10 Challenging Chair Exercises


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
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You should not have to join a fancy gym or spend loads of money on home fitness equipment in order to build lean body mass. Using simple at-home objects such as canned food, a towel or even a chair can be just as effective as using a dumbbell or a resistance band. Remember, the body does not know the difference between lifting a one-pound can of beans or a dumbbell. As long as you are overloading the muscles (even if that overload is from your own body weight) you will build muscle strength.

If you have limited mobility or are recovering from an injury, you don't have to sit still and do nothing. Consider exercising right from the comfort of your home in a seated position. Using a chair and a light set of dumbbells (or soup cans) can help challenge your back, shoulders, abs, biceps, triceps, glutes, quads and calves. One of the great things about these exercises is that you can do them anywhere you have access to a chair, whether at home or on the job. 

Aim for eight to 12 reps of each exercise, starting with one set and working up to two to three sets total as you become stronger.

Back & Shoulders

Seated Dumbbell Rows
: Sit at the edge of a chair with your legs together and back straight. Hinge from the hips to lower torso onto thighs. Hold weights near the floor, palms facing body, with arms extended directly below the shoulders. Exhale as you squeeze shoulder blades together and bend elbows about 90 degrees to lift weights away from the floor, then inhale as you slowly return weights to starting position by straightening arms back down. Remember to keep your abs engaged to protect your back. Other than arms moving, try to keep your body as still as possible during the exercise.  
Seated Dumbbell Rows Exercise

Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press: Sit on the end of a chair, holding dumbbells or soup cans in each hand with palms facing out, elbows at 90 degrees and palms at shoulder level. Exhale as you push the weights overhead until arms are straight and in line with shoulders. Don't lock elbows completely. Inhale as you return to starting position to complete one rep. If you experience shoulder pain, face your palms in toward the body, instead. Don't arch your back as you perform the exercise.
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press

Biceps & Triceps

Seated Dumbbell Concentration Curls: Begin seated on a chair. Hold a dumbbell with an underhand grip, resting that elbow on the inner side of your thigh. Inhale as you curl the dumbbell up to your shoulder, keeping upper body still, then exhale as you lower the weight back down until your arm is straight but the elbow is not locked. This is a great exercise if you have trouble keeping proper form on seated or standing curls. 
 Seated Dumbbell Concentration Curls Exercise

Triceps Dips With Bent Knees: Sit tall on the edge of a sturdy chair or step and wrap your fingertips over the front edge. Place feet on the floor in front of you with knees bent. Lift hips and butt up and slightly forward. Bend elbows about 90 degrees to lower hips toward the floor. If you feel pain in the shoulders, your elbows are bent too much. Press up until elbows are straight, but not locked. 
 Triceps Dips with Bent Knees Exercise

Triceps Dips With Straight Legs: Sit on a chair or step, grasping the front edge of the seat near thighs. Walk feet forward until hips are slightly bent, legs are straight and arms are extended (don't lock elbows). Keep feet hip-width apart throughout the motion. Inhale as you bend elbows to about 90 degrees and lower hips toward the floor. If you feel pain in the shoulders, your elbows are bent too much. Then, exhale as you press up until elbows are straight, but not locked. Keep weight on your heels with your toes pointed up toward the ceiling. 
Triceps Dips with Straight Legs Exercise

Seated Dumbbell Triceps Extensions: Sit holding one dumbbell with both hands behind your neck by grasping the plate and wrapping your thumbs and pointer fingers around the hand grip. Exhale as you extend arms straight above your head, keeping elbows tight next to your ears. Inhale as you lower the weight back down, with control, to the starting position to complete one rep. Contract abs to avoid arching your back. Use a chair or bench with a short back (if available) for support. 
Seated Dumbbell Triceps Extensions Exercise


Seated Knee Lifts With Chair: Sit on edge of a chair with your knees bent and feet flat. Grasp sides of chair, leaning back slightly. Exhale pulling knees toward chest as you crunch upper body forward using abs, not arms. Then, inhale and lower feet almost to floor, but don't let them touch down until the end of the set. This movement should be slow and controlled. Don't let the momentum of your legs do the work for you, and don't let gravity snap your legs down as you return to the starting position. 
Seated Knee Lifts with Chair Exercise

