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The 5 Best Seated Core Exercises

Published September 17, 2018 (Revised: October 16, 2019)
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

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<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2018/09/bigstock-Vector-Illustration-With-Offic-179587426.jpg" } }, "headline":"The 5 Best Seated Core Exercises", "datePublished":"2018-09-17", "dateModified": "2019-10-16", "description":"Improved performance and less risk of injury are all benefits of a strong core. Here are our 5 favorite seated core exercises you can do right from a chair.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2018/09/bigstock-Vector-Illustration-With-Offic-179587426.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What type of core strength training exercises should you do?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "ACSM suggests using core training exercises that:<br />Stabilize your spine: 29 muscles are considered part of your core. These muscles hold your spine in place, support it when you move, and hold different postures. Strong muscles enable you to brace harder, which protects your spine from injury. <br />Increase muscular strength (MS): MS measures the maximal force of muscles. A stronger core helps you produce more power during exercise. <br />Increase muscular endurance (ME): ME measures your muscle’s ability to perform before fatiguing. With more endurance, you’re less prone to bad form and injuries during exercise. <br />Help you better anticipate body movements: This one may seem confusing, but consider the fact that 31 million people live with back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), many back injuries (especially muscle strains) take place when doing things like manual labor, twisting too far during sports movements (example: golf swing), or practicing poor posture. Strong muscles in your midsection can reduce your risk of back injuries during sport or other types of movement." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What are some good chair exercises?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "First and foremost, learning to breathe properly helps stabilize your core. Learning how to breathe can set you up to do other core exercises. You’ll notice each exercise below starts with setting your posture up correctly first.<br />“Proper” refers to breathing through your diaphragm. You can practice this right in a chair, like this:<br />Sit tall while maintaining a good posture. Place your feet flat on the floor. Your goal is to find a “neutral” position, which means a straight spine.<br />Take a deep inhale through your nose. As you inhale, engage your core muscles and brace your abs. You should feel tension in your muscles and your belly expand outwards. This bracing helps activate your core.<br />As you exhale, maintain good posture and tension in your core muscles. Your midline, or the muscles around your spine, should not move.<br />Repeat.<br />Do this once or twice a day for 10 to 20 breaths for a few days, then try some of the core exercises below (see section: “The 5 best seated core exercises”.)" } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "How can I strengthen my core while sitting?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Sitting, just like standing or exercising, means holding a certain posture. To strengthen your core while sitting, select modified core exercises that force you to hold postures, brace your muscles, or work against gravity. <br />Your abs, lower back, hips, and obliques can all be strengthened from a chair. You can even do lower-impact cardio movements like jumping jacks." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Type of Core Strength Training Exercises Should You Do?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">What Are Some Good Chair Exercises?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">How Can I Strengthen My Core While Sitting?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">The 5 Best Seated Core Exercises</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">Seated Core Exercises—Wrap-Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>According to the <i><a target="_blank" href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329100874_Ten_Important_Facts_about_Core_Training" rel="nofollow noreferrer">American College of Sports Medicine</a></i> (ACSM), core training is an essential part of any personal fitness routine. Your core helps transfer force and power from your lower to upper limbs. The stronger your midsection is, the safer you’ll be during exercise<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19026017" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup>.</p> <p>A strong core can also help increase stability and reduces <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-at-home-exercises-for-lower-back-pain" rel="noreferrer">lower back pain</a>, even chronic forms <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6110226/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup> <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4395677/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a></sup>. </p> <p>But if you’re limited due to past injuries, age, or for any other reason, you might think core training is out of your reach. The good news is this: <i>you can modify any core exercise to be done from a chair and still get results</i>.</p> <p>Actually, if you’re older or battling mobility limitations, building core strength is even more important. It improves balance and decreases your likelihood of falling<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5119910/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a>,<a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23108436" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup>.</p> <p>Here’s how to get started with core exercises from a chair, and our 5 favorite movements you can do at home.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-senior-man-0007.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-senior-man-0007.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-senior-man-0007.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-senior-man-LR-0007.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="exercise-core-senior-man"> </picture> <h2 id="section1">What type of core strength training exercises should you do?