power tower workout

14 Power Tower & Captain's Chair Exercises Plus Workouts To Strengthen Upper Body

August 25, 2021

Have you ever completed a bodyweight workout on the Power Tower or Captain's Chair? You may not even know what is a Power Tower or Captain's Chair. If that's the case then you should read on. In this post, we have 14 of the best Power Tower & Captain's Chair exercises with step-by-step instructions and muscles worked. We also have a sample Power Tower workout that can help you sculpt a killer six pack.

What is a power tower

What’s a power tower?

The Power Tower is a piece of gym equipment that you've probably seen in the gym without realizing what the name is. It's comprised of a pull-up bar, dip station, knee raise station (a.k.a Captain's Chair) , and even push-up grips at the base. The basic function of this tool is provide users with a platform to compete a numerous bodyweight exercises that build upper body strength and core strength.

The apparatus is usually comprised of a backrest with forearm rests with vertical grips on the end that create the “Captain’s Chair” portion. The “Power” part of the equipment is made of the horizontal grips at the end of the arm rests to dips plus the a bar to do chin-ups or pull-ups and then at the bottom there are usually push-up handles to do deep ‘Atlas” push-ups. Wrapping up, the Power Tower usually combines three pieces of equipment into one:

  • Pullup Bar
  • Parallel Bars/Dip Station
  • Captain’s Chair/Knee Raise Station/Roman Chair

What's a Captain's Chair?

A Captain's Chair is a tool found in some gyms that looks like a big chair without a seat to sit in. Instead, this piece of gym equipment consists of a backrest and armrests with grips towards the ends. The Captain's Chair is mainly used to do core exercises that work the abs and obliques. It allows users to lift their legs to work the core muscles. Some Captain's Chairs also have parallel grips so that dips can be performed as well.

Power Tower vs Captain's Chair: What's the Difference?

Even though people may mistake these as the same, there is a slight difference. The Power Tower almost always has the pull-up bar and the dip bars but sometimes doesn't include the Captain's Chair function. The Captain's Chair is a tool meant primarily for core exercises as it has a backrest and elbow rests with vertical grips and usually horizontal dips bars. So, in essence you could have a Power Tower without the Captain's Chair or just a Captain's Chair without the pull-up bar.

What is the Power Tower Good for?

If your gym has a complete Power Tower you could do a full body workout using that one piece of equipment. The Power Tower is good for pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, leg raises, knee raises, push-ups and more. You can work your entire body on the Power Tower including back, chest, arms, core and legs (to a lesser degree).

What is a Power Tower Workout?

A Power Tower workout centers around performing bodyweight exercises that can help you to build lean muscle. You can switch up the difficultly level of a Power Tower workout, making it easier or more difficult by using additional equipment such as weight vests, bands or weights. The Power Tower makes it possible to do multiple pulling, pushing and core exercises. Below we provide you with a sample Power Tower Workout and a Captain’s Chair workout if you only want to work on your core.

What does the Captain’s Chair Workout?

The Captain’s Chair is mainly used for core workout where you will be targeting your abs and obliques. The beauty of using the Captain’s Chair for core workout is that you can simulate other difficult ab exercises like hanging leg raises without needing immense grip, shoulder or arm strength. You can isolate your core muscles and do more reps without having to worry about your grip giving out before your abs do.

Is the Captain’s Chair good for abs?

The Captain’s Chair is a great piece of equipment to help you build some solid abs and obliques. A study conducted in 2001 by ACE (American Council on Exercise) measured the effectiveness of 13 exercises through EMG in the internal/external obliques and the rectus abdominus. Some of the exercises and equipment included; Bicycle Crunches, Captain’s Chair knee raises, Exercise Ball crunches, Ab Rollers, Ab Rockers and a few other crunch variations. The results show that the Captain’s Chair knee raise ranked 1st in oblique muscle activation and second in rectus abdominis activation. Captain Chair ab exercises combined with other ab exercises can help you inch closer to that six pack you want.

Benefits of Power Towers

The Power Tower is a versatile piece of equipment that offers numerous benefits if used properly. Let’s take a look at some of the major benefits below.

