The wall sit exercise isn’t a very common one in the fitness industry nowadays. Yet, it has quite a few benefits that you can’t really get with other more common exercises.
For those of you which are not familiar with wall sits, this exercise is usually performed at the end of your leg training. The main purpose of wall sits is to really burn off the quads, glutes and hamstrings.
The great thing about it is that you don’t need any type of gym equipment to perform the exercise. All you need is a wall or any other solid vertical surface for that matter, to lean against to. Here are a few benefits of the wall sit and why you should consider incorporating this exercise in your leg training routine.
- The Benefits of Wall Sits
- How To Do Wall Sits Correctly
- FAQs About Wall Sit
- Over to you
The Benefits of Wall Sits
Benefit #1: Works the entire lower body
Even though wall sit is a static / isometric exercise it is very much like a compound exercise. Wall sits will work your entire lower body – your glutes, your hamstrings and your quads. The main purpose of this exercise is not to increase muscle mass, but to increase endurance. You will notice that you will be able to hold a wall sit for longer and longer periods of time once you become more advanced.
There are not many lower body isometric exercises which activates all the upper leg muscles, so wall sits are unique from this point of view.
Benefit #2: Burns out more calories
Similarly to other exercises which focus on increasing muscle endurance, wall sits will start to feel like you are doing cardio once you hold the position for longer periods of time. After about 15 seconds of holding a wall sit you will notice your heart rate going up and your breath getting faster and faster.
A higher heart rate will result in more calories burned in a given time frame. This will also boost a little bit your metabolic rate (for short periods of time) and it will work your cardiovascular system. So, you can look at wall sits as a non-traditional cardio training if you would like.
Benefit #3: Increases endurance
As mentioned before, wall sit is not an exercise which will improve strength that much, unless you are totally new to training. But wall sits will definitely improve muscle endurance, by activating the slow twitching fibers (or Type I fibers) inside your muscles. These type of muscle fibers are responsible with endurance, rather than strength (which falls under the responsibility of Type II fibers – or fast twitching fibers).
So, if you are a marathon runner or an athlete who runs a lot (such as a basketball player or football player) you will probably benefit a lot from wall sits.
Benefit #4: There are a lot of variations
Just in case you get bored with the standard wall sit there are a handful of variations of this exercise that will push
your body to new limits. Here are a couple of examples.
1. One Leg Wall Sit
Once you are in the standard wall sit position, put your feet very close together. You knees should be touching or be really close one to another. Next, take one leg at a time and extend it out. At this point only one leg will do all the work which will make the exercise much intense.
2. Dumbbell Wall Sit
Another thing you can do to spice it up a little bit is to get some light weight dumbbells while in wall sit position and start doing hammer curls as you are holding the wall sit position. This will work you lower and upper body simultaneously. Alternatively, instead of hammer curls you could do lateral raises or shoulder press.
3. Weighted Wall Sit
Here’s how this version works. Once in a wall sit position you should have a training partner which will place weight on your thighs, usually barbell plates. As opposed to any other wall sit variation this one will build up your strength a lot more. The more weight you add the more strength you will gain.
Benefit #5: Alternative to squats
If you can’t squat for whatever reason, wall sits are a great alternative which will work out pretty much the same body parts as a squat. Even so, wall sits shouldn’t be considered a squat replacement if you are weight training.
Benefit #6: Great for skiers
If you are new to skiing, you probably don’t know that wall sits are the number one exercise performed by all skiers, beginners or advance before hitting the downhill slopes after a long pre-season. The reason for this is that wall sits emulated really accurately the skiing position and works the same muscles we are using when sliding down the slope.
Apart from the fact that you will gain better endurance which will help you stay in the skiing position for longer periods of time, wall sits will also strengthen your knee cap which will be under a lot of stress when sliding down on bumpy slopes.
Benefit #7: Can be done anywhere
Probably one of the most important advantages of wall sits is that you can do them anywhere, at any time and without any auxiliary equipment needed. This is a huge benefit if you don’t have the time to actually go to a gym and workout.
Benefit #8: Are fun to do
For some reason, a lot of people simply enjoy doing wall sits. There are literally thousands of wall sit contests and challenges done online, some involving all the family members from 7 years old to grandparents.
