18 Exercises You Can Do With Only A Chair
We’re back with anther coronavirus edition of exercises you can do at home. This specific addition are exercises you can do with only a chair (and perhaps a light dumbbell or kettlebell, or jug of bleacher/water). Knowing that you won’t have much to use for a load, understand that many of these exercises are extensions of bodyweight exercises you can likely do with no equipment. We have numerous exercises you can find in our exercise index to help supplement some of these exercises as well. The pitfall here is that the lack of upper back and pulling exercises is pretty limited. If you have access to a band, we highly recommend implementing things like face pulls, band pull aparts, seated band rows, and other pulling variations to have a more well-rounded work.
Without further-to-do, check the video below to see all 18 exercises in action, with a bit more information listed below for each, as well as some sample workouts you can give a try!
Goblet Box Squat
We’re a big fan of box squatting, so it’s no surprise we’ve got it on this list. Stand with your feet slightly outside shoulder width, push the hips back, knees out, feel your feet on the ground, and sit back under control. Have a brief pause on the box/chair, and stand up. Ensure you’re leading with your chest and upper body to prevent leaning forward.
Lateral Lunge To Box
The lateral lunge to box is an excellent single leg exercise to train in the frontal plane. You can choose to step, or have both feet remain planted during the exercise. Sit your hip back hard, briefly sit on the box/chair, and then return to the starting position. You will likely also feel a stretch in your groin area, as the adductors lengthen, and this is okay.
This exercise is a great single leg option, either for strength or conditioning. Place one foot on the chair/box keeping the chest tall. Push through your whole foot to come to the top, and then step back down. You can either alternate legs or do one leg at a time. You can also choose to leave your foot on the chair/box or step down each time.
For safety purposes, ensure your chair or item you are stepping on is sturdy.
Close Stance Goblet Box Squat
This is merely a variation of our goblet box squat exercise. Just take a slightly narrower stance (about hip width) and perform your goblet box squat. This will place more emphasis on the quads, and for some may increase the range of motion.
Single Leg Box Squat
The single leg box squat is a great progression to use if bodyweight goblet box squats are too easy for you. Stand on one leg, with the other leg stretched out in front. Sit your hips back hard towards the single leg, and briefly sit down on the box. Push through the floor with your foot to return to the standing position. To make it more difficult, try to not let your other foot touch the ground.
Single Leg Foot Elevated Glute Bridge
This is a great glute exercise with a bit of a twist. Elevating the leg on a chair/box will increase the difficulty and give you a different strength curve versus doing it on the ground. Plus your foot on the chair/box and push through your heel while your whole body stays in a straight line. Get a good squeeze at the top, and return to the bottom position.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The bulgarian split squat is one of the most challenging single leg exercises out there. It’s great for loading up the glutes and quads and making your legs feel like jelly. Just place one leg up on the box/chair, feel your whole foot in the ground, and sit you hip back towards the chair/box. Stand back to the top position. Do your best to not let your knee drift past your toes.
Hands Elevated Push Up
At THIRST, we love the push up. For some, it can be too challenging, and that’s okay. Merely elevate your hands to make it slightly more towards your strength level. We’ve demo’d this with a bar (typically how we coach it in our facility), but the same can be done with a chair. Keep your elbows in and midsection tight, and lower yourself down to the chair/box, and come back up to the start position. Do not let your back cave or round.
Feet Elevated Push Up
On the other side of the coin, we have some that push ups are too easy. We’re just going to do the opposite and elevated our feet to increase the range of motion and change the angle of pressing. All coaching cues remain the same: elbows tucked in, back straight and core tight, and control each repetition.
Bench dips are a classic bodybuilding based exercise. They’re great for torching the triceps and getting some chest work in. However, this can be hard for people with a bad history of shoulder problems, so if that’s you, you’ll want to avoid this exercise. Just place your hands on the chair/box, ideally on the side, with your feet out in front on you on the ground. Lower your body by bending your elbows and press back up towards the top.
Hands Elevated Mountain Climbers
The mountain climber is a classic conditioning exercise. The main problem is that many can’t remain a rigid torso to get some added core work from it. If you really control your tempo, you can light your abs on fire without ever having to get on the ground. The variation makes it great to pair with other exercises and get some abdominal work while you’re at it. Place your self in the hands elevated push up position, and bring one leg towards your chest while keeping your core tight. Then alternate legs back and forth.
