If you’ve been looking for ways to develop a strong back and core, I recommend using the Roman chair part of your fitness routine.

Many people suffer from pain in their lower back due to a weak core and back.

This doesn't have to be you as I'm sharing the best Roman chair exercises and how to perform each movement to give you the most bang for your buck.  

The Roman chair, also called the Hyperextension machine, is a multifunctional piece of equipment that is found in most gyms.

It is used to strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, back and spinal erector muscles, using your own body weight, or added resistance which I cover in this article. 

Let's dive straight into my top 8 Roman chair exercises you can try at your next workout.

1. Side Bends 

man doing roman chair Side Bend exercise

One of the most popular exercises to perform on the Roman chair is a side bend. This exercise primarily targets your obliques (located on the sides of your abdominals). Performing this exercise helps you achieve the coveted V-cut abs. 

The benefits of this exercise are more than aesthetic. Having stronger obliques will help to improve your other lifts, such as deadlifts and squats. Your obliques help stabilize your body throughout major lifts, so it’s incredibly beneficial to strengthen the muscle group.

You can also add resistance to this exercise if you need to increase the difficulty. You can use any type of resistance for the weight, such as a dumbbell or kettlebell, weighted plate, or even a resistance band.  


  • Provides more range of motion for the obliques.
  • Strengthens and stabalizes muscles around your core and lower back.
  • Improves performance for sports and compound lifts.

How to do it: 

  1. Lie on your side and secure your feet to the Roman chair’s leg supports. If you are using a weight or band pick it up using your outside hand.
  2. Place your inside hand on your ribs or head, and straighten your back.
  3. Keep your body straight and tilt towards the floor from your hip joint.
  4. Focus on your obliques and pull yourself back to the starting position.
  5. Finish your set and swap sides.

Tips From A Trainer!

I often see people perform this exercise with poor form, they allow their torso to lean forwards. Make sure you keep your upper body facing straight ahead of you, don't twist to the side as you bend and you'll see the most improvements from this exercise.  

Related Article - Plyo Box Workout

2. Back Extensions 

woman doing back extensions on a roman chair

The Roman chair back extension is one of my favorite exercises for strengthening your lower back and glutes. During the movement, you work your posterior chain through an extensive range of motion, stimulating the muscle fibers at all stages [1].  

I use this movement to teach beginners and help them develop the hip hinge motion needed for other exercises like the deadlift. 

You can progress this exercise using additional weight to help you increase the muscle stimulus, increasing the amount of work done and promoting muscle growth. 


  • Builds strength in several muscle groups, primarily through the whole of the posterior chain (back of the body).
  • Great for those with weak glutes and hamstrings.
  • Very accessible for beginners and those with injuries. It's a great low impact exercise to get your back strong.

How to do it: 

  1. Adjust the Roman chair pad, so it sits at hip height. 
  2. Lie on the Roman chair (on your front) and hook your feet under the supports.
  3. Place both hands behind your neck or crossed over your chest.
  4. Lower your body slowly towards the floor.
  5. Lift your torso back to the start.
  6. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

You want to make sure you're not overextending at the end position of this exercise. You want to stop when your upper body is in line with your lower body in a 45 degree angle. You can compromise positioning and put too much pressure on your lower back.

3. Twisting Hyperextension

Man Doing Twisting Hyperextension

The twisting variation on the back extension machine is fantastic for targeting your obliques and working your spinal erectors. 

Both are important for strengthening the whole trunk (core). I recommend becoming comfortable with the back extension exercise before trying the twisting variation. Proper technique is vital during this exercise as you do not want to hyperextend or twist too far, causing injury. 


  • Increases flexibility in the lower back and hips.
  • Strengthens the spinal erectors which supports the spine and stabalizes the core.
  • Helps reduce back pain and improve posture.

How to do it: 

  1. Adjust the Roman chair pad, so it sits at hip height. 
  2. Lie on the Roman chair (on your front) and hook your feet under the supports.
  3. Place both hands behind your neck or crossed over your chest.
  4. Raise your upper body back while simultaneously rotating your chest and shoulders to the side.
  5. Pause for a second at this rotated torso position and squeeze.
  6. Lower yourself with control to the starting position.
  7. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't allow your torso to twist more than is comfortable for you, do not hyperextend your back too far. This could cause injury or discomfort.

4. Isometric Glute Hold 

Man Doing Isometric Glute Hold On A Roman Chair

The isometric glute hold is a challenging exercise that maximizes the amount of work the glutes need to perform.  This is one of the best Roman chair glute exercises around and a favorite of mine.

Usually, I'd recommend performing this exercise using the GHD (glute ham developer) as it places your body in a horizontal position, making it more challenging.

