Seated Upper Body Workout

Whether you have a lower-body injury or you just need to exercise from a seated position, this upper body workout has it all. You'll target all the major muscles in the upper body including the chest, back, shoulders, and arms, as well as the core. 

The variety of moves will keep your body guessing all while building strength and endurance in the upper body. If you find any exercise doesn't work for you, feel free to modify it, substitute something else, or skip it. 

See your doctor before trying this workout if you have any injuries, illnesses, or other conditions that may cause a problem with exercise.

How To

You will need a chair, a resistance band (medium or light tension), a medicine ball (2 to 8 pounds, depending on your fitness level), and various weighted dumbbells. If you don't have a medicine ball, feel free to substitute a dumbbell.

Sit up very tall for each exercise, using your abs to maintain good posture. If you're not familiar with strength training, practice the moves without weight or with very lightweight to get your form down. Do this workout two or three days a week, taking at least one day of rest between workouts. 

  • Beginners: Perform each exercise for one set of the suggested reps, choosing a weight that is challenging but allows you to keep good form. 
  • Intermediate or advanced exercisers: Perform two or three circuits of the exercises, one after the other, resting as needed.

Warm Up: Seated Punches

Warm up by jabbing forward, alternating the right and left arms. When jabbing, snap the arm forward as fast as you can without locking the elbow or fully extending the joint. 

Pull the arm back in as quickly as you can, keeping the other arm up and guarding the face. Then jab with the other arm.

  • Front jabs: 20 reps
  • High jabs: Take your punches up toward the ceiling, alternating sides for 20 reps
  • Front and high jabs: Punch forward, alternating right and left, then punch high, alternating right and left. Repeat, going forward and then up for 20 reps.

Shoulder Retraction

Sit tall with the abs engaged and push the arms straight out in front of you without locking the joints. Bend the elbows and pull them back, squeezing the shoulder blades together.

Bring the elbows just slightly behind the torso. Continue pushing forward and pulling back for 2 sets of 20 reps.

Resistance bands can be an effective way to add intensity to your seated upper body workout.


Medicine Ball Exchange

Sit tall with abs engaged and hold a medicine ball in the right hand, down at your side. Circle the arm up and overhead, taking the ball with the other hand and lowering it down to the left side. 

Continue circling the ball overhead, alternating arms. For more intensity, go faster or add a toss at the top of the movement. Do 16 reps.


Chest Squeeze With Med Ball

Sit tall and hold a medicine ball at chest level. Squeeze the ball with the palms of your hands to contract the chest. While continuing to squeeze the ball, slowly push the ball out in front of you at chest level until the elbows are almost straight.

Continuing the pressure with your hands, bend the elbows and pull the ball back to the chest. Repeat for 16 reps.


Chest Press With Band

Wrap a resistance band around the back of your chair, pulling the band under the armpits and holding the handles in each hand. Sit very tall with the abs engaged and begin the movement with the elbows at 90 degrees and at shoulder level with the palms facing down. 

Squeeze the chest to push the arms straight out in front of you without locking the joints. Bring the arms back to start, keeping the move slow and controlled. If you need more tension, you can wrap the band around your hands. Repeat for 16 reps.


Overhead Press and Alternating Arms

Sit with good posture holding light or medium dumbbells in both hands. Begin with arms bent to 90 degrees, weights next to the ears (arms should look like a goal post).

Press the weights overhead and lower back down, repeating for 8 reps. Next, keep one arm down while the other arm presses overhead. Continue alternating arms for 8 reps (1 rep includes both the right and left arm).


Front Raise With Triceps Extension

Sit tall and hold weights at your sides, palms facing in. Sweep the arms up to shoulder level and hold briefly. Now continue to lift the weights overhead until the arms are next to the ears.

Bend the elbows and lower the weights behind the head to about 90 degrees. Straighten the arms and sweep them back down, repeating for a total of 16 reps.


Lat Pull With Band

While seated with good posture, hold a medium-tension band in both hands up above and slightly in front of your head. The distance between your hands will determine the intensity of the exercise: The closer together your hands are, the harder the exercise will be.

Contract the back and pull the right elbow down towards the ribcage. Release and do 16 reps before switching sides.


Rear Delt Squeeze

Sit tall and hold a resistance band in the middle, arms straight out in front of you, hands a few inches apart. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and pull the band so that the arms move out to the sides like an airplane. Really squeeze the shoulder blades at the end of the motion.

Return to start and repeat, keeping tension on the band the entire time. Repeat for 16 reps.


Triceps Extension With Medicine Ball

Sit with abs engaged, holding a medicine ball in both hands. Keeping the core braced, take the medicine ball straight up overhead, arms next to the ears.

Slowly bend the elbows and lower the ball behind your head until your elbows are at about 90 degrees. Press the ball back up and repeat for 16 reps.


Triceps Extension With Resistance Band

Sit with good posture holding a band out in front of you, elbows bent out to the sides at shoulder level. The palms should face the floor. The closer the hands are together, the harder this exercise will be.

While keeping the left hand in place, straighten the right arm out to the side until it's parallel to the floor, squeezing the back of the arm. Move back to start and do 16 reps before switching arms.     


Seated Ab Rotation

Sit with good posture holding a medicine ball or dumbbell in front of the torso, elbows slightly bent. Keeping the abs contracted, rotate the ball to the right while keeping the hips and legs facing forward.

Contract abs to bring the ball back to center and then to the left. Go slowly and concentrate on rotating only at the torso

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Parkinson N. How to diversify your workouts for maximum fitness. Henry Ford Health System.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."