inch maximum height is relatively short compared to other desks on the market.

X-ELITE PRO Height Adjustable Sit / Stand Desk 

(full review)

Pros:

  • Easy To Use – A very simple mechanism for raising and lowering.
  • Fantastic Bargain – Reasonably priced, but still fully-featured.

Cons:

  • Sturdiness – The X-Elite Pro just doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as the Varidesk.
  • Height Range – The 7-16″ heigh range is one of the best on the market.
  • Single Platform – Does not include a separate keyboard/peripheral tray
  • Platform Size – at 20″ x 28″, the platform is a bit smaller than the Rocelco or Varidesk
Rocelco ADR Height Adjustable Sit/Stand Desk

(Full Review)

Rocelco ADR

Pros:

  • Frame is Sturdy as a Rock – Rated at up to 50 lbs!
  • Maximum Height –16.3″ inches of range, which is close to the best in class.
  • Separate Keyboard Tray – Again, a nice feature to have if you don’t want to constantly move your mouse and keyboard.

Cons:

  • Height Adjustment Settings – Has just 4 height settings.
  • Fit and Finish  – Screws and glue mounting the platform to the frame may indicate a lower build quality.
  • Latch Mechanism For Height Adjustment – Located in the back and less intuitive than other models

Rocelco ADR Height Adjustable Sit/Stand Desk Review

Rocelco ADR

Rounding out our series on desktop standing desks, today I’m taking a closer look at the Rocelco ADR Height Adjustable Sit/Stand Desk.  As you might recall, I’ve talked quite a bit about the pros and cons of desktop sit/stand desks.  In short, these desks provide a way to get into the standing desk market without purchasing a completely new desk.  Instead, they rest on top of your existing desk and when fully retracted behave more or less the same as your existing sitting desk.  The desktop platform can be extended in order to allow you to stand.  Previously, we’ve taken a look at the market leader in the segment, the Varidesk Pro Plus as well as the up and coming X-Elite Pro.  In contrast, the Rocelco ADR provides a more affordable alternative, and though it hasn’t quite reached the ubiquity of the Varidesk and X-Elite, it proves to be a formidable competitor in this emerging space.

Rocelco is largely known for their wall mounts and braces for TVs, monitors and other electronics.  As it turns out, the same sort of sturdy construction that makes for great wall mounts also makes sturdy desks.  In fact, the Rocelco ADR is rated to support up to 50 lbs. fully extended, 15 lbs. more than the comparable Varidesk model.  In practice, I think at 50 lbs., you might be pushing it a bit, but the frame on the Rocelco ADR is, relative to much of its competition, built like a rock.

The Rocelco ADR is 32″ inches wide, which is also comparable to the mid-range desk models from Varidesk and X-Elite.  In practice, 32″ inches tends to be wide enough to fit one large Thunderbolt monitor or two more standard sized monitors if you prefer a dual monitor setup.  Realistically, it probably isn’t big enough to fit monitor speakers or other large peripherals in addition.  However, if you are looking to elevate those items as well, you’re likely going to be looking for a fully-fledged motorized standing desk anyway.  For a desktop sit/stand desk, the Rocelco ADR provides as much functional space as nearly any other on the market.

Rocelco ADR Sit/Stand Desk

The Rocelco ADR can be height-adjusted up to 16.3″ inches as well, which is fantastic for us taller folks.  Like the Varidesk Pro Plus, the Rocelco ADR features a separate platform and keyboard tray.  The platform is mounted about 4″ inches above the keyboard, which means that you may be able to get away without a monitor stand, particularly if you’re shorter.  In addition, it means that you won’t have to move your keyboard and mouse on and off the platform and you transition from sitting to standing.

So where does the ADR cut corners?  Well, the Rocelco has just 4 height-adjustment settings in comparision to the 11 found on the Varidesk.  In reality, that didn’t prove to be much of an issue for me because I tend to either use desktop sit/stand desks fully extended or fully retracted, but it might be an issue for someone who really wants to dial in the proper standing height.  There are two items in particular that I found to be somewhat lacking.  First, the platform is mounted to the frame using screws that do not sit perfectly flush with the top.  As a result, if you prefer to mouse directly on the desk, you may be in for a bumpy ride.  It isn’t anything that a reasonable mousepad can’t fix, but it is nevertheless something that could have been designed in a more polished manner.  In fact, the screws and glue mounting generally felt less than ideal.  Second, I just didn’t find the latch mechanism as intuitive as those found on the Varidesk.  The adjustment latch is on the back ,which takes some getting used to and felt awkward to me.

