The Captain’s Chair: A Forgotten Gem in Abdominal Workouts
Mention the captain’s chair to most gymgoers, and they probably won’t know what you’re talking about. Yet their gym has probably got at least one of them. Also known as the vertical knee raise or VKR machine, it’s the equipment you do knee raises and straight leg raises on. Back in the bodybuilding heyday of the ’70s and ’80s, the captain’s chair was a mainstay in most ab and oblique workouts. In modern times, however, its popularity has dwindled. That’s a shame because this machine allows you to do some effective midsection exercises. I think it’s time to bring the captain’s chair back into the mainstream.
What is the Captain’s Chair?
The captain’s chair has a vertical frame with padded armrests and a back support. Home-use versions of the captain’s chair are often incorporated into a ‘power tower’ device, which includes a pull-up bar and push-up handles. Movements done on the captain’s chair involve suspending your body above the floor, with your elbows resting on the arm pads. Movement is primarily performed through hip extension to raise the legs or a crunching movement to work the abdominals. The captain’s chair’s target muscle groups are the abdominals, obliques, intercostals, and hip flexors.
Captain’s Chair Exercises For a Ripped Midsection
Here are the best captain’s chair exercises for different muscle groups:
Exercises for the Rectus Abdominis
The rectus abdominis is a flat sheath of muscle in the front part of the stomach. Most of us want to develop and define this muscle to reveal our six-pack. It runs vertically from the pubic bone to the ribs. Its tendinous junctions separate it into segments. These sections are what give the six-pack appearance. The function of the rectus abdominis is to draw the upper and lower bodies toward each other by contracting. Better posture, balance, and total spinal stability are all influenced by a strong rectus abdominis. This stability is vital for everyday movements and activities as well as more challenging exercises. By helping preserve spinal alignment, a strong rectus abdominis can support the spine. This can lessen the strain on the lower back and reduce the risk of accidents brought on by bad posture.
Here are the two best captain’s chair exercises for the rectus abdominis:
Start by standing on the footrests of the captain’s chair, leaning your back against the backrest, and resting your arms on the armrests. Support yourself on your forearms and allow your legs to hang freely beneath you. Pull your belly button towards your spine to maintain a strong core. Maintain this level of contraction throughout the workout. This will be your starting position. Draw your knees up to your chest, aiming to reach waist level. In the top position, forcefully contract your abs. Do not swing your hips. Breathe in as you bring your knees up. Lower your legs under control to the start position. Exhale as you lower your legs.
2. Captain’s Chair Leg Raise
Stand on the footrests, leaning your back against the backrest and resting your arms on the armrests. Lift off the footrests by pushing your shoulders down. Your body should be in a straight line at the starting position. Without bending your legs, pivot from the hips to bring your straight legs up, aiming to reach waist level. In the top position, contract your abs. Do not swing your hips. Breathe in as you bring your knees up. Lower your legs under control to the start position. Exhale as you lower your legs.
Exercises for Obliques
The oblique muscles are on the sides of the waist. They assist with core stability and trunk rotations and improve total functional fitness. The obliques are divided into external and internal groups. The external obliques run diagonally from the lower ribs to the pelvis. They are responsible for twisting, rotation, and side-bending actions. The internal obliques are located under the external obliques and run diagonally in the opposite direction. They work with the external obliques to support rotational movements and stabilize the core.
3. Captain’s Chair Side Knee Raise
Take your position on the captain’s chair. Bend your legs and pivot from the hips to bring your knees up to the right side of your body. Think about bringing your legs up toward your elbow. Lower your legs back to the start position. Exhale as you lower your legs. On the next rep, bring your legs up on the left side.
4. Captain’s Chair Oblique Twist
Get into position on the captain’s chair. Draw your knees up to the right side of your body. Think about bringing your knees up toward your elbow. As your knees reach their highest point, initiate the twist by engaging your oblique muscles. Rotate your hips and legs to the opposite side, bringing your knees up towards your opposite elbow. Pause to feel a deep contraction in the obliques where your knees are closest to the opposite knee. Lower under control, exhaling on the way down. Alternate sides between reps.
Isometric hold exercises involve holding a static position for an extended period. This type of exercise can strengthen the working muscle in its shortened position. Combining isometric and dynamic midsection exercises will ensure complete development.
5. Captain’s Chair L-Sit
Assume the starting position on the captain’s chair. Without bending your legs, pivot from the hips to bring your straight legs up, aiming to reach waist level. Your body should resemble an ‘L’ in this position. Hold this position and contract your abs. Start with five-second holds and gradually increase to 20 seconds. Hold your breath during the isometric hold. Lower under control. Breathe out during the descent.
6. Captain’s Chair Knee Hold Crunch
Take your position on the captain’s chair. Draw your knees up toward your chest. At the same time that you draw your knees up, curl your trunk forward to bring your chest down toward your knees. Hold the contracted position for three seconds. Lower under control.
Dynamic Movements for a Strong Core
Dynamic movements are essential for developing a strong core. They involve moving through a range of motion, engaging multiple muscles simultaneously. Here are two dynamic captain’s chair exercises to add to your core routine:
7. Captain’s Chair Bicycle Crunch
Sit on the captain’s chair with your back against the backrest and your arms on the armrests. Lift your legs off the footrests and bring your knees up towards your chest. From this starting position, begin pedaling your legs as if you were riding a bicycle. As you pedal, twist your torso and touch your elbow to the opposite knee. Keep your core engaged throughout the exercise. Continue pedaling for your desired number of repetitions.
8. Captain’s Chair Russian Twist
Sit on the captain’s chair with your back against the backrest and your arms on the armrests. Lift your legs off the footrests and bring your knees up towards your chest. From this starting position, twist your torso to one side, bringing your elbow towards the outside of the opposite knee. Return to the starting position and twist to the other side, bringing your elbow towards the outside of the opposite knee. Keep your core engaged and maintain a controlled pace throughout the exercise.
The captain’s chair is a versatile piece of equipment that can help you achieve a strong and ripped midsection. By incorporating these exercises into your routine, you can target your rectus abdominis, obliques, and other core muscles effectively. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gym-goer, the captain’s chair can provide a challenging workout that yields impressive results. So, next time you see that mysterious piece of equipment in your gym, don’t overlook it. Give the captain’s chair a try and rediscover its benefits for yourself.