7 Exercises You Can Do At Work Using Nothing But A Chair

One of the most frequently cited reasons people use not to work out is that they don't have enough time. As an exercise physiologist who is all too familiar with workout excuses (my own and those of clients) I call baloney. Even if you're crazy busy, I guarantee you have 10 minutes here or there that you can carve out for exercise. Granted, it may not be at your gym or favorite fitness studio, but if you're serious about finding ways to get fit, it won't matter where you workout, it just matters that you do. Which is why I'm all for the workplace workout. You may be required to spend upwards of eight or nine hours a day at work, but that doesn't mean every second of it is spent sending emails or working on projects. Go ahead and take your federally mandated breaks and use them to fit your workout in. You don't even have to leave your cube to do it—just grab a sturdy office chair and try these six moves.

Chair squat

The chair squat is a great way to strengthen your entire lower body—your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves—all while engaging your core. It's also an excellent option for individuals who are just learning to master proper squat form because you have the fail safe of a sturdy chair sitting behind you, just in case you lose your balance. Try doing a set of 10 chair squats every time you return to your desk after running an errand, whether it was to attend a meeting or make a copy. If you tend to come and go a lot throughout the day, all your extra squats could really add up!

Stand tall in front of a chair with your feet shoulder-width apart, your weight in your heels. Cross your arms over your chest, pointing your elbows up in front of you. Engage your core, then press your hips back as you bend your knees, lowering your glutes toward the chair. Make sure your weight remains in your heels and your chest remains lifted as you sit back. This helps keep your knees from jutting in front of your toes as you squat down into the chair. Tap your glutes lightly on the front of the chair, then reverse the movement by pressing through your heels to return to standing.

Decline chair pushup

To strengthen your upper body—especially your chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs—the decline pushup is an excellent, office-friendly option. Aim to perform three sets of 10. You can do them one after the other, with a minute rest in between sets, or you can space them throughout your day, doing one set in the morning, one at lunch, and the final set in the afternoon.

Kneel in front of a sturdy chair, facing away from it. Place your palms on the floor under your shoulders, but slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, then engage your abdominals and carefully place your feet onto the seat of the chair, one after the other. Check your form here; your body should form a straight line from your feet to your head, and your core should be engaged. When you're ready, bend both elbows out and back at roughly a 45-degree angle from your body, and lower your chest toward the floor. When your face is a few inches from touching the ground, reverse the movement, press through your palms, and return to the starting position. Make sure your core remains engaged throughout the exercise so your hips don't dip toward the floor, and avoid allowing your head to drop down between your shoulders. It's important to keep your spine straight and aligned throughout the decline pushup.

If this type of decline pushup is too challenging, try a modified pushup instead.

Stand facing the chair, then bend forward to place your hands on the chair seat. Engage your core and step your feet behind you so your body forms a straight line from heels to head. Make sure your shoulders are positioned directly over your palms. From this position, perform the pushup as detailed above—simply bend your elbows out and back at a 45-degree angle, lowering your chest toward the chair. Stop when your elbows have bent to roughly 90-degrees, then press through your palms and return to the starting position.

Single-leg Bulgarian split squat

The single-leg Bulgarian split squat is a more challenging lower-body exercise that works each leg unilaterally—an excellent option to help reduce muscular imbalances that often develop between the left and right sides of your body. Stand a foot or two in front of your chair, facing away, with your feet shoulder-distance apart. Tighten your core and shift your weight to your right leg. bend your left knee, lifting your left foot from the ground so you can place the top of your left foot onto the chair seat behind you. Check your balance and make sure your hips are aligned. Your weight should be centered over your right heel. From this position, press your hips back and bend both knees, lowering your left knee toward the ground. Throughout the exercise, keep your upper body tall and your weight in your right heel, making sure your right knee doesn't jut forward in front of your toes. When your right knee bends to roughly 90-degrees, reverse the movement, press through your supporting heel and return to standing. Perform 10 to 12 repetitions on one side before switching legs. Aim to perform two to three sets per side.

Chair dips

Fire up the back of your arms, your shoulders, and your core with a straightforward chair dip. Aim to do eight to 10 reps at a time, and accumulate two to three sets dispersed throughout the day. To perform the exercise, sit at the front of your desk chair with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor. Grip the front of your chair by placing your hands just to the outside of your hips. Press through your palms and press up, lifting your glutes away from the chair so you're suspended, supported only by your hands and feet. Shift your weight forward slightly so your glutes are positioned in front of the chair. From this position, bend your elbows so they point straight behind you, allowing your hips to lower toward the floor, "skimming" the front of the chair. When your elbows form a 90-degree angle, reverse the movement by pressing through your palms, straightening your elbows. If the exercise feels too easy, you can make it more challenging by straightening your legs, placing just your heels on the ground in front of you before you start the exercise.

Chair step ups

For a quick cardio kick-start that also challenges the major muscle groups of your lower body—your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves—add two minutes of chair step ups to your work routine once an hour. If you do just two minutes every hour for eight hours, you'll have accumulated almost 20 minutes of physical activity by the time you wrap up your work day.

Stand facing your chair, your feet hip-distance apart. Place your right foot on the center of your chair, press through your heel and stand up, bringing your left foot to the top of the chair. Carefully step back down again, leading with your right foot. Continue the step up, step down cycle, swinging your arms naturally in pace with your stepping for one minute. After one minute, switch your lead leg, now leading with your left foot and following with your right.

Chair glute bridge

A basic chair glute bridge is an excellent way to target the posterior chain of your glutes, hamstrings, and low back, although it's understandable if it's a little awkward to do at the office. One quick tip is to tackle it with your best office friend, or to give it a whirl when you're working late and you're alone. Because the exercise is also inverted (your feet are elevated higher than your head), it promotes blood flow and can give you a quick pick-me-up.

Lie on your back and place your heels on the center of the chair, your knees bent at roughly 90-degrees. Extend your arms along your sides, your palms down. Engage your core, and press your hips up and squeeze your glutes until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Steady yourself using your palms and heels. From this position, steadily lower your glutes toward the ground, stopping just before they touch down. Then press your hips straight up again, returning to the starting position. Aim to do two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.

Chair traverse

If you're looking for a true fitness challenge (and you're not afraid of looking like a crazy monkey at the office), consider adding an attempt at a chair traverse to your routine. This challenge is popular with rock climbers and yogis because it requires strength, flexibility and a mind-body connection to effectively crawl around the seat of a chair without touching the ground or toppling over. While different chair traversers use different techniques (just check out the YouTube videos of people completing the challenge), the basic premise is to start sitting on the chair, before maneuvering upside down through the chair's legs to ultimately climb over and around the chair's back to end up seated, again, on the chair. Of course, this is all done without using assistance from the floor. Think you're up for the challenge? These brave teachers were willing to give it a try at work, so what's stopping you?