However, the Roman chair is a brilliant variation of the movement, which is slightly easier to perform due to the 45-degree angle.  


  • Strengthens the muscle in its contracted position.
  • Can be easily progressed by holding weight.
  • Works the core and build back strength.

How to do it: 

  1. Lie (face down) on the Roman chair and tuck your feet under the supports. 
  2. Hold your body straight, and squeeze the glutes tightly.
  3. Hold the position for 10 seconds, and relax.
  4. Repeat several times.

Tips From A Trainer!

I recommend trying this exercise to the end of your glute workout; it’s a fantastic finisher, your glute will be on fire!

Related Article - 5 Day Split Dumbbell Workout

5. Incline Push Ups

Man Doing Incline Push Ups On Roman Chair

The Roman Chair push-up is ideal for building push up strength and they target your chest, arms and shoulders.

The incline push up can be done on any box or bench but the Roman chair provides a good height to get your body to a 45 degree angle. 


  • Ideal for beginners who cannot yet do a full push up on the floor.
  • Increases upper body pushing strength. 
  • Targets several muscle groups and promotes full body awareness

How to do it: 

  1. Start standing in front of the Roman Chair and grab the handlebars. 
  2. Incline your body in a straight line and engage your core and glutes.
  3. Bend your elbows back, keeping your arms close to your body and with control lower your chest to the pads on the chair.
  4. Keep your body in a nice straight line with your core engaged and push yourself back to the starting position until your elbows are locked.
  5. Repeat for desired reps. 

Tips From A Trainer!

When performing any push-up variation, form is important. Don't allow your back to sag towards the floor at any time. Keep your core engaged and glutes switched on.

6. Roman Chair Twist 

Man Doing Roman Chair Twists

The Roman chair twist is one of the tougher Roman chair oblique exercises. If you’re a beginner, you might want to try this movement using bodyweight before you attempt adding weight.  

While the movement works your obliques, it trains your abdominals and lower back, helping you achieve a beach-ready six-pack.  

The movement is similar to the Russian twist, except you’re sitting on an angled Roman chair. The chair’s angle gives you the perfect amount of support that your body needs, allowing you to twist through a full range of motion.  


  • Increases the range of motion, improving strength through the core.
  • Stabilizes lower back muscles. 
  • Improves both strength and aesthetics. 

How to do it: 

  1. Hold a weighted plate. 
  2. Sit on the Roman chair support pad and hook your feet under the foot supports.
  3. Lean backwards until your body is roughly 60-degrees to the ground.
  4. Maintain a straight back.
  5. Lift the plate out in front of you with straight arms.
  6. Twist your body to both sides using a controlled movement; that’s one rep.
  7. Complete your set and rest.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don’t rotate your body too quickly; the last thing you want is momentum taking over. This will reduce the work your core is doing and you won't see as good results.

7. Roman Chair Sit-Ups 

Man Doing Roman Chair Sit-Up Exercise At The Gym

Roman chair sit-ups is a harder version of the floor sit-up, primarily due to the angle your body is at and the increased force placed on the abs as you fight against gravity. 

It’s one of the best Roman chair ab exercises around in my option, but is best suited for more advanced gym-goers looking to take their abs to the next level.  

Roman chair sit-ups can be performed with or without additional weight. As with several of the other exercises on this list, I'd recommend that you master the bodyweight Roman chair sit-ups before adding any extra weight.  


  • Increased range of motion compared to sit ups on the floor, creating more work for the abdominals.
  • Creates six pack abs, and a defined core.
  • Helps create a stronger back and reduce pain.

How to do it: 

  1. Sit on the Roman chair support pad and hook your feet into the roller pads. 
  2. Place your hands on your temple.
  3. Lower your body towards the floor (stopping just below parallel).
  4. Lift your torso back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

For my more advanced readers, if you want to increase the difficulty of this exercise, try adding a pause midway through each rep. Your abs will notice the difference and you can thank me later! 

8. Reverse Hyperextension

Man Performing Reverse Hyperextensions

If you're looking for an exercise that isolates your lower back, glutes and hamstrings then look no further than the reverse hyperextension. This is a fantastic exercise for bulletproofing your posterior chain. 

The reverse hyperextension was invented to strengthen after a lower back injury. This exercise is perfect for building strength in the glutes and hamstrings whilst improving lower back strength and stability.


  • Reduces lower back pain and improves strength.
  • Improves knee and ankle health by improving glute strength and mobility. 
  • Increases muscle mass due to the large range of motion.

