I did 50 Captain's chair crunches a day for a week — here's what happened to my abs

a photo of a woman doing the captains chair crunch
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Captain’s Chair is that odd-looking contraption you might have seen in the gym, with two metal legs and either a padded or a Bosu ball back. It sits on the gym floor and is one of the best pieces of equipment when it comes to working your core. Don’t believe me? Here are 5 Captain’s Chair exercises to try for rock-solid abs.

To find out more, I decided to do 50 Captain’s Chair crunches a day for seven days. My gym has a Captain’s Chair which I regularly use, but I tend to just use it on ad-hoc occasions. Or, when it’s free — I’ve never used it every single day before. 

Captain’s Chair crunches work pretty much all the muscles that make up the mid-section, however, research by the American Council of Exercise has found that the Captain’s Chair crunch is one of the best exercises to work the obliques and the outer ‘six-pack’ muscles — the rectus abdominis. 

How to do a Captain’s Chair crunch? 

Here’s how to do the Captain’s Chair crunch with perfect form:

an illo of a man doing the Captains Chair crunch

(Image credit: Shutterstock)
  • Get into the chair, standing with your back against the backrest, and forearms on the armrests.
  • Grip the handles, keep your forearms pressed into the armrest, and let your legs hang down straight.
  • Keeping legs close together, tuck the knees up into the chest, pause, then slowly lower the legs back down.
  • Make sure throughout the exercise you keep your back pressed into the backrest and try to keep your gaze forward.

I did 50 Captain’s Chair crunches for a week — here’s what happened 

My obliques worked hard

As I mentioned, there’s research to suggest that the Captain’s Chair crunch is great for the obliques — the muscles that run down the sides of our core. I won’t lie, from day one I felt this move pretty intensely in my obliques, but also in my outer ab muscles. If you want an exercise that’ll really work your core, this is one to try.   

It’s a huge burden on your arms

This is an arm workout too, as you press down into the armrest to hold the weight of your body. I wasn’t expecting the burn to be quite as intense in my arms, but 50 reps really switched my upper body muscles on. 

It’s a great beginner alternative to leg raises

When you do leg raises on the Captain’s Chair you keep your legs straight out in front of you as you slowly lift them up and down. These are pretty brutal, and for many, quite challenging. Captain’s Chair crunches offer a nice alternative for those who are new to the equipment. They’ll help you work on your core strength, and progress to leg raises as you get stronger. 

That said, if you are more advanced, you might want to skip straight to the straight leg variation of this move. These Captain’s Chair crunches definitely still offer a good workout for all levels, but if you are more advanced, it’s best to add these crunches into a workout with other exercises such as hanging leg raises, Russian twists, and perhaps some moves on the TRX.

My abs didn’t change

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — it takes a lot more than crunches, to see noticeable differences in your ab muscles. If visible abs are your goal, you’ll need to focus on your overall body fat percentage — here’s how to calculate your body fat percentage, and why it matters. That said, after a week in the chair, my abs definitely felt stronger. This may have been because I don’t usually do ab workouts every day, but this exercise definitely helped me work my abdominal muscles.

My verdict

I was amazed by how much these torched my core muscles. The beauty of these crunches is that they’re suitable for everyone. They aren’t painfully difficult, so beginners can try them, but they also do offer some serious burn for those who are more advanced. Throw these Captain’s Chair crunches into a workout alongside other exercises and you’ve got yourself a spicy core session that will help to tone and strengthen. 

More from Tom's Guide

Lucy Gornall

Lucy is a freelance health and fitness journalist as well as a pre and post-natal personal trainer. Although a sweaty gym session (skipping rope is a must) is her favorite way to ‘relax’, she’s also a fan of bingeing on The Office, snacking on chocolate-coated raisins, and fizz-filled brunches with friends.