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Captain's Chair Exercises

author image Sarka-Jonae Miller
Sarka-Jonae Miller has been a freelance writer and editor since 2003. She was a personal trainer for four years with certifications from AFAA and NASM. Miller also worked at 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness and as a mobile trainer. Her career in the fitness industry begin in 2000 as a martial arts, yoga and group exercise instructor. She graduated cum laude from Syracuse University.
Captain's Chair Exercises
Woman with measuring tape around her flat abs Photo Credit Milan Markovic/iStock/Getty Images


The Captain's chair exercise was found to be one of the best exercises to work the muscles of the abdomen. This was discovered by a study conducted at the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University. It tested abdominal exercises with and without equipment to see which ones were the most effective. The study was commissioned by the American Council on Exercise and led by Peter Francis, Ph.D.

Muscle Exercises

The Captain's chair exercise recruits the muscles of the rectus abdominis and the obliques. The rectus abdominis muscle, nicknamed the "six-pack muscle," runs vertically down the abdomen from the ribcage to the pelvis. The only exercise that showed more activity in this muscle during the study was the bicycle maneuver. However, the Captain's chair worked the oblique muscles better than any other exercise. The oblique muscles criss-cross along the sides of the abdomen at the waist.

Basic Captain's Chair Exercise

The basic Captain's chair exercise is performed on a piece of equipment called a Captain's or Roman chair. It is a freestanding piece of equipment consisting of an upright, a backrest, two arm rests and two side rails. You step onto the side rails, place your arms on the arm rest, your back on the back rest and then step off of the side rails so your legs are dangling toward the floor. The basic exercise involves bending the knees and raising them together to waist level. Your back should remain in contact with the backrest at all times to ensure proper activation of the abdominal muscles.

Captain's Chair Kicks

Another exercise you can do when positioned on a Captain's chair is a flutter or scissor kick. This exercise involves raising one leg at a time up to waist level, but because the leg is held straight it is more difficult to stabilize your body against the backrest while you do lift legs. By raising one leg at a time you will have an easier time controlling the movements. You should not try to move your legs too quickly until you have sufficient abdominal strength to do so without arching your back or using momentum.

Straight Leg Lifts

The more difficult exercise of the ones done on a Captain's chair is the straight leg raises. The basic is very similar to the basic exercise and the kicks. You will sit on the Captain's chair as you did in the other exercises. You will bring your legs together and lift them straight up to waist level. You must keep your back against the backrest. Do not do this exercise if you cannot do it without keeping proper form.

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