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Captain's Chair Exercises

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.
Captain's Chair Exercises
Exercising on the captain's chair helps build your core. Photo Credit: dobrovizcki/iStock/Getty Images

The captain's chair looks like a tall, seatless chair with arms and a back rest. You climb into it via pegs or small steps to do exercises to develop your ab muscles. The chair uses some of the same muscles you use in hanging leg raises, but supports your back so it's more manageable for most people.

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The American Council on Exercise named the standard captain's chair crunch one of the most effective ab exercises for stimulating the rectus abdominis and obliques after performing a small study that pitted the move against 12 other popular ab moves.

Incorporate different variations of the captain's chair crunch into your core workout program that includes other quality moves, such as the bicycle crunch, stability ball crunch and reverse crunch.

Read more: 12 Moves for a Stronger Core and Better Posture

1. Standard Crunch

HOW TO DO IT: Mount the captain's chair and press your lower back into the back rest and grip the hand holds with your hands; elbows and forearms prop on the arm rests. Allow your legs to dangle straight down.

Pull your knees up toward your chest in a controlled manner. Engage your abs as you lift the knees by pulling the belly button toward your spine. Slowly lower your legs to the starting position to complete one repetition. Work your way up to three sets of 10 repetitions each.

2. Straight Leg Lift

HOW TO DO IT: Assume your position in the captain's chair with your low back in the back rest and your hands on the grips. Your legs extend straight down to the floor.

Seal your legs together and bend from the hips to raise your legs parallel to the floor. Move slowly and deliberately — avoid swinging so that momentum takes over. Return them to the starting position, again using control to avoid swinging. Work up to eight total repetitions.

Read more: Leg Lift Exercises for Lower Abs

3. Oblique-Focused Crunch

HOW TO DO IT: Get into the captain's chair. Press your back into the back rest and hold yourself strongly with the arm rests.

Pull your knees up, but angle them toward the right side of your chest. Lower the legs to dangling. Pull your knees up, angling to the left side of your chest. Lower to start to repeat one repetition. Work up to three sets of 10 reps.

4. Single Leg Lefts

HOW TO DO IT: Place yourself in the captain's chair, your legs hanging toward the floor. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Tighten your abs and pull the right knee in toward your chest; leave the other leg hanging.

Release and repeat with the left leg to complete one repetition. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions.

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