To many people, this looks like a burpee. The thing is, we at THIRST hate the burpee. It doesn’t serve much of a use other than making people tired. The modified up/down though is a spin on that exercise, but with a better intention in mind. We want to help people move better, and by elevating the hands, we can get some good core work from it, but also add in a conditioning aspect, and safely. Get in a hands elevated push up position, and then stand tall. Rinse and repeat. Try to make each rep feel good, and feel your abs in your push up position before returning to the top.
Feet Elevated Shoulder Tap Plank
This is an amazing plank variation, and elevating the feet just increases it’s difficulty. Place your feet on a chair/box with your hands on the ground. Slightly shift your weight to one side, while you touch your shoulder on that side. Then perform the other side. The goal is to remain as rigid as possible and limit movement in your core.
Feet Elevated Renegade Row
This exercise will require some light dumbbells or kettlebells if you have them, but can really give you a good bang-for-your-buck. You’re going to start by placing your feet on the chair in your push up position. Have a weight on one side or both (depending what you have access to), and you’re going to perform a row with the weight. You’ll want to keep your core braced tight and focus on pulling your elbow back. This will not require much weight, so don’t stress the weight. You can alternate arms, or perform on one side, and then the other.
Seated Reverse Crunch
This exercise is one modified from generally being done on the floor, but sitting on the chair is going to give you a bit more of a challenge. Sit on the chair with a slight lean back. Extend your feet and legs out while trying to keep your torso still. Then bring your legs in to your body, and back out. The more control the better the exercise.
Seated Bent Over Rear Delt Raise
For this exercise you will need a light pair of dumbbells. You’ll sit on the chair, bent over with a weight in each hand. Keep your arms long by your side, and then use your upper back to pull the weights up in the air, and return the dumbbells to your side.
You can perform this without weights, but you will likely have to perform dozens of reps to feel a burn. In that case, we suggest controlling the tempo, and making each repetition take five seconds.
Feet Elevated Side Plank With Reach
We love all the plank variations at THIRST, but this one is a real challenge. Place your feet on a chair/box with one arm on the ground, and your other hand in the air. Ensure your hips are forward and you feel your obliques/side towards the ground contract hard. If you want, you can merely hold this position for time. If you want more of a challenge, perform a reach by taking your top hand and reaching it under the bridge you have created, and come back to the top.
Feet Elevated Inch Worm
The inch worm is a classic exercise performed in athletics during practices. We’re going to start with out feet elevated push up position, then slowly walk our hands towards the chair/box, and then back to the push up position. This is an amazing core and abdominal exercise if you can keep your torso as rigid as possible. You’ll also likely feel your shoulders on fire as well.
Sample Workouts With Just A Chair
Due to these exercises mainly being bodyweight, we choose to prescribe them for time. This way, you can control how difficult each exercise might be for you. You can push the tempo on some, and pull back on others. Do your best to maintain good technique versus pushing for repetitions.
A1) Goblet Box Squat – 3×20 seconds
A2) Hands Elevated Push Ups – 3×15 seconds
B1) Alternating Step Ups – 3×30 seconds
B2) Modified Up/Downs – 3×30 seconds
C1) Hands Elevated Mountain Climbers – 3×30 seconds
C2) Single Leg Foot Elevated Glute Bridge – 3×20 seconds per leg
D1) Feet Elevated Push Up Hold – 3×20 seconds
A1) Lateral Lunge To Box – 3×20 seconds per side
A2) Bench Dips – 3×30 seconds
B1) Single Leg Box Squat – 3×20 seconds per leg
B2) Feet Elevated Side Plank Hold – 3×15 seconds per side
C1) Hands Elevated Push Ups – 3×30 seconds
C2) Seated Reverse Crunch – 3×30 seconds
D1) Goblet Box Squat – 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off – 5 rounds
A1) Bulgarian Split Squat – 4×20 seconds per side
A2) Feet Elevated Push Up – 4×15 seconds
B1) Single Leg Box Squat – 3×30 seconds per leg
B2) Bench Dips – 3×30 seconds
C1) Feet Elevated Shoulder Tap Plank – 4×15 seconds
C2) Feet Elevated Inch Worm – 4×15 seconds
D1) Feet Elevated Side Plank Reach – 5×6 per side
While this is only a brief idea of what you can do with just a chair, if you’re able to add in some bands and light dumbbells you can get in an amazing workout with some of the other exercises we’ve done in our exercise index. Be creative and think outside the box on what you have available to you. Also feel free to take some of our other workouts and sprinkle in some of these exercises to mix it up.
Feeling confused? Have questions? Did we blow your mind with something? Let us know in the comments section.