Full Body Workouts: We will give you an example full body workout that can be done while only using your body and the Power Tower. The only muscle groups that are difficult to work hard on the Power Tower are legs because you’re suspended in air for the most part.  You can perform multiple compound exercises like pull-ups, dips and push-ups on the Power Tower to help stimulate muscle growth. Performing bodyweight exercises will help you to maintain and improve your overall health. The Power Tower allows users to make most exercises either easier or more difficult by incorporating supplemental tools like resistance bands, weights, weighted vests, suspension trainers and more.

Versatile Design: The majority of Power Towers or Captain’s Chairs are designed in the similar ways to allow the user to get the most out it in a safe and efficient way. When doing ab exercises in the Captain’s Chair the padded backrest and armrests enable you to focus on the exercises at hand. While the grips for dips are placed in the correct width to execute dips. Some Power Towers can even be broken down into smaller components for easy storage which is an added plus if you were thinking about buying one for home gym usage.

Accessible To All Fitness Levels: The Power Tower can be used by advanced lifters and senior citizens alike. Seasoned lifters can make exercises more difficult by adding weight to movements like pull-ups, chin-ups and dips. Newcomers can use assistance tools like loop resistance bands to make pull-ups, chin-ups and dips easier. Plus, the Captain’s Chair makes it possible to do exercises like vertical knee raises which mimics hanging knee raises but without grip strength or shoulder mobility as a requirement.

Affordability: The multi-functional Power Tower is an affordable piece of equipment that can range from $100-$300. If you consider the facts that gym memberships aren’t exactly cheap and you can almost get an entire body workout using this one apparatus then the price tag doesn’t seem too bad.

Bodyweight Exercises: The beauty of the Power Tower is that you can get a great workout in with only using your bodyweight. Many of the bodyweight compound exercises you can do on the Power Tower will make daily life activities easier and can also improve your bigger lifts.

14 Best Power Tower & Captain's Chair Exercises

We put together 14 of the best Power Tower & Captain's Chair exercises that work the upper body muscles including back, shoulders, chest, arms and core. Almost all of these exercises can be made easier of more difficult with the addition of other equipment such as weights or resistance bands.

Even those the following exercises are only body weight movements they can be difficult to accomplish depending on your fitness level. If that’s the case use some assistance from bands.

Build muscle and get stronger through progressive overload even when doing Captain’s Chair exercises. Follow this progression for the exercises below:

If you can’t do the Power Tower or Captain's Chair exercises unassisted then you can begin with using resistance bands. Once you can do at least 20 reps with the lightest resistance band then you should try to do the exercise unassisted.

Then, when you can execute at least 10 reps of the exercises unassisted, try for 15 reps then 20 reps.

After you’re able to do 20 reps with your body weight then you should be ready to add weight or some type of resistance.

Continue on this path of steady progression by adding 5-10 lbs then once you can do at least 3-4 sets of 10 reps then move up to 15 pounds. You can keep increasing the weight or resistance as long as you can properly perform the exercise.

If you follow this linear progression, you will be able to build muscle while using a Power Tower and/or Captain’s Chair. Time to get into the exercises and how to do them.

Note: As always consult your doctor before beginning any new fitness routine. Make sure you've warmed up before exercising.

1. Knee Raise

This is a fantastic exercise to strengthen the core. Rather than doing core work where you move your upper body, this exercise requires your lower body to move which activates the core plus the hip flexors like the iliopsoas, TFL, adductor longus, pectineus, rectus femoris and sartorius. The vertical knee raise is one of the best exercises you can do on a Captain’s Chair especially for beginners.

How To:

  • Grip handles and place your forearms against the pads and back against the backrest
  • Engage your core and your shoulders to stabilize yourself
  • Starting with your legs hanging under you and your feet together, lift your knees up towards your chest
  • Slowly lower them to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Make sure to bring knees above your hip flexors so that your abs get worked. Hold briefly at the top of the movement and lower very slowly to get an added burn.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, External Obliques, Hip Flexors

2. Weighted Knee Raise

The weighted knee raise is the same basic exercise you just saw but is the next step up in intensity from doing the vertical knee raise. This exercise will really challenge the rectus abdominus as you won’t only be lifting your leg weight but also the added weight. Make sure to lock your ankles up so that you can control the dumbbell. Start with a low weight until you can do at least 20 reps before moving up in added weight.

