The Ab Workout You Can Do With Just a Chair

The gym is fun and all, but sometimes, doing your workout in the privacy of your own home, hotel room or office is much more convenient. Who needs fancy equipment like weight machines or stability balls when you can improvise with what you have around you? A chair, for example.

No gym? No problem. Tone your abs at home while using a chair.
Credit: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages

"A chair is more stable than a stability ball, so it is good for anyone that is not yet at a level where using a stability ball is appropriate," says Heather Milton, clinical exercise physiologist at NYU Langone's Sports Performance Center. People with wobbly balance, as well as those with weak shoulders, can also benefit from the swap.

Milton knows a thing or two about using a chair to spice up your ab workout and strengthen your core. That's especially important, as a strong core provides better balance, stability and posture — not to mention it can help decrease lower back pain — according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Read more: You Can Do This Full-Body Workout With Just a Chair

Try This Beginner Chair Workout for Your Abs

Before putting your chair to work, prepare your body by doing a dynamic warm-up. "Doing a dynamic movement both activates muscles while working them through the range of motion needed for your activity," Milton says.

She recommends Frankenstein walks and runner's lunges for the hips; inchworms for the ankles, core and shoulders; and grapevines and lateral lunges for the core, hips and inner thighs.

Do: these five ab exercises in order, right from the comfort of your own home

Move 1: Isometric Contractions

  1. While sitting on your chair, slowly suck in your belly, engaging your abs. Depending on your fitness level, you can can engage anywhere between 1 second and 20 seconds per inhale.
  2. Exhale and repeat to reach rep count.

Reps: start with 5 and work your way up to 10 to 15
Works: deep transverse abdominals and pelvic floor (These muscles are the foundation of your core, protecting your spine and enabling you to maximize agility, strength and power.)

Move 2: Roll Backs

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair with your feet on the ground, thighs parallel and knees hip-width apart.
  2. Lift both arms in front of you, aligning them with your shoulders. Inhale, and as you exhale, curve your back into a C shape, tilting your hips backward.
  3. Lower until you reach the back of the chair, then inhale again to return to the starting position.

Reps: 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Works: deep abdominals

Move 3: Lateral Crunches

  1. Starting with your butt in the middle of the seat, tighten your core and lean until you barely touch the back of your chair.
  2. Once your back barely touches the chair, bend slightly side to side until reaching the desired rep count.

Reps: 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Works: external obliques (sides of your torso)

Move 4: Oblique Crunches

  1. Similar to the lateral crunches, start with your butt in the middle of the seat and lean back into the chair until you barely touch the back of it.
  2. As you come forward, exhale and cross your left shoulder toward your right hip, then switch to the other leg and arm until you reach your target rep count.

Reps: 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Works: internal obliques

Move 5: Squat-to-Chair

Squats may not be your first thought when thinking of core exercises, but, as Milton explains, because the move uses external resistance, it causes the core muscles to contract in balancing the body's weight — therefore giving them a solid workout.

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Choose a weight that's manageable for your fitness level (in most cases, that means starting with between 5 and 10 pounds).
  2. Keep your knees tracking in the same line as the toes as you lower your butt into the chair while holding the dumbbell away from your body.
  3. Come back to starting position each time you tap the chair with your glutes.

Reps: 2 to 3 sets of 10
Works: your entire core

Read more: The 41 Hardest Ab Exercises

Bonus Ab Exercises to Do With a Chair

If you've gotten through the first five exercises unscathed and thinking "I want more," here are three additional exercises that will have your abs feeling the burn.

1. Seated Bicycle Crunches

  1. Begin by sitting in your chair, feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands behind your head, lifting one knee toward the opposite elbow as you twist your body down toward it.
  3. Return to starting position, then twist to the opposite side, using your other arm and leg.

Reps: 2 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Works: upper abs

2. Lower Ab Leg Lifts

  1. Begin sitting up straight with feet flat on the floor.
  2. Keep the core tight as you lift one leg up at a time. For a challenge, lift both legs at the same time.
  3. Return to starting position and repeat.

Reps: 2 sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Works: lower abs

3. Seated Crunches

  1. Begin by sitting upright on the chair with both feet on the floor in front of you (lift them for an added challenge). Hold onto the side of the seat with both hands for support.
  2. Lift both feet off the floor and pull both knees into your chest.
  3. Extend them back out and repeat.

Reps: 2 sets of 15 to 20 reps.
Works: rectus abdominis

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