</h2> <p><i><a target="_blank" href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329100874_Ten_Important_Facts_about_Core_Training" rel="nofollow noreferrer">ACSM</a></i> suggests using <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/3-core-exercises-for-seniors-to-improve-stability" rel="noreferrer">core training exercises</a> that:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Stabilize your spine</strong>: 29 muscles are considered part of your core <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329100874_Ten_Important_Facts_about_Core_Training" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup>. These muscles hold your spine in place, support it when you move, and hold different postures. Strong muscles enable you to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/abdominal-bracing" rel="noreferrer">brace harder</a>, which protects your spine from injury <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5412495/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup>. </li> <li><strong>Increase muscular strength (MS)</strong>: MS measures the maximal force of muscles<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2016/09000/SHAREABLE_RESOURCE__Muscular_Strength_Versus.3.aspx" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup>. A stronger core helps you produce more power during exercise <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27377782" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Increase muscular endurance (ME)</strong>: ME measures your muscle’s ability to perform before fatiguing <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2016/09000/SHAREABLE_RESOURCE__Muscular_Strength_Versus.3.aspx" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup>. With more endurance, you’re less prone to bad form and injuries during exercise <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18384493" rel="nofollow noreferrer">11</a></sup>.</li> <li><strong>Help you better anticipate body movements</strong>: This one may seem confusing, but consider the fact that 31 million people live with back pain <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/my-back-went-out-what-do-i-do#1" rel="nofollow noreferrer">12</a></sup>. According to the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-statistics" rel="nofollow noreferrer">American Chiropractic Association</a> (ACA), many back injuries (especially muscle strains) take place when doing things like manual labor, twisting too far during sports movements (example: golf swing), or practicing poor posture. Strong muscles in your midsection can reduce your risk of back injuries during sport or other types of movement <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3806175/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">13</a></sup>.</li> </ul> <p>With a few modifications, many popular core training exercises (Russian twists, bicycles) can be done seated. </p> <p>This information from ACSM’s guidelines can be useful for determining exercises and how you’ll apply them to your workouts (i.e. doing higher reps to increase ME).</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>What are some good chair exercises?</h2> <p>First and foremost, learning to breathe properly helps stabilize your core <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3805012/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">14</a></sup>. Learning how to breathe can set you up to do other core exercises. You’ll notice each exercise below starts with setting your posture up correctly first.</p> <p>“Proper” refers to breathing through your diaphragm. You can practice this right in a chair, like this:</p> <ul> <li>Sit tall while maintaining a good posture. Place your feet flat on the floor. Your goal is to find a “neutral” position, which means a straight spine.</li> <li>Inhale through your nose and feel your belly THEN the lower ribs expand. Brace your core around that breath. This is activating your core.</li> <li>As you exhale, maintain good posture and tension in your core muscles. Your midline, or the muscles around your spine, should not move.</li> <li>Repeat.</li> </ul> <p>Do this once or twice a day for 10 to 20 breaths for a few days, then try some of the core exercises below (see section: “The 5 best seated core exercises”.)</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>How can I strengthen my core while sitting?</h2> <p>Sitting, just like standing or exercising, means holding a certain posture. To strengthen your core while sitting, select modified core exercises that force you to hold postures, brace your muscles, or work against gravity. </p> <p>Your abs, lower back, hips, and obliques can all be strengthened from a chair. You can even do lower-impact cardio movements like jumping jacks.</p> <p>See “The 5 Best Seated Core Exercises” section below for 5 at-home options you can try.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>The 5 best seated core exercises</h2> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-dead-bug-arms-0007.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-dead-bug-arms-0007.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-dead-bug-arms-0007.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-dead-bug-arms-LR-0007.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="exercise-core-seated-dead-bug-arms"> </picture> <h3>1. Seated deadbug (arms only)</h3> <p><strong>Works</strong>: transverse abdominis, lower back, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/latissimus-dorsi" rel="noreferrer">lats</a></p> <ul> <li>Practice your breathing technique—find a good posture and take a deep breath in through your nose. Your belly, then chest, should expand.</li> <li>After you inhale, flex your abs hard. This is called “<a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/abdominal-bracing" rel="noreferrer">abdominal bracing</a>”. Hold this position.</li> <li>Slowly raise both hands to be out in front of you (parallel to your face), like you’re holding a ball out in front of your chest.</li> <li>Raise one arm above your head. Keep your abs braced.</li> <li>Slowly lower your arm, then repeat on the other side.</li> </ul> <p>Do 3 sets of 10-15.</p> <p><strong>Modification</strong>: to make this more difficult, lift the opposite leg off of the ground 1" at the same time.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-single-leg-lifts-knee-tucks-0007.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-single-leg-lifts-knee-tucks-0007.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-single-leg-lifts-knee-tucks-0007.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-single-leg-lifts-knee-tucks-LR-0007.