Seated exercises can help improve posture and strengthen upper body muscles. (Image via Unsplash/Rohit Reddy)

5 Best Seated Exercises to Target Your Upper Body

While you may associate strength training with standing up, seated exercises are a great way to build strength.

The best part is that you don't have to be an athlete or in shape to reap their benefits. As we'll explain below, the value of seated workouts is that they add stability, which enables you to focus on isolated movement patterns or joint-specific work without worrying about balance.


While seated exercises won't build muscle as effectively as regular workouts, they're a great way to keep fit and engage muscles while recovering from an injury. The following exercises are a good way to create your own routine.

Easy Seated Exercises for Upper Body


The following five seated exercises target the shoulders, biceps, triceps, chest and back for strength, mobility and muscle gain. To get a good workout, you can use resistance bands, dumbbells, yoga block (or other small, light objects). Let's get started:

1) Seated Knee Pull


Knee pull is a great seated exercise for engaging the core and the muscles of the lower body. It's easy on the back, so it's a good exercise to do before bedtime. The seated knee pull targets the hamstrings and glutes and helps increase flexibility in the hips.

How to do the seated knee pull:

  • Sitting on the edge of a chair, straighten the back, and keep your chest proud.
  • Grab your left knee with both hands, interlacing your fingers.
  • Try bringing your left knee up towards your chest, keeping your back straight and shoulders relaxed.
  • Hold this position for a second before dropping back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat with equal reps on both sides.

2) Seated Russian Twist

You can do a Russian twist while sitting down — it's just as effective. This seated exercise works the abdominal muscles, core, and erector spinae. Moreover, you control how difficult it is by angling your body and by using a weighted ball.

How to do the seated Russian twist:

  • Sitting up straight, cross your legs, and keep your chin tucked.
  • If you don't have a weight, simply angle your elbows slightly, and interlock your fingers.
  • Lifting to a comfortable height, engage the core while pulling in your navel, and slowly twist to your right.
  • Hold for a second, inhale, and twist to the left. Repeat on each side, and complete 30 reps total.

3) Seated Chest Press

The chest press is an excellent seated exercise for strengthening the upper body and working the pecs, biceps, triceps, and traps to some extent. It can be done using resistance bands or dumbbells, but bands are just as effective for engaging these muscles.


How to do this seated exercise:

  • Sit up straight, keeping your spine in a neutral position and chest out.
  • Your feet should be flat on the floor, and knees should make a 90-degree angle with the thighs.
  • Loop a resistance band around the back of a chair, and hold the handles or ends in each hand.
  • Pull the band forward as far as possible, and pull it back toward your chest to complete one rep.

4) Seated Bicep Curl

If you're injured or trying to avoid injury, bicep curls using lightweight dumbbells can be a great seated exercise.

Seated exercises such as bicep curls target the biceps brachii, brachialis, and brachioradialis muscle groups and also strengthen the lats, traps, triceps, delts, and elbow flexion for overall upper body strength.

How to do the seated bicep curl:

  • Sit up straight in your chair, keeping your knees at a 90-degree angle and feet firmly planted on the floor.
  • Hold the dumbbells in front of you with an overhand grip, with the palms facing the body.
  • Engaging the core, pull back on your shoulder blades, and slowly raise the weights to shoulder height.
  • Hold for a second, and return to the starting position.

5) Seated Arnold Press

When starting out with dumbbells, it's best to use light weights and practice good form.

One of the best seated exercises for building strength and definition in the shoulders and chest is the Arnold press. This exercise may be challenging at first, so if you feel any discomfort or pain, stop immediately.

How to do the Arnold seated press:

  • Sitting up straight, face forward, and keep your chin tucked to your chest.
  • Hold the dumbbells at shoulder height, with your palms turned forward.
  • Lift the weights straight up in line with your shoulders, and rotate them so that the palms face forward again.
  • Lower the weights back down to shoulder height, and repeat.

Wrapping Up

If you're doing weight training for the upper body, seated exercises are the best option.

They engage all muscle groups in a safe manner and in a more focused way than lower body ones do. If your injury is not too serious, you should get yourself seated dumbbells and a bench, and follow through with the aforementioned routine to have a balanced upper body without putting too much strain on the knees.

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