Quads, Glutes & Calves 

Seated Leg Extensions: Begin seated in a chair, feet flat in front of you, palms grasping chair edge at sides or front. Exhale, keeping left foot planted and upper body still, extending the right leg (bending from the knee) until it is parallel to the floor. Hold here for two counts and then (optional) pulse up and down for three counts. Inhale as you bend knee to lower right leg back to floor to complete one rep. Complete all reps on one side and switch. Perform exercise very slowly and with control. Concentrate on flexing the leg muscles. 
Seated Leg Extensions Exercise

Single Leg Squat With a Chair: Stand behind a chair, lightly holding the back of chair for balance. Lift right leg off ground, keeping left leg slightly bent. Inhale and bend left leg to squat. Hold for one to three counts. Then, exhale and straighten leg and return to start. Complete all reps on the left side and switch legs. Don't let the knee of your squatting leg go beyond the toes. Keep upper body straight and avoid leaning forward as you squat down. 
 Single Leg Squats with Chair Exercise

Calf Raises With a Chair: Stand facing a wall or back of chair, and lightly hold onto it with fingertips to aid balance. Legs should be shoulder-width apart and straight. Do not lock the knees. Exhale, raise up on balls of feet and hold for two seconds. Inhale, return to start position and repeat. Try not to let heels touch or rest on ground between repetitions unless necessary. As you progress, use one foot at a time.
 Calf Raises with Chair Exercise se

Have you ever done chair exercises? If so, what are some of your favorites?

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  • 77
    Looks like a real challenge! Just what I needed! - 1/22/2018   12:45:38 AM
  • 76
    Great ideas. Will be trying some. Also used band and chair to do seated rows. - 1/21/2018   9:37:07 PM
  • 75
    :) - 1/21/2018   10:54:43 AM
    Thanks for the great ideas! - 1/21/2018   10:20:54 AM
  • 73
    wonderful exercises. Love the demos, too, so proper form is used. - 1/21/2018   6:51:10 AM
  • 72
    wonderful exercises. Love the demos, too, so proper form is used. - 1/21/2018   6:51:10 AM
  • 71
    wonderful exercises. Love the demos, too, so proper form is used. - 1/21/2018   6:51:06 AM
  • 70
    wonderful exercises. Love the demos, too, so proper form is used. - 1/21/2018   6:51:03 AM
  • 69
    Have kept this link so I can come back every other day and work on some of these. - 1/20/2018   9:43:30 PM
  • 68
    Get some old Jack LaLanne dvdís, his exercises are still fine... - 1/20/2018   1:10:13 AM
  • 67
    Thanks for the great exercises:) - 1/20/2018   12:28:45 AM
  • 66
    My favorite chair exercise is Triceps Dips With Bent Knees and calf raises with a chair. - 1/19/2018   6:10:50 PM
  • 65
    I will definitely try these! - 1/19/2018   3:46:47 PM
  • 64
    Like to use a chair, sit on edge then lean back toward chair's back with straight upper body. Hold then use abs to pull yourself back into sitting position. - 1/19/2018   9:30:39 AM
    Thank you for the great tips! - 1/19/2018   7:49:26 AM
  • 62
    Good exercises to do anywhere - 1/18/2018   1:39:46 PM
  • 61
    Great exercises! - 1/18/2018   1:37:42 PM
  • 60
    Thanks for sharing helpful info! - 1/18/2018   12:55:34 PM
  • 59
    not all links are good anymore :( - 1/2/2018   11:50:19 AM
  • 58
    I hate these non-Spark links! Ads all over, can't find the photos and instructions. A waste of time. - 12/6/2017   9:34:30 PM
  • 57
    I like chair yoga! I go to Silver Sneakers once a week for chair assisted exercises! Get a great workout and it keeps me doing things when my other exercise class isn't in session. Great help for my knees! - 11/6/2017   8:28:59 AM
    Good exercise list! Thanks! - 10/27/2017   2:09:41 PM
  • 55
    Thanks for the new challenges for me. - 10/9/2017   12:31:37 PM
  • 54
    I Love them all cause I can't do most of the exercises for the feet!!! :) - 8/21/2017   3:23:03 PM
  • 53
    Many of these links are broken. One goes to a recipe. - 2/10/2017   4:27:04 PM
  • 52
    I checked the search button on SparkPeople and found several of these exercises on the free videos and workouts! Due to arthritis issues, I do chair exercises often. Coach Nicole has several seated exercises that will give you a good workout! - 9/9/2016   7:41:09 PM
  • 51
    these links are almost all broken. - 10/1/2015   3:46:06 AM
  • 50
    Super! Thank you!,,, - 4/30/2014   7:18:55 AM
    have some minor injuries,so chair exercises are the way to go for me right now.Thanks! - 5/12/2013   7:59:40 PM
    I don't do chair exercise like that. Maybe I will get into them. Thanks. - 4/30/2013   9:46:06 AM
    try this link for a description of the pillow squeeze
    www.prevention.com/leg-exercises - 4/16/2013   11:23:39 AM
    I tried to go to the Pillow Squeeze page but the link was no longer active. - 3/25/2013   6:08:46 AM
  • 45
    To Sugarplum and anyone else interested:
    Sit and Be Fit comes on directv at 3:00 p.m. Great workout for all!
    - 3/11/2013   2:52:45 PM
  • 44
    Thank you-great help! - 2/12/2013   4:49:50 PM
  • 43
    I clicked on "modified pushups" and got something completely unrelated. - 7/2/2012   5:05:19 PM
    I did chair exercising a lot. It really helps plus it doesn't let you get bored! I hope more innovative exercises are introduced so that we can also have fun while working out! :) Again I'd recommend you to log on to Mobile Media City through google and check out their amazing apps for weight problems, diet plans, workouts, yoga, food recipes, baby names, baby care, and apart from these they have some on education too. Must visit. I won't ever stop myself from recommending good stuff, which has personally helped me. It's such a pity that the website is underrated. - 7/22/2011   9:17:06 AM
  • 41
    I do chair exercising alot, I downloaded to my computer via realplayer, sites like Paul Eugene- cardio
    CTV- Rosemary Conley TV =strength and cardio
    Strong Seniors Anne Burnell's blog(SparkPeople) strength and cardio