How to do it: 

  1. Lie facedown on the hyperextension machine, or Roman chair with your legs hanging off the edge and your hands holding the machine for support.
  2. With straight legs and your core engaged, use your hips and hamstrings to raise you legs behind you and above the hips. You should feel the muscles in your glutes and hamstrings engage.
  3. Hold the hyperextended position for a second then with control lower your legs back to the start position.
  4. Lift your torso back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Avoid swinging or using momentum, as this can strain your lower back. Keep your core engaged and squeeze your glutes at the top to maximize the effectiveness of the exercise.

5 safety tips for using a roman chair

As with using any piece of equipment in the gym, it is essential to follow proper safety measures and to use the equipment with good form to reduce the chance of injury.

Here are my top safety times when using the roman chair:


Before exercising, it's crucial you warm up your muscles and joints and bring your core temperature up. Start with 5-10 minutes of light cardio and some dynamic stretches to prepare you for your workout. 

Proper Form

Maintaining proper form throughout the exercise to avoid straining your back or any other sort of injury. Your back should stay neutral during the movement with your core engaged.

Don't Overextend

A big focus when using Roman chairs is to avoid excessive hyperextending your lower back. Going beyond your range could place too much stress on your lower back, putting you at risk of injury. Control the movement and avoid coming up too high.

Avoid Jerky Movements

When using the Roman chair, the exercise should be done with control and in a smooth manner.  Avoid using momentum or jerking to lift your torso. Instead, think about slow controlled movements and engaging the target muscles. 

Start Slowly & Progress Gradually

If you're new to the Roman chair, start with low intensity and increase as you build more strength and stability. I would recommend always starting with just your bodyweight first. Then you can gradually increase the intensity, resistance or duration of the exercise. Doing too much too quickly can put yourself at risk of injury. 

Benefits Of Roman Chair Workouts

The Roman chair is a fantastic piece of equipment to have in your home gym. It works your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and abs, giving you an almost full-body workout.  

They are useful for building muscle as they don’t require any additional weight, making them suitable for all ability levels. I love using the Roman chair because it helps strengthen my posterior chain, and I always say, "a strong posterior chain is a strong body."  

By working your posterior chain muscles (such as your glutes), you are helping your body keep injuries at bay.

Having strong glutes is one of the best ways to avoid back problems as you age; plus, the majority of the public have office jobs, so the glutes tend to switch off due to sitting all day; working them re-activates them [2]. 

The Roman chair is suitable for most gym-goers. As I mentioned before, it doesn’t need any additional weight, as body weight can give you an excellent workout on this machine.  

If you’ve suffered from back pain, the Roman chair could be an excellent low impact exercise to re-strengthen your back. Unlike other complex movements, e.g., the deadlift, the Roman chair is a far simpler movement with a reduced risk of injury.

My clients have had great success using this machine during back rehabilitation; however, always consult your physician before introducing the Roman chair to your workout. 

Most individuals who introduce the Roman chair to their workouts find that it boosts sports performance, increases back mobility, fixes postural problems, and improves balance.  

There are other non-conventional ways to use the Roman chair, such as performing preacher curls using the support pads to support your arms or using the handles for tricep dips. Considering it’s not a large piece of equipment, it allows you to work many different muscle groups.  

Frequently Asked Roman Chair Questions

How often should you exercise on a Roman Chair? 

Like any muscle group, your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and core needs adequate recovery time. Using the Roman chair 2-3 times a week should be enough to achieve your training goals. It’s worth remembering that doing more of something isn’t always a good thing. My clients get fantastic results from using the Roman chair once or twice a week. Try it out and see how your body reacts. 

What’s the difference between a GHD and Roman chair? 

The Glute Ham Developer and the Roman chair are excellent for developing your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and core muscles. However, even though the machines target similar areas, there is a slight difference. The GHD places your body in a horizontal position, changing the way gravity acts upon your body, while the Roman chair is traditionally at 45-degrees. The Roman chair is usually the easier of the two machines.  

How do you do Roman chair sit-ups at home? 

To work your core at home, there is a wide range of exercises you could perform. If you don’t have a Roman chair, you can perform exercises such as the crunch, reverse crunch, Russian twist, bicycle crunch, V sit, and even the hanging leg raise. There are many core exercise options out there, so regardless of your ability levels, there will be exercises available for you. 

Can you do dips on a Roman chair? 

If your Roman chair has handles on the front of the machine, the likelihood is you'll be able to perform dips on it. However, always be sure to check your Roman chair's handles can support your weight before you start performing your set. In most cases, the handles are excellent for performing dips. 


The Roman chair is a fantastic piece of gym equipment that makes an excellent addition to any home gym. There are many exercises you can perform, working your entire body in the process.  

The list above gives you the best Roman chair exercises, giving you everything you need to develop stronger back and impressive core strength.  

Try adding several of the exercises to your workout routine and watch your other lifts improve as your back and core become stronger. 




Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website