10 Challenging Chair Exercises

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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


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EMGERBER 7/22/2020
Great chair exercises. Report
NEPTUNE1939 7/2/2020
ty Report
NANASUEH 7/2/2020
thanks Report
Thanks for the exercises. I will begin doing these again today. The pics are helpful so that the exercises are done in proper form. Report
Thanks! Report
Thanks Report
BOOKNUT52 7/2/2020
These are more my speed, thanks. Report
BIKE4HEALTH 4/29/2020
thanks Report
KITTYHAWK1949 3/17/2020
I should do this ... Report
ONLYME33 3/17/2020
Good examples Report
JWINKSLLC 3/16/2020
Great post-surgery suggestions! Report
KAYAKPIKE 3/15/2020
Thank you for all the great suggestions. I'm just recovered from two shoulder replacements. With great caution I'll approach some of these. Report
Some great ideas! Report
Thanks Report
KAREN_EDMONDS 11/21/2019
These are all some of my favorite chair exercises when needed! Report
BKLOPPY 8/27/2019
Thank you! I think I can actually do these! Report
All great ideas. Report
CECELW 8/23/2019
I can't remember the last time I did these exercises. Report
PATRICIAANN46 8/14/2019
Thank You so much for the great exercise choices. Report
Excellent. Thank you for sharing Report
Thanks, any more? Report
Excellent! Thank you! Report
Great exercises. Thanks for sharing Report
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Thank you! I love the action. Great presentation! Report
Let’s do it! Report
Great workout for at work!!! Report
Totally gone try these. Report
Thanks so much. Report
Great to do when watching grandson Report
no Report
I do all of these exercises regularly. Great article. Report
Thank you Report
Thank you for the chair exercising, I’m recovering from total knee replacement surgery Report
Thanks Report
thanks Report
Great ideas, thanks. Report
Great stuff Report
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You must speak straight so that your words may go as sunlight into our hearts. —COCHISE (HARDWOOD), CHIRACAHUA APACHE ~ 4/16/18 Report
Great exercises Report
All of these moves are very good. I didn't see one that I could not do. I will certainly try this one. Thank you! Report
Great exercises Report
Some great workouts. Report
Thanks for the encouragement Report
Excellent article! Report
GREAT Report
Awesome! Report
Looks like one I will try Report
These are all great exercises Report