How to Get an Excellent Full-Body Workout From a Household Chair

Brooklyn-based trainer Michelle Sholtis designed us a seven-move, half-hour burner

June 12, 2020 10:21 am
How to Get an Excellent Full-Body Workout From a Household Chair
Hugo Alfredo Aguilar Jr./Unsplash

Welcome to The Workout From Home Diaries. Throughout our national self-isolation period, we’ll be sharing single-exercise deep dives, offbeat belly-busters and general get-off-the-couch inspiration that doesn’t require a visit to your (now-shuttered) local gym.

The New York Times recently reached out to 511 epidemiologists, asking them when they expect to resume a range of activities in their personal lives, from bringing in packages without taking any extra precautions to attending a concert. Many situations received votes for later in the summer (“Vacation overnight within driving distance”), while some even received votes for never again (“Hug or shake hands when greeting a friend”). There was one activity in particular, though, that the world’s premier scientists couldn’t agree on: “Exercise at a gym or fitness studio.”

The hypothetical had a split vote — 42% said in three months to a year, 40% said over a year from now — and highlighted just how uncertain the world now is about the resumption of sweating and showering in public.

Despite hesitations from the experts, gyms have plowed right ahead with reopenings for weeks. Like most post-lockdown procedures, the approach is ad hoc and predictably provincial, but generally, reopening has meant temperatures taken at the door, six-foot social distancing, face-mask encouragement (if not enforcement) and copious wiping of machines and mat areas.

Gyms are doing the best they can, but it’s an imperfect system. And it will probably be this way for a while. Which means, for many of us, home workouts will continue to be a companion in 2020. As horrible as that may sound, your regimen — while perhaps at a plateau — isn’t beyond saving. Sure, it’s tough to get back that early-quarantine, fitness-app-subscribing energy. But you also don’t have to. One perfect way to shake up your fitness, and foster long-term wellness wilderness survival skills along the way, is actually pretty simple: learn how to work out with a common, household chair.

To that end, we recently caught up with Brooklyn-based trainer and fitness manager at EXOS, Michelle Sholtis, who designed us a completely custom full-body burner that requires just one piece of equipment: a dining-room chair. The workout is seven moves total, includes lunges, tucks and dips, hits muscles from the glutes up to the triceps, and will take you less than half an hour to complete. Ideally, you’ll want one without a cushion on its seat or arms on the side. A straightforward wooden one is best, but anything sturdy enough to take some weight that doesn’t have wheels attached to it will work.

Below, find the workout video from Sholtis, detailing the entire regimen, with helpful labels and commentary throughout. We’ve also included a transcript of the workout for reference, in case you want to go rogue. Have fun, work hard and remember: normalcy will be back soon enough. For now, just master the chair.

The Workout

1. Bridge position press
Lying on your back, place your feet on the seat of the chair and flex them towards the sky. Squeeze your glutes, engage the core and thrust your lower half up, pushing the feet forward. Make sure your low back isn’t overarching. Do 10 reps.

2. Decline plank with toe taps
Stretch out into a down-facing plank position with your feet balanced on the chair behind you. Slowly bring one foot to the floor. Then rotate to the other. Make sure the belly button is lifted up away from the floor, and that you don’t rock side to side. Do 10 taps for each side, 20 total.

3. Raised lateral lunge
With the chair at your side, place one leg up on the seat. Stretch out that leg. The other leg should be straight, and directly underneath the hip. Hinge down through the hips and press back up, activating the glutes, hamstrings and thighs. Do 5 reps for each side, 10 total.

4. Bulgarian split squats
Start with the chair behind you. Plant one foot in front, aligned directly under your shoulders, and place the other on the chair. Lower yourself down, then press straight back up. This will hit the quads, the hamstrings and engage the core, all while fine-tuning your balance. Do 5 reps for each side, 10 total.

5. Tricep dips
Set yourself up in front of the chair with your hands gripping the edge. Roll your shoulders back, pitching your chest straight above your hips and lower yourself down. Then press back up. Hold at the top to best engage the triceps. Try to keep the spine long. Do 10 reps.

6. Reverse plank with knee tuck
Start by sitting on your chair. Grip the sides and stretch your legs out until you’re in a reverse plank position. Feet should be hip-width apart. Pull the knees into the chest, one by one. Do 10 reps for each side, 20 total.

7. Reverse to lateral leg lifts
Push your chair against a wall, with the seat facing it. Hold onto the top of the chair. Plant through one leg and then flex the opposite one and point it back, then back to center, then out to the side, then back to center. Keep the foot flexed and the spine neutral. Do 5 reps for each side, 10 total.

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