Pros of the Rocelco ADR Height Adjustable Sit/Stand Desk:

  • Frame is Sturdy as a Rock – Supports up to 50 lbs.
  • Maximum Height –16.3″ inches of range
  • Separate Keyboard Tray – Allows you to avoid moving peripherals on and off of the platform

Cons of the Rocelco ADR Height Adjustable Sit/Stand Desk:

  • Height Adjustment Settings – Just 4 height settings
  • Platform Mounting  – Uses screws and glue that is not as polished as the mechanisms found on other desktop sit/stand desks
  • Latch Mechanism – Located on the back of the desk and less than 100% intuitive to use.

Final Conclusion

The Rocelo ADR proves to be a fantastic challenger in the burgeoning market for desktop sit/stand desks.  It can be had for nearly half the price of the market leaders, yet in many ways is just as functional and sturdy.  While it may not be quite as polished when it comes to the platform mounting and latch mechanisms, it is up to par in the areas the really matter — namely platform rigidity and sturdiness when extended.

Check Price

Final Verdict: If you are looking to move into the world of standing desks, but on a limited budget, this might be the desk for you.

Varidesk Pro Plus 36 Height-Adjustable Standing Desk Review

Pro Plus Series Varidesk

When it comes to standing desks, there are really two routes you can go.  For those ready to jump in head first, there are a number of fully height-adjustable desks on the market, such as the Jarvis desk that I currently have in my home office.   The benefit of these desks is that they are generally very sturdy and they function just like a regular desk, only they can move up and down to accommodate both sitting and standing.  Typically, the up and down movement is motorized, and the weight bearing capacity is similar to that of any other desk.  You can fit a monitor, speakers and whatever else you want on them without having to worry.  Unfortunately, they often tend to be rather expensive.

For those looking for a quick way to get into the world of standing desks, there is an alternative option, which I call the “desktop sit/stand desks.”  These sit/stand desks can be placed on top of your existing sitting desk.  They tend to be smaller and less adjustable than a full standing desk, and they also tend to support less weight.  They and tend not to be motorized.  As a result, they are often much more affordably priced than their bigger brothers.  I already reviewed the X-Elite Pro Height Adjustabe Sit/Stand Desk last week, which is one such sit/stand desk.  This week, I am taking a look at the Varidesk Pro Plus 36.

I’ve written extensively in the past about proper standing desk posture and the reasoning behind standing desks.  In short, sitting for long periods of time can cause muscle imbalances that can be remedied by varying your movement patterns.  One way of doing so is to work from a standing desk periodically.

When it comes to desktop sit/stand desks, Varidesk is basically the gold standard.  You will find the Varidesk in the offices of Google, Twitter, Facebook and throughout Silicon Valley.  What makes Varidesk particularly unique is the range of models that they offer. When it comes to sit/stand desks that would make sense in the office, they offer 3 models: Pro, Pro Plus and the Cubicle Series.

Pro Series Varidesk

Pro Series Varidesk

The Pro Series is the most basic option, and provides a single platform that can be raised and lowered by hand.  Though the specs may indicate otherwise, I actually found the pro series to fit me best because I am particularly tall and the single platform allowed me to position the keyboard and mouse high as possible.

Pro Plus Series Varidesk

Pro Plus Series Varidesk

The Pro Plus Series, in comparison, offers a separate tray for a keyboard and monitor.  As a result, it may provide more functional desk space and may not require a custom monitor stand in order to position the monitor at the optimal height.

Varidesk Cubicle Series

Cubicle Series Varidesk

The Cubicle Series, as the name would imply, is designed for cubicles.  In particular, it fits easily into the corner a cubicle, which may utilize space more efficiently.

Within the 3 primary series, Varidesk also offers a variety of widths from 30″ to 48″ inches.  The Varidesk Pro Plus 36 is the 36″ inch wide version of the Pro Plus.

