9 Seated Exercises to Work Around an Injury

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So much fitness advice boils down to one simple command: Get off your butt and move. But what happens when you’re dealing with muscle soreness or a lower-body injury? Can you still do cardio or build muscle with seated workouts? Are seated workouts actually worth your time?

Yes, says trainer Alexis Craig, CPT, as long as you’ve sought proper treatment, been cleared by your doctor, and know your limitations. Seated workouts can help you build strength and stay on track to reach your long-term goals.

“Building strength is the best thing that you can do, and moving what you can move is a good idea,” Craig explains.

Plus, doing seated workouts will help you maintain your fitness routine. “When you’re ready to move your lower-body again, you’ll be ready to get back in it,” Craig says. “Honestly, the most important thing is having a habit of exercising.”

Ready for a seated workout that will elevate your heart rate and build muscle? Pull up a sturdy chair (without arms, so you can move more freely) and give these nine exercises a shot.

1. Seated Pilates Hundred

Woman Doing Pilates on Chair | Seated Workouts

Do 100 reps total.

  • With your arms at your sides, sit toward the edge of your chair and plant your feet on the floor.
  • Maintaining a neutral spine, tilt back at the waist slightly and engage your core muscles by drawing your belly toward your spine.
  • Keeping your elbows straight and palms facing down, lift the arms slightly.
  • Continually inhale for five seconds, then exhale for five seconds. As you breathe in and out, rapidly pump your arms up and down a total of 100 times.

2. Jumping Jack Arms

Jumping Jacks on Chair | Seated Workouts

Do 50 reps total.

  • From a seated position, rest your arms at your sides.
  • With your palms facing forward, laterally lift both arms and swing them overhead.
  • Immediately swing both arms back down to your sides. This is one rep.
  • Continue to swing your arms overhead and down until all reps are complete.

3. Seated Chest Press

Chest Press on Chair | Seated Workouts

Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

  • From a seated position, wrap a large resistance band around your back and hold the handles or ends, keeping your wrists in line with your elbows. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, push your hands forward, and extend your arms. Your hands should be directly in front of your chest.
  • Draw your elbows in to about 45 degrees and bring your hands back to the starting position. This is one rep.

4. Seated Hammer Curl to Arnold Press

Hammer Curl to Arnold Press on Chair | Seated Workouts

Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

  • From a seated position, hold a dumbbell in each hand and allow your arms to rest at your sides.
  • With your palms facing in, bend your elbows and curl the weights up to your shoulders.
  • Rotate your wrists so that your palms are facing forward, then push and extend your arms overhead.
  • Lower the weights to your shoulders, rotate your palms to face in, lower the weights, and return your arms to the starting position. This is one rep.

5. Seated Lateral Raises

Lateral Raise on Chair | Seated Workouts

Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

  • From a seated position, hold a dumbbell in each hand and allow your arms to rest at your sides.
  • To make the move more challenging, keep your feet together in front of you. To make it easier, spread your feet apart.
  • With your elbows mostly straight and your palms facing the floor, raise your arms laterally, but stop at shoulder height.
  • Slowly lower your arms to the starting position. This is one rep.

6. Seated Jab Cross

Jab Cross on Chair | Seated Workouts

Do 100 punches total.

  • From a seated position, make two fists and bring them up to your face in an “on guard” position. Keep your elbows tucked in close to your body.
  • Twisting the left shoulder forward, extend the left arm in a forward punch, rotating your palm downward at the last moment.
  • Retract your arm and return to your starting position. Repeat the movement with the right hand.
  • Continue to throw punches, alternating arms each time.

7. Modified V-Sit

Woman Doing V Sit on Chair | Seated Workouts

Hold for a count of 100.

  • Sit toward the edge of your chair and drive your heels into the ground. Let your arms rest by your sides or hold them out in front of you.
  • Maintaining a neutral spine and proud chest, lean back at the waist until you feel tension in your abs (not your lower back).
  • Hold the position and count to 100.

8. Seated Clamshells

Clamshell on Chair | Seated Workouts

Do 3 sets of 15 reps per side.

  • Sit toward the edge of your chair with your feet together and knees bent 90 degrees. Shift your weight to lean on your right hip so your left leg is resting on the right.
  • Keeping your right leg stationary, slowly open your knees by moving your left leg away from your right.
  • Draw your legs together by moving your left knee toward your right.
  • To make the movement more challenging, loop a small resistance band around your thighs.
  • Complete all reps on one side before switching sides.

9. Seated Criss Cross

Criss Cross on Chair | Seated Workouts

Do 100 reps total.

  • From a seated position, place your hands behind your head. Maintaining a neutral spine and proud chest, lean back at the waist until you feel tension in your abs (not your lower back). This is your starting position.
  • On an exhale, keep the elbows wide as you rotate your torso and twist to the left.
  • Return to the starting position, then rotate again and twist to the right on your next exhale.
  • Alternating sides, continue to reach with your elbows until all reps are complete.

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