 captains chair abs

  • Grip handles and place forearms against the pads and back against the backrest
  • Engage your core and your shoulders to stabilize yourself
  • Starting with your legs hanging under you with your feet together grasping a weight then lift your knees up towards your chest
  • Slowly lower them to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: You could also use a resistance band or a kettlebell to add resistance instead of a dumbbell.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, External Obliques, Hip Flexors

3. Straight Leg Raise

The straight leg raise is similar to the vertical knee raise as it works the same muscles but it is a little more difficult to perform as more tension is placed on your core and hip flexors by having your legs extended out in front of you. Try to keep your core engaged throughout the movement and keep the momentum to a minimum. A slow and controlled motion is absolutely necessary to strengthen the abs.

 captains chair leg raise

How To:

  • Grip handles and place your forearms against the pads and back against the backrest
  • Engage your core and your shoulders to stabilize yourself
  • Starting with your legs hanging under you and your feet together, lift your legs up until they’re parallel with the floor
  • Slowly lower them to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Hold your legs at the top as long as you can to create an isometric exercise.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, External Obliques, Hip Flexors

4. Side Hip Raise

This variation of the vertical knee raise is meant to mainly target the obliques rather than the rectus abdominis. By lifting your knees up to the sides, you will strengthen and tighten a common problem area as many people tend to store fat in the “love handles” area. However, keep in mind that you will need a low enough body fat percentage to see those obliques poking through.

 captains chair exercises

  • Grip handles and place your forearms against the pads and back against the backrest
  • Engage your core and your shoulders to stabilize yourself
  • Starting with your legs hanging under you and your feet together, lift your legs up and to the side by crunching your obliques
  • Slowly lower them to starting position then repeat to the other side
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Focus on contracting your oblique muscles bringing your knees up and ankles to the side in a controlled manner.

Muscles Worked: External/Internal Obliques, Hip Flexors

5. Bicycle Crunches

Bicycle crunches are a fantastic core exercise that can help to work the abs plus work up a sweat if doing them at a fast pace. If your goal is skewed towards an ab workout then you should be lifting each leg up in a slow controlled manner.

How To:

  • Grip handles and place your forearms against the pads and back against the backrest
  • Engage your core and your shoulders to stabilize yourself
  • Starting with your legs hanging under you and your feet together, lift one knee up at a time until your thigh is parallel with the floor
  • Slowly lower it to starting position while raising your other knee
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Don't use the momentum, concentrate on squeezing your abs to lift your legs.

Muscles Worked: Rectus Abdominis, External Obliques, Hip Flexors

6. Cross Scissor Kicks

This is one of the more difficult core exercises to do on a Captain’s Chair. You will need a strong core to perform this exercise properly as your legs will be up throughout the movement resulting in your muscles being under constant tension.

How To:

  • Grip handles and place your forearms against the pads and back against the backrest
  • Engage your core and your shoulders to stabilize yourself
  • Starting with your legs hanging under you, lift both legs up while keeping them straight out at 90 degrees with a gap between the legs
  • Cross legs inwards over each other then back to the sides
  • Repeat this alternating movement for desired reps

Note: You can try the easier version first by keeping your legs bent at 90 degrees while you open and close your legs for desired reps.

Muscle Worked: Abs, Obliques, Hip Abductors, Hip Adductors

7. Dips

Dips are one of the best exercises that can be done, besides being able to add muscle mass to the triceps, chest and shoulders they can also improve your bench press. Dips are considered closed kinetic chain exercise because your hands are pushing against the parallel grips therefore working on opposing muscle groups while isolating the triceps. Before moving up to weighted dips you should be able to do at least 20 bodyweight dips. Don’t fret if you can’t perform a regular dip just yet. We detailed three dip variations below from easy to hard.

 captains chair workout

How To:

Assisted Dips with Resistance Band:

  • Attach band to both handles of the dip bar
  • Grab both grips with your hands, palms facing each other, wrists in line with your forearms and arms straight
  • Place both knees in the center of the band
  • Start the dip by lowering your body until your upper arms are parallel with the floor
  • Push through the palms to return to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Regular Dips

  • Grab both grips with your hands, palms facing each other, wrists in line with your forearms and arms straight
  • Start the dip by lowering your body until your upper arms are parallel with the floor
  • Push through the palms to return to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Weighted Dips:

  • Wrap the belt around your waist then attach a weight plate to the chain by sliding it through the middle hole then affixing the chain back to the belt usually via a carabiner
  • Grab both grips with your hands, palms facing each other, wrists in line with your forearms
  • Start the dip by lowering your body until your upper arms are parallel with the floor
  • Push through the palms to return to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Lean forward to target your chest more. Try not to lock out elbows to keep constant tension on triceps.