So what makes the Varidesk stand out?  Well, to begin with, the Pro Plus is particularly sturdy for a sit/stand desk.  According to the manufacturer, it can hold up to 35 pounds, which is plenty for even the most aggressive dual monitor setups.  In fact, at that point, the width of the desk is more likely to become a problem than the weight.  Luckily, Varidesk offers a 48 inch wide variant of the Pro Plus as well.

In terms of height adjustability, the keyboard tray can be raised anywhere from flush with the desk to 14″ inches.  Within that range, there are 11 different height positions.  As a sit/stand desk, you lift the tray by hand, locking it into place with two levers located on either side of the desk.  The Varidesk comes fully assembled and is incredibly easy to use.  Unlike the Pro, the keyboard tray sits flush with the desk when fully retracted, which means that you can just leave the keyboard and mouse in the tray when you return to sitting.  The desk platform sits 3.5″ inches above the keyboard tray, which in my case was not enough to properly position the monitor at eye level.  I use a ream of paper to move the monitor up to the proper height.  This comes with the downside, however, that I need to remove the ream of paper when sitting down.

The tray itself is plenty large to fit my keyboard and mouse and plenty stable.  The platform, however, becomes a bit wobbly when used with a Thunderbolt monitor and fully extended.  The issue is not so much that I’m concerned the desk will fall over, but that with wobble, the monitor tends to bounce as I type, which can be annoying to follow.

One final item to keep in mind is that cables become an even bigger hassle with standing desks because they need to move with the desk as you move it up and down.  The Varidesk doesn’t really do anything to address this problem as I’ve seen on other dedicated standing desks.  As a result, I recommend using wireless peripherals and some zip ties for your required cables.

Pros of the Varidesk Pro Plus 36 Height-Adjustable Standing Desk:

  • Sturdy for a Sit/Stand Desks – Supports up to 35 lbs.
  • Easy To Use – Raising and Lowering the desk is a breeze.
  • Height Adjustability –11 height options over a 14″ range.
  • Separate Keyboard Tray – Allows you to always keep your peripherals on the tray, whether sitting or standing.

Cons of the Varidesk Pro Plus 36 Height-Adjustable Standing Desk:

  • Maximum Height – 14″ inches was too short for me to position the keyboard comfortably.
  • Cable Management – It doesn’t.

Final Conclusion

The Varidesk is the most common desktop sit/stand desk you will find in the workplace for a reason.  As far as these desks go, they are some of the sturdiest and functional you can buy.  They aren’t particularly cheap, but they are definitely more affordable than most full-on standing desks, and offer the same functionality for the most part.  They are easy to use, and can quickly turn your existing desk into a sit/stand desk, which is far more practical than a completely new desk for many.

Check Price

Final Verdict: This is the gold standard if you are looking for a desktop sit/stand desk.

 

 

The Best Office Chair Under $200

If you’ve been following 9 to 5 ergonomics for a while, you’re probably familiar with my guide to the best ergonomic office chairs on the market.  I originally wrote that guide on the assumption that price was not an overriding factor.  However, if your like most folks (myself included) price likely is a factor.  In fact, in some cases, it is the factor.  That’s why today I’m taking a closer look to find the best office chair under $200.

Or, if you just want to cut to chase, here it is: the #1 office chair under $200.

Why $200?  Well, for the most part, $200 is a completely arbitrary threshold.  However, it does seem to be a dividing line in the market.  Generally speaking, below $200, you tend to see more features and build quality as you spend more.  A chair retailing for $199 will be demonstrably better than a chair retailing for $99 when evaluated on the basis of features or sturdiness.  On the other hand, it’s not always clear that a chair retailing for $600 is measurably better than a chair retailing for $200.  Instead, many of the factors that might distinguish a $600 chair from a $200 chair might be found in design, branding or other intangible features.

This guide seeks to highlight some of the things to look for and to consider when shopping for the best office chair under $200.  Personally, I think its worth spending at least $100 on an office chair because you will see noticeable value for your dollar at that point.  Beyond the $100 threshold, it largely comes down to personal preference and the features that are most important to you.

