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The 8 Best Roman Chair Exercises: A Comprehensive Guide to Strengthening Your Core Muscles

 Written by 

Ilinka Trenova

 Last updated on 

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The modern sedentary lifestyle has certainly taken its toll on our posture and core strength. We’re all more prone to developing pain and injuries, with poor posture being the root of many issues. While there are a range of exercises that can improve the foundational muscles of your core, Roman chair exercises specifically target the back and abdominal muscles in a way that no other exercises can.

You’ve probably seen this basic piece of equipment at your local gym, but may not have thought to use it before. It’s basically a chair-like structure with a backrest, arm supports, and adjustable footrests. It serves as a support to help you carry out exercises that isolate certain muscles while keeping the rest of your body stable.

A an does back extensions on a roman chair
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8 Roman Chair Exercises to Gain Lean Muscle

When it comes to the most common exercises you can perform on this fantastic piece of equipment, there’s quite a bit of variety in terms of which muscles you target. Some have greater intensity than others, as well as more focused areas of engagement. Here are 8 exercises that can help you gain lean muscle:

Side Bends

The first activity on the list is a fantastic way to target your oblique muscles, which are located on the sides of your abdominal area. When you perform exercises that strengthen your oblique muscles, you’re able to engage your core more effectively when lifting weights or performing other activities.

To begin the exercise, lay on your back with your feet against the chair’s footrests. You can either place your arms across your back or cross them over your chest, both of which are effective. Keeping your torso and legs stable, slowly move your upper body to the left side and then back to the center. Repeat the same motion on the opposite side for one full cycle.

Make sure you keep your movements slow and controlled as you work your way through the exercise. You can perform up to three sets of 10 repetitions per side for optimal results. Focus on your abdominal muscles as you move, feeling the tension in your core with each repetition.

Woman works obliques on roman chair
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Source: The Fitness Superstore

Back Extensions

Next up is an exercise that focuses on your glutes and posterior chain muscles on your lower back. The main emphasis is on the Erector Spinae muscles across your spine, which are responsible for keeping your back straight and healthy. When you strengthen them, you gain a greater level of support and protection against injuries.

To get started, place the chair pad at hip height and lie with your front facing the chair. You can cross your arms on your chest or place them on the armrests for support. Press your feet against the footrests and slowly lift your torso up until it is parallel to the ground. Once you reach this point, you can hold the position for two to three seconds and then lower your torso back down. Once again, make sure you move in a slow and controlled manner.

Repeat this motion up to 10 times for optimal results. Keep in mind that your hips should be at a 40-degree angle when you reach the top of the movement. This ensures that your target muscles are engaged in a way that helps them quickly grow and develop.

Man does back extensions on roman chair
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Source: Sunny Health and Fitness

Incline Push Ups

This is a variation of traditional push-ups that takes on a more inclined angle. It puts added emphasis on your shoulder and chest muscles, allowing them to gain strength at a quicker rate. This exercise also helps to improve your overall posture and stability in a short amount of time. The greater reliance on your arms and shoulders allows for greater mobility in these areas, which inherently improves your core strength.

Start by setting the chair pad at a height where it comes up to your chest. From there, get into a push-up position with your hands flat against the handles on either side of the roller pads. You can either keep your feet on the ground for a more challenging version or place them against the footrests if you need support. As you lower your torso to the ground, be sure to keep your elbows close to your body as you do so and use a slow pace.

The additional incline presents a greater challenge for your chest and shoulder muscles as opposed to the horizontal plane of traditional exercises. When you keep your body at a certain angle, your muscles are forced to work harder in order for you to perform the movement. Make sure to also keep your abdominal muscles engaged as you do this exercise, for at least 8 repetitions per set.

Man performs deficit push-ups on roman chair
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Source: eBay

Hanging Dips

Dips inherently rely on your body weight to challenge your muscles, with an emphasis on your chest and tricep muscles. With the Roman chair, you gain an extra dimension and can target your muscles in a more challenging and beneficial way. The difference between a regular dip and a hanging dip is that the latter gives you more freedom to move around while still having a reliable source of support.

The neutral position for this exercise is the same as with the incline push-up – you’ll need to set the pad at a height that’s around chest level and grip the handlebar on either side. From there, you can move your legs so that they are in a suspended position and hang from the chair. Make sure to keep your core tight at all times and use slow and steady movements throughout the workout.

As you descend with each dip, keep your elbows close to your body and move them in a backward motion. Squeeze your triceps as you bring your body back up to the starting position. You can perform 10 repetitions for two to three sets, then switch up the angle of inclination to target different areas of your muscles in a more specific manner.