Muscles Worked: Triceps, Chest, Shoulders

8. Chin Ups & Pull Ups

Both chin-ups and pull-ups are quintessential bodyweight exercises to develop upper body strength. The main difference between these exercises is the grip. With chin ups you'll use an underhand grip which make them slightly easier to do as your biceps are recruited more to help lift your body up. Pullups require an overhand grip which equates to your back doing most of the heavy lifting. You should try to fit both of these exercises into your normal workout routines build a strong back.

power tower pull up bar

 

Note: By brinng your hands closer/further apart you can target warious areas of your back.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Rhomboids, Teres Major/Minor, Biceps, Shoulders

Related: 13 Best Pull Up Alternatives To Work The Same Muscles

9. Gironda Pull-up

Named after Vince Gironda a.k.a. the Iron Guru, an American bodybuilder in the 1960’s made this variation of the pull-up famous. By leaning back during the movement, you get greater contraction of the upper back muscles rather than mostly just the lats.

 captains chair exercises at home

How To:

  • Grab bar with overhand grip, hands a little wider than shoulder width apart
  • Start with shoulder blades depressed and arms straight then pull through your elbows bringing your sternum (lower chest area) up to the bar while leaning back so you end up looking up at the ceiling
  • Slowly return to starting position
  • Repeat desired reps

Note: If you can’t complete this exercise properly start with slow negatives, starting at the top of the movement then slowly lowering your body. You can also use a resistance band looped around the bar then stand on for added assistance.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids, Teres Major/Minor, Biceps, Shoulders

10. Gorilla Chinup

The Gorilla chin up is a great compound exercise that works your entire body. Unlike more pullups or chinups that only work the upper body, the Gorilla Chinup also hits the core and hip flexors as you’re doing a crunch in midair.

 power tower workout

How To:

  • Facing away from the Captain’s Chair, grab the bar with an underhand grip shoulder width apart while your knees are bent with your calves behind you
  • Pull up towards the bar through your elbows while crunching your knees up to your chest by the time your chin reaches the bar
  • Slowly lower down to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Perform this exercise in a slow and controlled manner so that you’re not rocking your body to use the momentum to curl your body up.

Muscles Worked: Back, traps, Shoulder, Biceps, Abs, Hip Flexors

11. Mixed Grip Chin Up

Mixed grip chinups are a good variation to get your core more engaged in the movement. Make sure you alternate grip so you don't develop muscle imbalances.

 power tower exercises

How To:

  • Grab the bar with one hand using underhand grip and other hand using overhand grip at shoulder width apart
  • Starting with your arms extended and shoulder blades depressed
  • Keep your core engaged while you pull yourself up until your chest reaches the bar
  • Slowly lower to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps (each side)

Note: Keep your chest up and shoulder back throughout the movement.

Muscles Worked: Lats, Traps, Rhomboids, Teres Major/Minor, Biceps, Shoulders

12. Shrugs

This is a great exercise to blast the traps. Most of the time when people are working on their traps using dumbbells, barbells or cable shrugs they aren’t able to get in a full range of motion. This reverse shrug sometimes called the serratus shrug allows for a greater range of motion as the deltoids can come up higher while emphasizing the negative portion of the rep.

 power tower dip station

How To:

  • Grab the parallel grips with both hands using a neutral grip
  • Start with your arms and back straight
  • Lower your body by relaxing your traps as low as possible while keeping your body straight
  • Push down against the grips while engaging traps to push you back up to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Keep your core engaged and your elbows locked out throughout the movement.

