Roman Chair Sit Ups: The Ultimate Guide

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roman chair sit ups

The Roman chair sit up is a challenging core exercise that requires existing strong abs to perform correctly. Hence, it is not recommended for beginners since poor execution may lead to injury.

Compared to regular sit ups on the bench or floor, it is much harder since you have to control the motion when you lower your upper body. Plus, there is no support for you back.

Roman chair sit up benefits

  • Because you can go deeper, you get a lengthier range of motion. Your abdominal muscles get more extended stretching and have to work much harder to pull your upper body up. This leads to more efficient strength and muscle growth.
  • Also, many secondary stabilizer muscles are activated of your core to keep the balance of your body and complete the movement such as the oblique, lower back, etc.
  • It strengthens all your core muscles at once, which is leads to a more defined midsection and better performance in any sports.
  • Effective move for building six-pack abs.

It is particularly beneficial for those athletes who have been doing strength training and muscle building for some years, and want to add an extra boost to their abs. This Roman chair exercise is excellent for getting progressive overload. In this case, you switch to a new advanced training so that the muscles have to adopt. Hence, they start growing again.

Any cons?

It is only for people with strong core since the execution is hard and requires control. Moreover, it puts stress on the back and spine. So, be very careful.

How to do it?

You can do it on a Roman chair or on the glute-ham developer machine. The GHD machine is maybe more comfortable since the seat is not flat but curved. This way, it does not hurt your buttock as much. But, the result is the same.

  1. Before mounting on the bench set the leg rollers to your height. The distance between the seat and the rollers should be as long when you get on the equipment your buttocks are on the pad, but your hip/lower back is not. Hence, you can lower your torso without pressing your back.
  2. Once you get on the chair, fix your feet between the leg holders. This is really important. Otherwise, your feet may slip out.
  3. Start with a sitting position with a straight back. You can put your hands on your chest or behind your neck. The former is a bit harder.
  4. Now lower your torso towards the floor slowly and in a controlled way. Do not go too deep. A bit under the horizontal will do.
  5. Stop at the bottom for a moment. With the power of your abs, without the momentum and strength of your quads, pull your upper body up. Do not lean forward too much go until you feel your abs are engaged.
  6. Repeat


  • Do not go too deep because that puts too much stress on your lower back and spine.
  • Do the exercise in a controlled way. Do not rush, proper form is vital for safe training.
  • Do not use weight too soon for additional resistance. If you can at least 30 proper reps, you can add a few pounds. But be very careful.
  • If you have any lower back pain or chronic issues with your back, do not do it at all!


Instead of doing full sit ups, you can try the Roman chair crunch, which is a more isolation exercise. The length of the motion is shorter but great for pumping your abs.

Another variation is when you turn your torso when you sit up. This way, you can target your external oblique better that are responsible for developed V-cut abs. Check out the Roman chair twist tutorial here.

Sit ups without a chair.

If for some reasons you cannot use a chair or a GHD machine, you can use the weight bench instead. Although it is not as comfortable.

You need to place a barbell next to the bench. That will be your leg support. Sit on the bench, put your feet under the bar. Straighten your back and lower your torso the same way as if you were doing the original exercise.

Here is the video tutorial.


Are roman chair sit ups safe?

As I mentioned before it is an advanced exercise, so beginners should forget it. And, people having back issues should not do it at all. Also, proper form is vital. Control the motion, execute it slowly, and control the movement. Everything will be fine.

If you want to learn more about how to use the back extension machine effectively, check out this guide on the exercises, and learn more about the benefits of this fitness equipment here.

To sum up

This exercise has quite a negative reputation, but it a powerful one to boost the power of your core. Just stick to the tips above, and everything will be alright. If you feel your old ab workout routine does not work anymore, include Roman chair sit ups in it, and you will feel its effectiveness.

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