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Do Standing Desks Build Muscle?

Standing desks, also known as sit-stand or height-adjustable desks, have been linked with a range of physical benefits, including better posture, lower blood pressure, and reduced back pain. But can they also help to build muscle? This is a question that lots of standing desk users have, given that they are spending more time on their feet. In this article, we explain how standing alone might not enhance muscle growth, but that using a standing desk could help build muscle when done right. 

Does Standing Count As Exercise?

Standing alone doesn’t tend to count as exercise, nor should it replace it. However, this all depends on the purpose and duration of your stand. If you’re walking, stretching or performing other light exercises while standing up, this could be considered a low-intensity exercise.

In order for standing to count as exercise, you might need to pair it with a movement (or task) that elevates your heart rate and activates your muscles.

Standing on one foot can keep your core muscles engaged and improve your balance, which can reduce your risk of falls. Using an exercise ball (or posture ball) can help with this.

Does Standing Build Muscle?

Muscle growth occurs through resistance training, where muscles are subjected to stress, leading to microscopic tears that are repaired during rest periods, resulting in muscle adaptation and growth. Optimal muscle growth is influenced by factors such as progressive overload (increasing resistance over time), adequate nutrition, and sufficient rest.

Standing, on its own, doesn’t tend to build muscle unless you are performing strengthening and resistance exercises while you’re stood up. However, if you’re used to sitting down for prolonged periods of time, then standing up instead of sitting down could have some initial benefit for your muscles.

In addition to this, the dynamic nature of standing desks encourages your abdominal, core, gluteal and leg muscles to be active, including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles. While this still isn’t a replacement for resistance training, prolonged standing can contribute to muscle activation and endurance.

Standing desks can also help to prevent lower crossed syndrome - the weakness of the trunk and gluteal muscles caused by prolonged periods of sitting and poor posture - by encouraging you to spend more time standing up (and correcting your posture).

What About Calories?

The number of calories burned from using a standing desk varies depending on a person's weight, age, and sex. In general, standing burns slightly more calories than sitting down. However, in order to see significant calorie burn, you need to stand up and move around in regular intervals, such as taking breaks to walk, stretch or do squats. And a standing desk can encourage you to do this. Over time, this increased energy expenditure can aid in fat loss and enhance muscle definition.

How To Build Muscle at a Standing Desk

While standing desks can encourage calorie burn and muscle activation, they do not provide the necessary resistance for significant muscle growth on their own. However, when used in conjunction with other activities, muscle growth is possible. To build muscle at your standing desk, you should:

  1. Take Regular Standing Breaks: Set reminders to switch between sitting and standing positions, and gradually increase standing time over time. There is not a universal "best" time to stand at your desk; it all depends on your schedule and personal preferences. 
  2. Perform Desk Exercises: Integrate simple exercises like calf raises, leg lifts, or squats while standing to further engage leg muscles and boost activity levels, encouraging muscle growth.
  3. Vary Movement: Explore different standing positions, such as shifting weight from one leg to another or incorporating gentle movements like swaying or stretching, to prevent stiffness and promote movement.
  4. Consider an Under-Desk Treadmill: An under-desk treadmill can encourage faster calorie burn and muscle growth. One estimate suggests that if you walk at a speed between 1.1mph and 1.5mph, you can burn at least an extra 150 calories per hour at a treadmill desk. Adding an incline on your treadmill helps to activate your quadriceps and gluteus muscles, which can strengthen and tone these areas.
  5. Choose The Right Desk: There are several factors to consider when choosing a standing desk. If you have a standing desk that is right for you, you're more likely to make good use of it (and reap its health benefits, including muscle growth). 
An under-desk treadmill is a great way for busy desk workers to get their steps in, providing you're also taking breaks from your screen and getting some fresh air.


While standing desks are beneficial for our health, they do not provide the resistance needed for significant muscle growth. Thus, incorporating dedicated resistance training sessions is important for long-term muscle gains. In addition to this, prolonged standing without proper support can lead to discomfort and potential health issues, including varicose veins, joint strain, foot and back pain. Make sure to rotate between sitting and standing positions and, when standing up, wear supportive footwear or use an anti-fatigue mat to alleviate strain.

Looking for a standing desk for your home, office or workspace? Check out our full collection of standing desks, available for next working day delivery if ordered by 3pm. Our desks come with a 7 year warranty, 30 day risk free return, as well as access to a UK-based customer service team to answer any questions that you might have. Otherwise, our desk blog provides more useful tips on using a standing desk for a more balanced lifestyle. Feel free to contact us with any questions, with the handy live chat feature on our site, or via email at info@ergodesks.co.uk.