Top 3 Best Ergongomic Chairs 2016:

Key Factors to Consider:

Quality

For many shoppers, this may be THE factor to consider.  When considering office chairs in the sub-$200 range, quality is somewhat of a double edged sword.  On the one hand, the chair is cheaper to replace if it breaks.  On the other hand, chairs in this range may be more prone to build quality issues than higher end chairs.  It goes without saying that you want a chair that will last.  Luckily, there are some fantastic chairs in this range that will last a lifetime if taken care of.

There are two factors to consider when it comes to quality – build and materials.  Build quality refers the the way that the chair is put together.  Is it sturdy?  Do the components work well and fit together?  Material quality refers to the type of materials used in the construction.  Are the materials themselves strong and resistant to wear?

All of the chairs on our list are of a high build and material quality that will stand the test of time.

Adjustability

While it is impossible to build a chair that will fit every person perfectly, with sufficient adjustability, it becomes possible to come pretty close.  Some chairs in the sub-$200 range will cut corners when it comes to adjustability, usually in the arm wrests, tilt and lumbar features.  Chairs with a wider range of adjustability and features will fit a wider range of posture preferences.

Look for a chair with height and seat back adjustability as a baseline.  Additionally, some chairs may include adjustability features typically found on higher end chairs such as tilt lock, isolated lumbar support and height-adjustable arm wrests.

Ergonomic Design

Every chair has its own unique ergonomics.  For instance, some chairs might feature contoured seat cushions or concave arm wrests.  Generally speaking, such features, while well intentioned, limit the range of uses and body types that a chair will accommodate.  Consequently, it is important to consider the overall fit of the design when considering a chair.  All of the chairs on our list feature ergonomic designs that seek to fit a wide range of body types and usage patterns.

Our Favorite Ergonomic Chairs Under $200:

Alera Elusion Series Mesh Mid-Back Swivel/Tilt Chair

(Full Review)

Pros:
  • Adjustable – Whether its height, swivel and tilt lock or adjustable arm wrests, the Elusion is one of the best chairs you can buy when it comes to adjustability.
  • Back Support – Breathable back material that provides plenty of support and is backed by a durable steel frame.
  • Seat Cushion – A well designed, contoured seat cushion that will fit a wide range of body types.
  • Price – A fantastic deal.
Cons:
  • Lumbar Support – Does not provide an isolated lumbar support adjust.  Consequently, may not fit the needs of particularly tall or short individuals.
  • Knob Design – Adjustment knobs are somewhat difficult to “get” initially.
  • Seat Cushion – The seat cusion is somewhat firm compared to other chairs on the market.

Office Star SPACE Seating Deluxe AirGrid Manager Chair

(full review)

Pros:
  • Back Support – The breathable back support suspension system provides plenty of support.
  • High Quality Seat Cushion – The seat cushion is thick and durable.
  • Tilt And Height Adjustable – Features tilt tension (though unfortunately not tilt lock) and a wide range of height adjustability.
  • Price – Priced reasonably.

Cons:

  • Arm Wrests – Not so good, flimsy, concave.
  • Size – Only comes in one size.

AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair

(full review)

Pros:
  • Build Quality – The Mid-Back Mesh Chair is sturdy, particularly for an entry-level chair.
  • Mesh Back Support – Soft and breathable and provides plenty of support.
  • Tilt Lock – Features tilt lock, as opposed to tilt adjust found on many other chairs at a similar price point.

Cons:

  • Fixed Arm Wrests – This is the biggest downside to the Mid-Back Mesh Chair.  The arm wrests cannot be adjusted up and down, which may lead to poor usage patterns.
  • Lack of Advanced Adjustability – Does not have adjustable forward-back tilt or isolated lumbar support.

Conclusion:

While you can’t go wrong with any of these chairs, there is quite a bit of variability in chairs in this price segment.  As a result, it is important to have clarity around the features that are most important you in terms of durability, ergonomics, adjustability or something else.  Hopefully this guide helps you isolate those features and provides a starting point in your search for the best office chair under $200.

AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair Review

I have a confession.  Sometimes I splurge a bit and make large purchases when not entirely necessary.  When it comes to cycling, for instance, I am willing to pay top dollar for a nice bicycle.  I ride my bike every day, and so perhaps I can subconsciously justify the purchase on the basis that when the purchase price is spaced out over the course of months or years, it might not be so bad.  On the other hand, sometimes you just need something that works.  That is exactly what the AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair is.  It’s a no-frills, back to basics office chair that just works.  It gets the job done, and manages to do it fairly well, especially considering the price point.

I’ve written quite a bit about the AmazonBasics line in the past, particularly when reviewing the AmazonBasics High Back Executive Chair.  As a quick refresher, AmazonBasics is Amazon’s attempt to address the market for white-label products imported from China and often fulfilled by Amazon.  In short, Amazon merchants will often source non-branded products from China, “add value” largely through branding and marketing, and sell the products under an in-house label on the Amazon marketplace.

The AmazonBasics MidBack Mesh Chair

The AmazonBasics MidBack Mesh Chair

AmazonBasics is Amazon’s attempt to remove the middle man and provide similar high-quality products at a low price point under the Amazon brand.  The Mid-Back mesh chair shares much of the same DNA as the AmazonBasics High Back Executive Chair, but is packaged as an office chair.  Like its cousin, it is a high-quality entry-level ergonomic office chair with ample support and features to compete with chairs twice its price point.

Let’s begin with what the Mid-Back Mesh Chair does well.  The first thing I noticed is that this chair is made from high quality materials.  The mesh back is similar to the one found on my beloved Aeron, and provides ample support while maintaining breathability.  The chair itself is sufficiently sturdy and feels solid, even for someone with my relatively large frame.  According to Amazon, the chair is rated to support up to 225 lbs, though I would wager you’d be fine well beyond that point if need be.  The seat cushion is top notch.  It’s just firm enough to provide ergonomic support where necessary while not being too firm so as to cause pressure points.

Obviously, the chair does not ship assembled, so there will be some assembly required.  Luckily the instructions are straightforward and easy to follow.  Realistically, you should be able to put it together in less than 15 minutes if you are at all mechanically inclined.

Amazingly, the Mid-Back Mesh Chair includes a tilt lock feature.  I’ve written quite a bit about the importance of tilt lock vs tilt adjustability, but in short, you want tilt lock if you can find it.  Tilt lock lets you set a fixed amount of recline permitted by the chair, which in turn can facilitate better ergonomics.  I would not buy a chair without it, and lucky for you, the Mid-Back Mesh Chair includes such a feature, which is often only found on higher end office chairs.  It also has a height-adjust, which I would expect on any modern office chair, but is worth highlighting.

So where does the Mid-Back Mesh Chair fall short?  Well, actually there aren’t too many things I would change.  As an entry-level office chair, it understandably does not have all the features you’d find on a high end Aeron or similar.  It does not have adjustable arm wrests or lumbar support, for example.  However, for the most part, I’d say it includes the essentials, while making reasonable tradeoffs on luxury features.

 

Pros of the AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair:

  • Build Quality – For an entry-level chair, the Mid-Back Mesh Chair is surprisingly sturdy.
  • Mesh Back Support – Supportive, yet soft and breathable, the back support is fantastic.
  • Tilt Lock – This was a nice surprise on an entry-level chair.  It is worth buying the Mid-Back Mesh Chair over comparably competitors for this feature alone.
  • Price – The Mid-Back Mesh Chair is affordably priced.

Cons of the AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair:

  • Fixed Arm Wrests – I’ve written quite about the basics of proper mousing technique and how arm wrests can actually interfere with proper mousing.  Luckily, the arm wrests on the Mid-Back Mesh Chair are low, but I would still get rid of them if possible.
  • Lack of Advanced Adjustability – The Mid-Back Mesh Chair does not have adjustable lumbar supports, forward-back tilt or other features you might find on higher priced office chairs.

Final Conclusion

The AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair is functional and gets the job done for a price that won’t break the bank.  It has many features that you are unlikely to find on other entry level chairs such as tilt lock, and is a quality chair that will last a long time.  If you’re looking for a well designed, basic office chair, this is the one.

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Final Verdict: This is the Toyota Camry of Office Chairs.  A great bargain that will get you where you need to be.