Looking for a simple and convenient way to fit in a quick workout? Grab a seat: Chair exercises allow you to target pretty much your entire body—and you don’t need a whole lot of room to get it done.
Chair exercises allow you to work your lower body while seated or supported, making them an excellent choice for anyone with balance or mobility issues or those who are recovering from an injury. They’re also great for pregnant people needing a little extra support as their belly grows. But it’s not just about your legs: You can also work upper-body muscles like your arms, shoulders, and chest while recruiting the critical core muscles to help with stabilization. Plus, a chair makes a perfect companion for doing seated stretches or Pilates chair exercises. So whether you’re sitting on a chair or simply holding onto one for support, you can definitely get a lot out of these exercises.
“Anyone can benefit from using a chair, but many times a chair is good for people who have a hard time getting up and down from the floor or just need support,” NSCA-certified personal trainer, Morit Summers, CPT, and founder of Morit Summers Personal Training, tells SELF. “In fitness, we need to learn to trust our bodies, and having a safety net like a chair can really help build that confidence.”
This is especially true for a beginner who may need that safety net while creating trust in their body with movement. Plus, chair exercises help you focus on the movements themselves without worrying about balance, Summers explains. This can be helpful for both beginners and for more advanced exercisers looking to master progressions.
There are tons of exercises you can do with a chair—some are variations of tried-and-true moves you’ve likely done before, while others are more chair-specific—but we’ve rounded up our favorites below. Before we get into our favorite picks, though, we’ll cover the ins and outs of chair exercises, including their effectiveness and why using a chair is beneficial for just about anyone who needs a solid, total-body routine.
How effective are chair exercises?
When done correctly, Summers says chair exercises can be incredibly effective, allowing you to work all the muscles in your body. The key to an effective chair workout is simple: Incorporate exercises that recruit as many muscle groups as possible while still allowing you to remain seated (if needed) or using the chair for balance or as part of the exercise.
One reason they’re so effective is because many of them work the same way as moves you’re already familiar with. Take a plank or push-up, for instance, where your hands are elevated on the seat. While the chair puts your body at an incline—which helps take some of the weight away—you’re still performing the same basic exercise, says Summers.
“Just because you’re using a chair, it does not change the purpose or movement; it changes the angle at which the exercise is performed and the way you’ll get it done,” she says. That means a push-up from a chair will still effectively work your chest muscles, shoulders, and triceps, while a plank from a chair will still fire up your entire core. So if you’re looking for a strengthen the core workout, chair exercises can help deliver.
Are chair exercises just for beginners?
Nope. The beauty of chair exercises is that they are scalable to different fitness levels. A chair allows you to both progress and regress moves, making them great for building on your fitness level.