A man does dips on a roman chair
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Source: Synergee Fitness

Kneeling Preacher Curls

Since the biceps and triceps are some of the most important muscle groups in the human body, having separate exercises for this particular area brings more benefits. The kneeling preacher curls specialize in targeting those muscles and improving their strength, helping you to build muscle mass quickly.

To begin the exercise, place your knees on the chair pad and lean forward slightly. You can also use a small cushion on the front to lean on with your chest. Grab the handles with your palms facing away from you, and lean forward until your arms are extended. From that point, gradually bring the dumbbell or barbell upward until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.

Pause for a second at the top of the movement and then slowly lower your arms back down to the starting position. Make sure you keep your palms facing away from you throughout the exercise as this provides greater stability and better results. With each repetition, focus on engaging your biceps and really feeling the tension in those muscles. You can perform anywhere from 8 to 12 reps per set for a full and effective workout.

Man does preacher curls on roman chair
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Roman Chair Sit-Ups

As far as abdominal exercises go, the Roman chair sit-up brings a more challenging workout to the table. It helps you achieve a stronger core and greater stability when it comes to your posture, as well as helping you build lean muscle quickly. It differs from the popular exercise in the traditional sense as it requires more strength and balance to be done correctly. When you’re suspended in the air, this adds an extra layer of difficulty that helps you move further along your fitness journey.

To perform this exercise, place your feet firmly on the footrests and lean backward. Make sure your back is flat against the chair and as you move up, let your arms point towards the ceiling. Alternatively, you can cross your arms on your chest or hold the handles with each hand. Keep in mind that your hips should remain firmly planted on the chair throughout the exercise and you can even use a small cushion to support your lower back if necessary.

From the starting position, slowly raise your torso off the chair and reach as far up as you comfortably can. Keep your core muscles engaged and exhale as you move upwards. When you reach the top of the motion, preferably at a 90-degree angle, pause for a second and then slowly move back down to the initial position. You should be able to perform 8 repetitions in each set, pausing in between reps if needed.

Woman does crunches on roman chair
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Straight Leg Raises

Even simple exercises have great benefits, and the straight leg raise is an excellent example of that. This exercise focuses on your lower abdominal muscles while also improving flexibility in your spine and hips. When you’re hanging on by your arms, you’re using your upper body strength to lift your legs and challenge your core muscles in a different way. With each leg raise, you’re essentially working against the forces of gravity and pushing your muscles further.

To begin, hang from the handles with both arms extended and slightly bent at the elbows. Hold onto the handles firmly and keep your core tight as you move your legs from the starting position towards your chest. Aim to get them parallel to the ground and then slowly lower them back down. Make sure to keep your torso static throughout the exercise and focus on engaging your abs muscles as you’re doing it.

The main advantage of this fantastic exercise is that it can promote proper form and greater flexibility in your postural muscles while helping you build strength. You can even add a weight plate to the exercise to make it more challenging, as long as you can maintain that proper form throughout. Aim for 8 to 12 repetitions per set and you’ll definitely notice the difference after a few weeks.

Woamn does leg raises
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Isometric Glute Hold

The glute muscles are one of the most important and powerful muscle groups in the human body. They’re responsible for powering up your movements in sports, daily life activities, and even when you’re standing still. Developing them with strength exercises can help build lean muscle mass and improve your overall performance levels. While performing deadlifts for glutes is a popular option, sometimes using the Roman chair can provide greater benefits and a more effective workout.

The first thing you need to do is adjust the ankle pads to a position where they align with the groin pad in the middle of the chair. From there, lie down with your stomach flat against the chair and extend your legs outwards on the ankle pads. Make sure your torso is in an upright position and hold onto the handles with each hand. If you want something that will push your limits, place your hands next to your body and use your core stability to maintain proper form.

The main focus of this exercise is to keep your legs straight and press against the ankle pads with your feet for a period of time. This is where you slowly start to lift your body from the face-down position and move upwards using your glute muscles. Try to hold the top position for several seconds to give your gluteal muscles more time to work and then slowly lower yourself down back into the starting position.

When you take on this exercise, aim for 8 to 12 reps and make sure your form is correct to ensure no injuries take place. It’s also crucial that you keep breathing and maintain a steady rhythm throughout the workout. This will help you get the most out of this effective exercise and get more defined and toned glutes much faster.

A woman does lumbar raises on roman chair
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What Are the Benefits of Doing Roman Chair Exercises?

So how can this full-body workout transform your current form? What can you expect in terms of the benefits? Quite a few actually. Here are some of the major ones.