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="exercise-core-single-leg-lifts-knee-tucks"> </picture> <h3>2. Single leg lifts or knee tucks</h3> <p><strong>Works</strong>: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/the-best-lower-ab-exercises-you-can-do-at-home/" rel="noreferrer">lower abs</a>, hip flexors, lower back</p> <ul> <li>Sit toward the middle or edge of your chair. Find good posture and neutral spine.</li> <li>Place your hands on either side near the thighs or <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/glutes-101-best-exercises-for-your-gluteus-maximus/" rel="noreferrer">glutes</a>. Grip firmly.</li> <li>Lift your right bent leg as high as you can go. Aim for just above hip height. Hold for one second at the top.</li> <li>Return the first leg, then raise the other. Pause again at the top.</li> </ul> <p>To make these more advanced, do both legs simultaneously or attempt to straighten the legs.</p> <p>Do 3 sets of 5 to 10 on each leg.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-russian-twists-0007.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-russian-twists-0007.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-russian-twists-0007.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-russian-twists-LR-0007.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="exercise-core-seated-russian-twists"> </picture> <h3>3. Seated Russian twists</h3> <p><strong>Works</strong>: abs, hip flexors, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-oblique-exercises-for-core-strength" rel="noreferrer">obliques</a></p> <ul> <li>Sit up tall, with your back off the chair.</li> <li>Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle. To make this more advanced, lift feet 1" off the ground. .</li> <li>Make a fist with your hands and hold them next to each other in front of you.</li> <li>Tightening your core, bring your balled up hands from one side of your legs to the other. Follow your hands with your head and eyes. If the seat has arms, aim to touch on each side.</li> <li>Sit up tall and breath throughout. Practice bracing your abs during each repetition.</li> </ul> <p>Do 20 total reps, 10 on each side. Take a 45 second break, then do 2 more sets.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-bent-over-reverse-fly-0007.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-bent-over-reverse-fly-0007.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-bent-over-reverse-fly-0007.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-bent-over-reverse-fly-LR-0007.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="exercise-core-bent-over-reverse-fly"> </picture> <h3>4. Bent over reverse fly</h3> <p><strong>Works</strong>: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/best-at-home-exercises-for-lower-back-pain" rel="noreferrer">lower back</a>, abs, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/frozen-shoulder-exercises-stretches" rel="noreferrer">shoulders</a></p> <ul> <li>Sit on the edge of the chair. Before beginning, take a big diaphragmatic breath. Neutral spine, inhale through the nose, sharp exhale focusing on bracing your abs.</li> <li>Maintaining this pressure in your core, lean forward slightly, keeping your back engaged. Make a “proud chest” (like you would during a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/27-beginner-bodyweight-exercises-that-get-results" rel="noreferrer">drinking bird</a>).</li> <li>Start with your arms in front of your body, palms facing each other.</li> <li>Maintain the tight back/proud chest position. Raise your arms out straight to the side so you look like a ‘T’. Hold for one second. </li> <li>Return to the starting position slowly. The slower the better.</li> </ul> <p>Do 3 sets of 10 to 15 reps.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-jumping-jacks-1-0007.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-jumping-jacks-1-0007.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-jumping-jacks-1-0007.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-jumping-jacks-1-LR-0007.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="exercise-core-seated-jumping-jacks"> </picture> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-jumping-jacks-2-0007.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-jumping-jacks-2-0007.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-jumping-jacks-2-0007.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/exercise-core-seated-jumping-jacks-2-LR-0007.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="exercise-core-seated-jumping-jacks"> </picture> <h3>5. Seated jumping jacks</h3> <p><strong>Works</strong>: <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/20-minute-full-body-workout-you-can-do-at-home" rel="noreferrer">full body</a> (plus cardio)</p> <ul> <li>Set up your posture first. Sit up in the chair with your back straight. Find that neutral position (explained in section “What are some good chair exercises?”).</li> <li>Place your feet lightly on the floor so that they are barely touching; knees close together.</li> <li>With your hands at your sides, raise your arms overhead. At the same time, think about pushing off your toes to “jump”, opening your legs out to either side. <ul> <li>If this is too difficult, or doing both legs at once shifts your posture, you can alternate sides instead.</li> </ul> </li> <li>Return to the starting position.</li> </ul> <p>Do 30 reps. Catch your breath (30 to 60 seconds) and then do 2 more sets. These are an awesome <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/7-low-impact-cardio-exercises/" rel="noreferrer">low-impact cardio exercise</a> if you have <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/3-low-impact-exercises-for-bad-knees" rel="noreferrer">knee</a> or <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/exercise/5-exercises-for-hip-pain" rel="noreferrer">hip</a> pain.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section5"> <h2>Seated core exercises—wrap-up</h2> <p>Strengthening your core is extremely important regardless of your physical state or your age. Benefits include decreased risk of injury, better stability, and performance during workouts. For seniors, a strong core improves quality of life and decreases chances of serious injury or health scare from falling.</p> <p>Age, mobility restrictions, or past injuries shouldn’t prevent you from strengthening your core. You can get all these benefits by performing these exercises right from a chair. Focus on good breathing and posture first, then do these exercises a few times each week. You’re bound to notice better balance, stability, and may even notice a reduction in back pain.</p> </section> </article>

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