9 Roman Chair Exercises For Stronger Muscles

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You may realize that roman chair workouts can offer you impressive benefits but what are some roman chair exercises you can do?

The roman chair is a type of fitness equipment that comes down to two pads, one elevated to lean on with your hip/back/upper legs, and one closer to the ground to keep your feet in place.

Exactly what muscles you work varies from exercise to exercise but roman chair exercises generally focus on strengthening your core muscles.

Keep in mind that even though there are upsides, like any exercise there is some risk of injury when using the roman chair. Especially if you have a sensitive back you want to be careful when doing roman chair exercises and implement a good technique.

If you are not sure whether or not roman chair exercises are for you, talk to an expert first.

At some point, the bodyweight versions of these exercises may not be enough. When that happens you can make the exercises harder by adding external weights like a good weighted vest, dumbbells, weighted plates, etc.

1. Back extension

The back extension is one of the first exercises people think of when they hear the words roman chair. To do a back extension take the following step:

  1. Take place on the roman chair facing downwards with your hips on the pad and your ankles behind the foot support. Make sure your ankle and hips are in a stable position and let your upper body hang downwards.
  2. Slowly raise your upper body until it is in a straight line.
  3. Lower your upper body in a controlled motion into the starting position.

This roman chair exercise will help you train lower back muscles like your erector spinae and glutes.

2. Side bend

To do a side bend take the following steps:

  1. Take place on the roman chair facing sidewards with your hip on the pad and your feet sideways behind the ankle support. Make sure your ankle and hips are in a stable position and keep your body in a straight line as the starting position.
  2. Slowly lower your upper body as far as comfortable.
  3. Raise your upper body in a controlled motion into starting position.
  4. Do a certain number of repetitions and repeat facing the other side.

The side bend is a great exercise for training your oblique muscles.

3. Alternating side back extension

To do alternating side back extensions take the following steps:

  1. Take place on the roman chair facing downwards with your hips on the pad and your ankles behind the foot support. Make sure your ankle and hips are in a stable position and let your upper body hang downwards. Put your hands behind your head with your elbows to the side.
  2. Slowly raise your upper body until it is in a straight line. Turn your upper body throughout the upward movement until your higher upper arm is at about a 45-degree angle to the ground.
  3. Lower your upper body in a controlled motion into the starting position.
  4. Slowly raise your upper body similar to step 2 but with the other elbow pointing up.
  5. Lower your upper body in a controlled motion into the starting position.

This additional turning movement makes it so alternating side back extension work your obliques slightly more than a regular back extension.

4. Roman chair crunch

For the roman chair crunch your want the two pads of the roman chair to be at similar heights if possible. To do a roman chair crunch take the following steps:

  1. Take place on the roman chair facing upwards with your butt/upper legs on the pad and your feet behind the foot support. Make sure your feet and hips are in a stable position and keep your body in a straight line as the starting position.
  2. You can place your hands behind your head, cross them over your chest, or put them anywhere else. The point is to not really use your arms or move them during the exercise.
  3. Raise your head and shoulders while keeping your hips and lower body in the same place. Make sure you don’t use your arms but your ab muscles to do this movement. How far depends on the settings of your roman chair. Try to keep your abs constantly engaged throughout your sets.
  4. Lower your upper body until you are back in the starting position.

Like the regular crunch, the roman chair crunch focuses on your ab muscles.

5. Roman chair twist

Since the roman chair twist is similar to the roman chair crunch you again want the two pads to be at similar heights if possible. To do a roman chair twist take the following steps:

  1. Take place on the roman chair facing upwards with your butt/upper legs on the pad and your feet behind the foot support. Make sure your feet and hips are in a stable position and keep your body in a straight line as the starting position.
  2. Raise your upper body so it is at about a 90-degree angle with your upper legs.
  3. Slightly twist your upper body to one side and then the other.
  4. Return to starting position.

The roman chair twist mainly engages your ab muscles but due to the sideways movement also your obliques a certain amount.

6. Dip

Many roman chairs have two handles close to the upper pad. You will need these to be able to do a dip with the roman chair. If you have these handles take the following steps to do a dip:

  1. Stand in front of the roman chair with your back towards it.
  2. Put your hands on the support handles. Shift your weight so that your arms mostly carry it. Keep your arms stretched.
  3. Slowly bend your elbows until they are at a 90-degree angle. When lowering your body keep it just in front of the roman chair. Make sure your arms do as much of the work as possible.
  4. Raise your body back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.

Some roman chairs are even strong enough to support hanging dips. In any case, even with dips with your feet on the ground, you will engage your tricep muscles.

7. Incline pushups

To do incline pushups with a roman chair you will again need the support handles close to the upper pad. After that to do an incline pushup take the following steps:

  1. Put your hands on the roman chair support handles. Your arms start stretched.
  2. Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line and your arms are at a 90-degree angle to your body.
  3. Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is at the height of your hands. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at you from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
  4. Stretch your arms again until you are back in the position from the second step.
How to do an incline pushup

Due to the different angle, incline pushups are more focused on your lower chest muscles than regular pushups.

8. Preacher bicep curl

For this next exercise, besides the roman chair, you will also need external weights like dumbbells. Once you have these to do a preacher bicep curl take the following steps:

  1. Stand next to the pad that usually supports your hips/upper legs/butt and face towards it.
  2. Put your upper arms over the pad and if needed kneel beside the roman chair. Your upper body should be more or less in a straight line up. Your upper arms should be at about 45 degrees to your upper body, your lower arms stretched in one line with your upper arms, and your hands holding weights with your hand palms facing upward.
  3. Fold your arms at the elbows until you can’t go further. Keep your body and upper arms in the same place and don’t twist your lower arms during the movement.
  4. Lower your hands back into starting position in a controlled motion.

As the name implies the preacher bicep curl is a great exercise for engaging your bicep muscles.

9. Glute hold

To do a glute hold take the following steps:

  1. Take place on the roman chair facing downwards with your hips on the pad and your ankles behind the foot support. Make sure your ankle and hips are in a stable position and keep your body in a straight line.
  2. Hold this position for an extended period of time.

Glute holds are a type of isometric exercise. In simpler words, this means that you engage your muscles in a more static way, without moving a lot. On the other hand, you have isotonic exercises where you engage your muscles in a dynamic way, by moving.

Isotonic exercises are generally more useful for building muscle. That means that the other isotonic exercises on this list are likely better than glute holds for building bigger muscles. That being said this exercise can be a great start for beginners to start working on their core and glute muscles and getting used to the roman chair.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.