Improved Posture

If you struggle with rounded shoulders, hunching, and other poor posture-related issues, the Roman chair can help significantly. These exercises target muscles across your back, shoulders, and arms, allowing you to gain better overall flexibility, strength, and balance. When these areas are strengthened, you’re less likely to suffer from back pain and more likely to keep your body correctly aligned. As your posture starts to improve, you’ll find that doing everyday activities like driving and sitting at your desk becoming much easier.

When you have a piece of gym equipment that delivers a targeted and effective workout, it can be easier to stick to your routine and build upon existing results. Repeating each exercise slowly and with proper safety measures in place can help you build a strong core and keep your body healthy. 

Core Strengthening

The main purpose of this equipment is to provide you with a way to strengthen your core muscles like abdominals, glutes, hips, and back. This will improve your stability and balance, with consistent workouts leading to a better overall posture and improved resistance against injuries. When there’s gradual muscle growth across the core, you will find it easier to perform other activities without straining your back. The basis of any good exercise routine should be building core strength, and the Roman chair can help you do just that.

Glute and Hamstring Development

As an effective glute-ham developer, Roman chair exercises bring unique tension to these areas by making the user rotate the legs and hips while keeping them stable. This increases the intensity of the workout, helping you develop stronger glutes and hamstrings in a more challenging yet beneficial way. Both muscle tissues undergo major engagement, with regular workouts helping to enhance their strength and flexibility.

Flexibility Enhancement

Speaking of flexibility, the level of core training and stability that comes from Roman chair exercises helps to open up your range of motion and increase your overall flexibility. This is especially true for the hip flexors, which are often neglected in most workouts. When you rely on the support of the chair to carry out various exercises, you are able to move in ways that free up your body and make you more agile. Each movement focuses on the muscles that are prone to tightness, helping them loosen up and become stronger.

Of course, a strength training routine builds more muscle than the average cardio workout. When you use the Roman chair to engage your muscles, they become more limber and powerful, giving you better control over your body. 

Injury Prevention

While any workout routine can help manage injuries, Roman chair exercises are especially beneficial in this regard. It aids in building a strong core with regular and controlled movements, so your body is more prepared to take on physical activities that require a lot of movement. This enhanced core strength helps prevent sprains, strains, and other common injuries associated with regular activities like running and lifting weights. When you have stronger muscles, you’re less likely to suffer from chronic pain or have a major injury.

Plus, the dense foam on the Roman chair serves as a cushion for your entire body, more so than any mat or floor exercise would provide. This helps to keep you comfortable and relaxed during each training session, in addition to facilitating better stability and control. The ergonomic design of this piece of training equipment supports all the key points of your body, allowing you to stay in the same position without putting too much strain on yourself.


Are Roman Chairs Good for You?

Absolutely, and in a number of ways too. It doesn’t matter if your goal is building strength and performing a wide range of dynamic stretches to improve your flexibility or to simply try and reduce back pain. The Roman chair is an all-inclusive exercise tool that delivers smooth and effective results no matter your fitness level.

How Do You Use a Roman Chair for Back Pain?

A common mistake that many people make when doing this exercise is they often ignore instructions and do too much too soon. To avoid any kind of back pain, start slowly and focus on proper form while increasing your reps gradually. Ensure you maintain a good posture and focus on your breathing. Focus on engaging all your major muscles while using the chair for a complete Roman chair workout.

Which Is Better 45 or 90-degree Roman Chair?

There are two differences between the two options; the 45-degree angle is more suitable for beginners thanks to its lower intensity level. As your skills progress, the 90-degree angle will offer a greater challenge and help you deepen your stretches and increase your reps as you become stronger. Going straight to the more difficult level might be an uncomfortable angle for someone who has no experience with this exercise.


Hey there, I'm Ilinka Trenova, a self-proclaimed CrossFit addict and content creator extraordinaire. I've been pumping iron and perfecting my snatches and squats for a solid decade now, and I still get a thrill every time I hit a new PR. What I love most about both CrossFit and writing is the sense of community they both provide. My CrossFit crew is full of people who push themselves to be their best, both inside and outside the gym. And let me tell you, I've never felt stronger or more confident than when I'm crushing a WOD. As a content creator, I've had the privilege of connecting with readers and other writers from all over the world and explore different topics and aspects of life together. Whether I'm writing a blog post, a product review, or crafting a witty social media caption, I always strive to create valuable and entertaining content. At the end of the day, I believe that both CrossFit and writing have helped me grow and become a better version of myself. And I'm truly excited to see where these passions will take me in the future!

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