Muscles Worked: Traps, Shoulders, Triceps

13. Inverted Shrug

This more advanced version of a shrug isn't for the faint of heart. You will be upside down when performing this exercise which means you'll need to engage your core to keep you balanced while you rely on your grip strength to keep you from falling. This exercise works the traps extremely well but not every can or should do it as it can be dangerous.

 power tower vs captains chair

How To:

  • Get into position between parallel grips then squat down and reach up to grab the bars with a neutral grip
  • Kick your feet up to invert your body upside down, you can keep your legs straight or bent above you
  • Lift your body as high as you can by pulling your shoulders towards your ears
  • Slowly lower to starting position
  • Repeat for desired reps before flipping your legs around underneath you

Note:This can be dangerous so make sure you have the grip strength to hold yourself up.

Muscles Worked: Traps, Shoulders, Forearms, Core

14. Deep Push-Ups

Many Power Towers these days will have push-up handles located at the base of the tower which enables you to perform an Atlas push-up. This push-up variation means your hands are elevated off the ground which will result in a larger range of motion in the shoulders compared with traditional push-ups. By doing Atlas push-ups you’ll be able to target not only chest and triceps but also the upper back.

How To:

  • Place your hands on the push-up handles using a neutral grip
  • Get into push-up position keeping your core engaged and your body straight
  • Slowly lower your body until your chest reaches the push up handle level
  • Push up through your hands until you reach starting position with your arms fully extended
  • Repeat for desired reps

Note: Only go as low as comfortable as some people might have limited range of motion in the shoulders.

Muscles Worked: Chest, Triceps, Shoulders, Upper Back

Captain’s Chair Workout

In this Captain’s Chair workout, we will primarily focus on core exercises that will help you to build rock solid abs. If you’re looking for a more well-rounded workout then try the Power Tower workout below.

To execute this Captain’s Chair workout, you will do this as a circuit and run through each exercise 3 times. Take up to 2 minutes rest between each round.

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Vertical Knee Raise

3

12

Side Hip Raise

3

5 (each side)

Straight Leg Raise

3

8

Bicycle Crunches

3

8 (each side)

Power Tower Workout

This Power Tower workout great way to get an upper body workout that hits the back, shoulders, chest, arms, core and hip flexors.

Start with a dynamic warm up of 5-10 minutes. Allow up to 60-90 seconds of rest between sets.

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Vertical Knee Raise

3

10

Pullups

4

8-10

Dips

3

10

Gorilla Chinups

3

8

Chest Dips

2

12

Side Hip Raises

3

10 reps (each side)

Shrugs

3

12

 

How Big Is A Power Tower?

The common dimensions of a Power Tower will be with a base of 3-4 feet and a height of 7 feet. However, many Power Towers or Captain’s Chairs are adjustable these days allowing the user to change the settings to match their body. This means the height of the pullup bar or the position of the backrest can be adjusted to make the equipment suit individual needs better.

What To Look For When Buying A Power Tower?

If you’re looking to purchase a Power Tower or Captain’s Chair then it’s important to buy one that lasts and serves its purpose of providing you a stable, reliable workout. Try to look for a Power Tower that’s constructed from steel and has anti-rust coating for durability. You should consider the functionalities and user friendliness such padded grips and elbow pads, placements for suspension trainers, push-up grips and more. Make sure to look at how much weight it supports which will give you an idea of the structural stability. Last but not least it might be important to choose a Power Tower with adjustable components if multiple people of various sizes will be using it.

How Much Does A Power Tower Cost?

Most Power Towers or Captain’s Chairs will range in price from $100-$300. Although there might be cheaper options available it’s important to always check reviews, warranty and specifications before purchasing.

***This post may contain affiliate ads where we will make a small commission from any purchase made.


pullup and dip station

FINAL NOTE

The Power Tower is a versatile piece of equipment that can be used to improve your overall health, especially your upper body and core strength. We provided you with 14 Power Tower & Captain's Chair exercises that will really test your strength. You should start with the easier exercises first and if you can’t perform the exercise unassisted then try to incorporate resistance bands to help you out until you’re strong enough to do the bodyweight exercise without assistance. Try to mix in some of these Power Tower exercises in your normal workout routine or you can try your hand at running through the sample Power Tower workout and Captain's Chair workout we provided. Grab your towel you'll need it!

Related: 21 Best Weight Bench Ab Exercises (Plus A Workout)



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