Here’s an often overlooked strength-training secret: Some movements provide a lot more bang for your buck when you do them seated versus standing. Here are five to try.
To properly target your upper-back muscles during a row, you want your shoulder blades to move toward each other. When you do a cable-row standing, it opens up the potential for overarching the lower back, causing the spine to misalign and taking the emphasis off the target muscles. Do those rows sitting down, however, and the spine remains fixed in a more neutral position — this allows you to really zero in on the upper back.
Doing seated curls has a twofold benefit: First, it forces you to use dumbbells, since holding a bar in this position is impossible — that makes for more isolation and more time spent under tension if you alternate arms. Second, it limits any cheat tactics that doing the lift standing can employ (especially leaning or swinging the weights). You may notice that a pair of 30-pound dumbbells feels even heavier than an 80-pound bar as you make your way through your reps.
Chest Press / Cable Chest Press
The key to great isolation in any chest movement is to have the shoulders set in the right position. But standing in a cable machine set up to do your presses gives the shoulders a bit too much freedom of mobility while bearing load, which can lead to rotator cuff discomfort. When you sit at a chest press machine, or set a bench between the chest-press cables to sit on, you can now use the backrest to pin your shoulder blades together and back as you go through the lift. You’ll instantly notice an increase in pec stimulation, and a shift away from shoulder stress.
Dumbbell Overhead Press
Sit down for this move, and you’ll find a game-changer: there’s no way you can sneak in help from your legs to get the weight overhead, which means you’re relying entirely on shoulder strength and the stability from the muscles in your trunk to bang out reps. Because of this, the move feels vastly different than a typical dumbbell shoulder press. See how it's done here.
Overhead Triceps Extensions
Standing at a cable rack with a staggered stance and a pair of ropes and awkwardly fumbling for positioning in the overhead triceps extension is an ongoing source of frustration for many lifters. One of the biggest problems? You want your elbows as far above your head as possible to really engage the triceps, but while standing up, many immobile lifters allow their elbows to fall forward (if you were looking from the side, you’d see the upper arm hide their face. The result is a haphazard lift that barely hits the triceps at all. Worse, increasing the load while in this position usually results in your body contorting to get through reps, and that takes the focus even further away from the triceps.
A seated French press will help eliminate those problems, and allow you to zero in on the back of the arms. Check it out here.