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What Is the Roman Chair?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Lie face down on the chair to target your back and buttocks.
Lie face down on the chair to target your back and buttocks. Photo Credit Adobe Stock/Gennadiy Poznyakov

Chances are, you've probably seen the Roman chair in the gym and just never known its proper name. It features two pads: one higher and larger to support your hip region and a lower, smaller pad under which you hook your legs for leverage.

Most often, people lie face down on the chair, with heels hooked under the back pad, and hinge up and down from their hips to target the lower back. But you can vary your position to target the glutes, hamstrings and abdominals, too.

Strengthen Your Abs

To work your abdominal muscles with the Roman chair, sit on the top pad of the Roman chair, hook the tops of your feet under the lower pad and raise and lower your torso.

For a more advanced exercise, try the Roman chair twist. For this move, sit on the top bench of the Roman chair and hook your feet under the smaller pad. Hold a medicine ball, weight plate or dumbbell extended out in front of your chest. Lean back until you feel your abs brace to keep you supported and slowly twist side to side.

Don't have a Roman chair? Improvise!
Don't have a Roman chair? Improvise! Photo Credit Adobe Stock/iceteastock

Target Your Back Muscles

But the Roman chair isn't just for your ab muscles. You can strengthen your back muscles, too, which are also part of your core.

Lie face down on the chair, hook your heels under the foot pad and lift and lower your torso to perform what's known as the back extension. Back extensions help build endurance in the muscles of the lumbar spine, according to a 2002 study published in the journal "Spine."

To ensure you're working just your back, position your body so that your hips lie directly on top of the upper pad. Begin with your back parallel to the floor and move slowly to bend at the hips and lower the trunk toward the floor. Avoid rounding the spine — keep it in a straight line from the top of the head to the hips.

Focus on the Glutes and Hamstrings

Lastly, you can use the Roman chair to work your lower-body muscles, too. When you position the hips just forward of the pad so they readily flex and extend as you perform the back extension, you'll activate your glutes and hamstrings along with your lower back. You'll feel your glutes contract as they squeeze to raise and lower your torso.

Read more: 3 Exercises That Could Be Hurting Your Back

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