chair workout

If you’ve got a chair, you’ve got a workout!

With gyms, outdoor exercise equipment, and Pilates and yoga studios all forced to temporarily close, many people now find themselves feeling lost when it comes to staying physically active. This can leave many feeling like all the good work and time they have put into improving their fitness was all a waste. It may also lead many to developing feelings of anxiety and unease regarding their overall physical health and well-being. This, in a time that’s already stressful enough for us all. But we’re here to let you know self-isolation doesn’t have to mean your exercise routine goes out the window.

Now more than ever, it’s important to keep active. Not only has exercise been shown to improve physical health and prevent disease, it also plays a protective role in enhancing immune function, therefore reducing the likelihood of getting sick. Research has also highlighted the immense benefits it has in assisting with the management of stress, depression, anxiety and providing overall mental clarity and well-being. Not only this, for many exercise also represents a sense of “normality” in their day during a time that is far from that.

Many of you may be asking “but how? I can’t access any equipment!”. Well, the good news is there are so many exercises you can do with no equipment or even everyday items you have around the home. A piece of furniture you all have within the home is a kitchen chair… and let me tell you, there’s so much more you can do with it than just sit on it! Below is a whole-body circuit you can complete at home. All you need is a chair and a little floor space!

1. Squats

This one is great to target almost all the muscles in the lower body! In particular through those glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and abdominals. Squats are a great way to fire up these muscles, especially for those who are finding themselves sitting at a desk all day working. Even better you can complete them throughout the day at your workstation!

  • Stand in front of your chair with feet hip width apart. Ensure knees, toes and hips are pointing forward.
  • With arms either across your chest or out in front of your body press your hips back and lightly tap your bottom on the chair.
  • Once you have done this focus on pressing up evenly through both heels back to your start position.

If you find your chair is a little too low you can place a cushion, thick book or stack of magazines to reduce the degree of depth you need to achieve with your squat. Alternatively, you can also complete sit to stands if squats don’t feel right for you.


2. Rear foot elevated lunge

This is another great exercise to target the quads, glutes, adductors and core muscles! It’s also a great exercise to work on unilateral loading which is important for those who may have recently decided to dust off those runners and get back into jogging!

  • Stand in front of your chair, feet hip width apart with hips, knees and toes pointing forwards. Ensure a wall in nearby to assist with balance. Reach one foot back up onto the chair.
  • Starting with your front knee straight and the back knee fully extended, bend the front knee and lower your body downwards.
  • Press up through the front heel to bring yourself back to the start position.
  • Repeat on both sides of the body.


3. Kneeling push ups

There are so many ways we can do push ups! Although many love to hate them, they are great for working primarily the pectoral muscles in our chest along with other upper limb muscles in the shoulders and your triceps. However, if done correctly on the toes you also recruit a number of other muscles including the glutes and abdominals!

  • With your knees bent and kneeling on your knees, place your hands on the chair shoulder width apart.
  • Ensure the chair is against a wall to prevent it moving.
  • Keeping your elbows by your side and back straight, bend the elbows and lower your chest to the chair.
  • Press up evenly through both palms to return to the start position.

Looking for a little more challenge? Try completing the same exercise but straighten your legs and come up onto your toes.


4. Bridges with feet elevated

A great exercise to get those glutes firing! Having the feet elevated also wakes up those hamstrings and makes them work a little harder. It’s also a lovely way to loosen up through the back and pelvis, both of which you can find get quite stiff with sitting at a desk for long periods during the day.

  • Lay on the floor with both feet elevated onto the chair. Knees bent.
  • Tuck your tailbone up and press up evenly through both heels as you slowly curl up bringing one piece of your spine off the ground at a time.
  • Ensure you squeeze your glutes as you press up. Focus on the lift coming from the muscles at the back of your legs.
  • Once your spine comes to neutral slowly curl down (ensure no extension through the lower back).
  • Relax and repeat.

To make it harder you can complete the same exercise with one leg at a time. Ensure you keep those hips level throughout (no dropping of one side).

hip bridge

5. Triceps dips

As the name suggests these ones are great to work those triceps or the muscles at the back of our upper arm!

  • Start sitting on the edge of your chair with knees bent at 90degrees.
  • Place your hands either side of your body with fingers facing away from the chair.
  • Keeping elbows locked by your side and facing directly back, slowly shuffle your body forward so your bottom is just over the edge of the chair.
  • From there place as much weight as you can through your upper body, legs should just act as a support.
  • Slowly lower your weight by bending the elbows before pressing up evenly through both palms to return to your start position.
  • If you need to use your legs a little to assist with pushing up that is fine.

To make it a little harder you can bring your feet further away from the chair or straighten your legs.

Triceps dips

6. Heel raises with chair for support

This exercise is great for working those calf muscles, you may even find that if you complete them on one leg you feel your glutes working a little more too!

  • Standing behind your chair ensure your hips, knees and toes are all pointing directly forwards.
  • Place fingertips lightly on the chair trying to put as little weight or pressure as possible through the chair.
  • Keeping your knees straight slowly press up onto the balls of your feet. Ensure ankles stay straight (no rolling out to the side).
  • Slowly lower your heels.

To make the exercise more challenging you can complete it on one leg at a time. Just ensure you keep your hips level throughout.

calf raise

7. Step ups

Like squats, step ups are a great functional exercise to get most muscles in our legs working! Again, they are also great for people who have recently started running (especially if you live in an area where hills are unavoidable). Another benefit is they will challenge your balance on one leg.

  • Standing in front of your chair bend one knee and lift your leg to place your foot on the chair.
  • Press up through the heel on the chair to bring the opposite leg up onto the chair.
  • Ensure a wall is nearby if you need support for balance.
  • Slowly step down, firstly with the last leg to come onto the step before slowly lowering the opposite leg.
  • Repeat stepping up with the same side a pre-determined number of times before stepping up with the opposite leg.

Want to challenge your balance a little more? Add a forward knee drive, rather than resting the opposite foot on the step. No doubt you’ll have to recruit those abdominal muscles more to help keep you balanced!

step up

Getting more advice

These exercises may require some modification for certain populations. If you need further advice on how to exercise appropriately at home seek professional assistance from your local Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP). They are trained experts in exercise prescription across a variety of different conditions and can provide you with an individually tailored program. You can find an AEP near you by clicking here.

For more home exercise ideas, check out Exercise Right at Home.

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Written by Abby Byrne. Abby is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Eureka Osteo and has a keen interest in women’s health, weight management, diabetes, along with health coaching, motivational interviewing and behavioural change.