Chair-Based Exercises

Chair-based exercises make it possible for people with special needs to strengthen their muscles. This includes people who are aging, have poor balance, are rehabbing from an injury or are at a work desk for long hours. Even otherwise healthy people can partake as well. Exercises can be done with body weight, dumbbells and resistance bands. When doing exercises, make sure your chair has no armrests and no wheels.


Push-ups work your chest, shoulders and triceps. Facing the front of the chair, place your hands on the sides and your toes together behind you. Your body should be at an angle to the floor at this point. Keeping your back straight and core tight, lower your body toward the chair until your chest is within a fist-width and push yourself back up. Continue for a set of 10 to 12 repetitions. For a more difficult variation, place your toes on the chair and hands on the floor.

Shoulder Presses

Shoulder presses target your deltoids, trapezius muscles and triceps, which are found on the backs of the upper arms. To do these, you need a set of dumbbells. Sit on the chair with the weights held right above your shoulders, palms facing forward and elbows bent. Steadily raise the weights above your head until your arms are just short of locking out. Slowly lower and repeat 10 to 12 times. If you do not have dumbbells, use a set of large soup cans.


Chair dips target your triceps and upper chest, and you need two chairs to do them. Place the chairs about shoulder-width apart with the fronts facing each other. While standing between the chairs, lower yourself down and place one hand on each chair. At this point, your knees should be bent, feet should be flat on the floor and arms fully extended. Slowly lower yourself down by bending your elbows. Once your upper arms parallel the floor, push up and repeat 10 to 12 times. To increase the challenge, place your heels on the floor.

Arm Curls

Arm curls work your biceps, which are the opposing muscles of the triceps. To do these, you need a rubber resistance band. Sit in the chair with your feet pinning the middle of the band to the floor and one hand wrapped around each of the ends. Your palms should be facing forward at this point. Keeping your upper arms tight against your sides, lift the band up toward your shoulders and squeeze your biceps forcefully. Slowly lower and repeat for 10 to 12 repetitions.

Leg Pull-Ins

Leg pull-ins work your abdominals, and you should not attempt these if you have lower-back pain. Sit on the edge of the chair with your legs extended in front of you, hands grasping the edges of the chair behind your butt. Steadily lift your legs and pull your knees into your chest. After squeezing your abs forcefully, extend your legs and repeat 10 to 12 times.

Isometric Thigh Holds

The muscles in the thighs include the quadriceps on the front and hamstrings on the back. You can work them isometrically from an upright position on the chair. With isometric exercises, there is no lengthening or shortening of a muscle. Sit in the chair with your legs extended in front of you, heels lightly touching the floor and hands holding the edges of the chair for balance. Without moving your legs, contract your quadriceps forcefully and hold for 10 to 20 seconds. As soon as you release, apply force into the floor with your heels and contract your hamstrings for 10 to 20 seconds. Alternate each contraction for 10 to 12 repetitions.

About this Author

Kevin Rail has worked in the fitness industry since 2001 and has been writing since 2004. He has professional experience as a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, motivational engineer and freelance fitness writer. He currently writes a monthly column for Ron Jones High-Performance Health. Rail has a bachelor’s degree in sports management: fitness and wellness from California University of Pennsylvania.