10 Simple Exercises Using a Chair

We’ve all seen studies that say prolonged sitting – you know, the kind we do all day at work – can be bad for our health. But the good news is, even if you’re stuck in your seat for extended periods, you can still do exercises to stretch and move your body. AND you can use the apparatus that you use for sitting – a.k.a. your chair – to get in that much needed exercise.

Even if you aren’t stuck in an office all day, but you’ve been blowing off your workout because you don’t have time to go to the gym, you no longer have that excuse. You don’t need any gym equipment to effectively work out the whole body. To get you started, we’ve put together 10 exercises to show you how to use this simple piece of furniture and your own body weight to tone your muscles from top to toes.

And when you’re feeling ambitious, combine your chair-cercise with these seven toning moves using stairs.

*NOTE: For these exercises, use a heavy, sturdy chair (not a roller) on a flat surface.

1. Incline Push Ups

Place both palms on the seat of the chair and walk your feet back to a plank position. Keeping your body in a straight line between the top of your head and your heels, bend your elbows and lower your body toward the seat. Pause, then push up through your palms to return to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.

What it works: Your core, chest, back, and arms.

2. Chair Dips

Sit on the edge of your chair with your arms by your sides, palms on the edge of the seat, fingers over the edge. Shift your body weight forward and lower down off of the chair. Hold your body suspended for 5 counts and then push up back onto the seat. Work up to 3 sets of 10 reps.

What it works: Your shoulders and triceps.

3. Arm Circles

Raise your arms straight out to your sides to form a T-shape, and press your shoulder blades together. Extend your arms with palms down, thumbs facing forward, and do 20 forward circles with your arms. Flip your palms up, thumbs facing behind you, and do 20 backward circles with your arms. Repeat 2 to 3 times.

What it works: Your shoulders, and improves posture.

4. Seated Press-Ups

Sit in your chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor, place your hands on the arm rests of the chair and press down, raising your body off of the chair. Extend your arms straight and allow your hips and behind to lift up off of the chair. Hold this position or push up and down to work the backs of the arms more. Repeat 4 times if holding or work up to 3 sets of 10 reps if lifting and lowering.

What it works: Your triceps.

5. Knee Tucks

Sit tall (chest high and shoulders down) on the front half of your chair. Grasp the sides lightly with your hands and lean back slightly as you tighten your abs and bring your right knee up to chest height. Lower it as you raise your left knee on the next rep. Alternate sides. If you want more of a challenge, try lifting both knees at once, even just a few inches. Do up to 5 reps per leg.

What it works: Your core.

6. Step Up & Down

Before you start, make sure the chair is stable (put it by the wall, if possible). Step on the chair and pull the other knee up. Place the knee that you pulled up back on the floor, followed by the one on the chair. Switch the legs with each rep.

What it works: Your calves, quads, and hamstrings.

7. Chair Running

Sit with your legs extended, toes pointed, arms bent by your sides. Brace your abs in tight, and hinge back until just shoulder blades are lightly touching the back of the chair, lifting legs low in front of you. Bend your left knee into your chest, turning your right shoulder in towards that knee, pulling your left elbow slightly back. Quickly switch sides. Repeat as quickly as you can for 30 alternating reps.

What it works: You will get a cardio boost, as well as engage your arms, abs, and legs.

8. One-Legged Squats

Stand a few feet in front of the chair, facing away from it. Place one leg behind you on the seat of the chair and find your balance. Slowly lower your hips as far as you can go, using the muscles in your standing leg. Once at the bottom, carefully rise up again to complete 1 rep.

What it works: Your glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps (as well as your balance!).

9. Alternate Version Single-Leg Squats

Stand with the chair behind you, as if you were to sit on it. Lift one leg straight out in front of you, a few inches off of the ground. Slowly sit on the chair, and stand back up with the one leg in the air at all times. If you have trouble finding your balance, move your leg straight out in front of you, but keep your heel just touching the floor as you complete the exercise. Try to spend as little time sitting as possible.

What it works: Your thighs and glutes.

10. Plank Walks

Begin in plank position on the floor, with your toes resting on the seat of the chair. Walk your hands back toward the legs of the chair, keeping your legs straight if you can so that your body forms an upside down V position, and then walk them back out, returning to the plank position. This counts as 1 rep. Complete as many as you can for 1 minute.

What it works: Your core and arms.

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