The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


One fabulous exercise: chair squat to shoulder press

Posted in
Move more

Monday, Oct 17, 2011

Want to get more out of your strength training exercises? Integrate what is called multi-joint exercises into your routine. Exercises like squats, lunges, presses, and rows. These exercises target multiple muscles all in one smooth motion of lifting and lowering of the body or the weights. In contrast, in a single joint exercise like the dumbbell bicep curl, only the elbow joint is moving, thus only one major group of muscles is involved or activated (i.e., the biceps of the upper arm). 

Multi-joint exercises have the following benefits: • Time efficient. • Involve numerous muscle groups often targeting several regions of the body (upper body, lower body, core) all at once. • Stimulates proprioceptors, thus developing balance and stability. • Assist with functional fitness because the exercise mimics basic movements done in daily life like squatting, pulling, pushing, walking, reaching, or bending. • Burn more calories per exercise because more muscles are involved.

Caution before doing this exercise: For any novice or person who has not performed strength exercises in a while, it is suggested that you work on form to just do a correct body squat. Then, work on form to do a correct overhead press. Then you can combine the two movements together. You can always begin with just your body weight against gravity then add resistance with dumbbells, medicine balls, or kettle bells.

Another tip is to make sure your core is strong enough to do a squat (abdominal muscles, hip muscles, and back muscles that support the spine and pelvis). Read this previous blog to learn a great exercise to strengthen your back.


Chair Squat to Shoulder Press

Equipment needed: A stationary bench or chair (no wheels), dumbbells, or soup cans. Major muscles involved: The gluteus maximus (buttocks); the quadriceps (upper, front thigh); the hamstrings (upper, posterior thigh); hip adductor group (inner thigh) to stabilize the pelvis; hip abductor muscles (outer thigh) to stabilize the pelvis; tibialis anterior (front, lower leg ); erector spinae (back spine /core support muscles); abdominal muscles (front spine/core support); clavicular pectoralis major (upper chest); middle deltoid (shoulders); triceps (upper, posterior arm); middle and upper trapezius (upper back and shoulders).


• Stand with legs shoulder width apart approximately 6-8 inches in front of a non moving chair or bench. Knees very slightly bent (not locked out). • Grasp dumbbells with both hands and the palms facing forward. • Bring the elbows up to 90 degrees and the forearms perpendicular to the floor. • The elbows are very slightly forward while shoulder blades are squeezed comfortably (retracted). • Tighten the abdominal muscles and maintain a neutral posture of the spine (natural “S” curve) without arching the back. • Keep the head in alignment with the spine,  looking straight forward.


• While keeping the arms at 90 degrees, lower the hips into a squat position until your glutes (buttocks) touch the chair or bench behind you. • As you lift yourself up out of the squat, keep the core activated (tighten the abdominal muscles), extend the arms and press the weight overhead. Do not lock out the elbows. Do not let the back arch.  • Pause, then lower the dumbbells back to the starting position stopping at 90 degrees. • Repeat all until you have completed 10 to 15 repetitions. Build up to 2-3 sets.

Alternate Depths:

• You may also only squat to a lesser depth of 45 degrees if a 90 degree squat is too difficult. It will still benefit you in all the ways listed above.

Tips: Don’t forget, you may need to go back and strengthen the lower back and abdominals to maintain the chest lifted and back straight so that the spine does not flex forward much at all. Have fun getting stronger with this one fabulous exercise!