    I also use many of the chair exercises lilke the seated resistance band workout from SparkPeople. I have also purchased Chair Dancing DVD's from Chair Dancing International, they also have other seated exercise dvds to choose from.
    I have flat feet and arthritis in my knees, hips, feet and hands so standing is not an option anymore. Hope I helped some people with ideas. - 4/20/2011   5:46:10 PM
  • 40
    Always looking for exercises to sneak in at work. These just might work. Thanks! - 4/17/2011   12:17:14 AM
  • 39
    These chair excercises were a great way for my mother in law to heal after surgery. She started off slow and built her way up with her therapist. She is 83. Go Pat! - 3/27/2011   12:27:04 AM
  • 38
    On the educational channel in Spokane, WA there was a great show called "Sit and Be Fit". It was geared to slightly older people and those with arthritis but it was a decent work out. Some of the shows are available on DVD. I don't live in Spokane any more so I don't know if it is still on. - 3/26/2011   7:32:56 PM
    Nice exercises. - 3/26/2011   12:19:24 PM
  • 36
    My favourite is Coach Nicole 20 min resistance band workout. - 3/23/2011   9:57:43 AM
    I wish as a quadriplegic I could do some of these in bed. - 3/23/2011   1:00:13 AM
  • 34
    For me, chair exercises are those exercises I can't do at times as standing up.
    So, Nora-L, just pick and choose. Some of the exercises are really not for chairbound people. But I'm sure we can all find something within this set of exercises that will work for ourselves. And/or we can find some alterations that will let an exercise work with us.
    I have found a lot of interesting options in this article and the links.

    - 3/22/2011   7:16:06 PM
  • HRSZ37
    I just joined a gym..I wish I would have seen this post earlier!! - 3/22/2011   5:48:41 PM
  • 32
    I have back and knee problems from being overly sedentary (hey, the body's not meant to sit in a chair 60-70 hours a week!) and my physical therapist has me alternate floor exercises with chair exercises throughout the workday.

    I sit in my chair and slouch, then make my spine overly erect, then slouch again. Rinse and repeat 10 times every two hours or so. Really helps to stretch our your back and prevent soreness, which will make you more likely to "work out" at the end of the day!

    ...And I also keep a soccer ball under my desk to squeeze between my knees to build up strength there. - 3/22/2011   9:11:26 AM
  • 31
    I have vertigo and movement is impossible right now but these chair exercises are perfect. I don't have to go days without doing ANYTHING!!! YYAAA!!! - 3/22/2011   8:16:18 AM
  • 30
    Thanks for the exercise, I have done a few chair exercises before. I should get back to them. - 3/21/2011   1:18:35 PM
  • 29
    The ones at the Prevention web site the two times I have tried to get to them the are unavailable. - 3/20/2011   8:06:13 AM
    I do some of these already and now I have some new ones to try.
    Thanks - 3/17/2011   2:29:43 PM

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