How To Do Wall Sits Correctly
Getting the hang of wall sits is really easy and the exercise itself seems pretty straight forward, but even so there a couple of things to watch out for. Ideally you want to get into a full perfect squat position while leaning the wall.
Here’s how to do it the right way.
First, your feet should come out from the wall a little bit so that your knees don’t track over your toes. Next, while leaning back on the wall, slide down and adjust your feet position as needed to keep the toes in front of the knees.
There should be a nice 90 degree bend between the lower part of your leg and the upper part.
Hand placement can be on the wall or on your thighs – whatever is more comfortable for you. Placing the hands on your thighs will make the exercise less difficult so that’s recommended if you are a beginner.
Your back should be straight, leaning on the wall, your head should be in a neutral position and you should be looking forward. That’s how you get into a perfect wall sit position. You know you are doing it right if you feel your body weight on your heels, not on your toes, and your quads and hamstrings are starting to burn after 15 to 20 seconds.
Another really important thing to remember is that once you fatigue you should push up, slide against the wall and stand. Don’t come down to the ground. It would cause a lot of damage to your knees if you would slide down to the wall toward the ground.
If you can’t get up from the wall sit, place your hands against the wall and help yourself.
FAQs About Wall Sit
What Muscles Do Wall Sits Work?
Wall sits are a type of isometric strength exercise. They mainly target the glute muscles. However, wall sits will work out the calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps as well.
Variations of wall sits can help workout the adductor muscles (which are often overlooked during training). To work the adductors with wall sits, put a medium-sized exercise ball between your knees while performing the wall sit. Squeeze the ball with your knees and you’ll work those adductors.
What Are Wall Sits Good For?
The quads – the muscle mostly worked by wall sits – are already a dominant muscle of the legs. Usually, the quads don’t need to be isolated and strengthened on their own. Hence why exercises like squats are usually preferred over wall sits.
However, there are some cases where you would want to isolate the quad muscles with wall sit exercises:
- Increasing quad stamina
- Improving stability
- Building strength in people with weak quads
- Certain types of athletes (skiers, horseback riders, dancers, gymnasts, wrestlers, boxers, etc.)
Remember that wall sits do not provide a complete workout. You will still need to do exercises to work your other leg muscles, such as lunges and plyos, so you don’t overtrain your glutes.
Do Wall Sits Build Muscle?
Wall sits primarily target the glutes, which are already the strongest muscle in the legs. Wall sits do target other leg muscles a bit, but you do not use your abs or lower back muscles at all during the exercise.
Thus, wall sits can be used to build glute muscles (and awesome-looking thighs and behind). However, they are usually used for building stamina, endurance, and stability rather than bulk. For building muscle, you’d probably be better off with squats or step ups.
Do Wall Sits Burn Calories?
All exercise will burn some calories. However, wall sits are generally used for burning calories. After all, you can’t expect to burn that many calories while sitting!
Remember that building muscle does increase your basal metabolic rate. You might not burn lots of calories with certain bodybuilding and toning exercises, but it will help you increase metabolism and manage weight better.
How Long Should You Do Wall Sits?
Ideally, you should do wall sits for 1 to 2 minutes in sets of 5. If you are a beginner and can’t hold wall sits very long, time yourself doing a wall sit. Hold it until it starts to hurt (but your legs aren’t shaking yet). This will be your base time and work on improving from there.
Once you can easily do walls sits for 1-2 minutes, consider variations of wall sits such as incorporating exercise balls, curls, and presses.
How to Make Wall Sits Easier?
First, make sure that you are in the proper position for wall sits. Your knees must be at a 90-degree angle with your back against the wall and feet at shoulder width. Improper position can strain your joints.
Because it can be hard to check your own position in the mirror, ask a friend or trainer to check for you as you do wall sits.
Once you’ve mastered posture, focus on contracting your ab muscles while doing the wall sit. It will help stabilize your body.
Other people find that breathing exercises and relaxation techniques help them gain the stamina needed for wall sits.
Wall Sits Vs. Squats
Wall sits are a type of isometric exercise. With isometric exercises, the body is in a static position. While the muscles are under strain (and thus being strengthened), they do not change position. The tension is on the same location.
By contrast, squats are a type of isotonic exercise. This means that the body is in motion, and the muscles extend/contract. The stretching of the muscles causes more tissue damage and thus help build muscle better. Squats also activate more muscles during their range of motion.
Of the two exercises, squats are much better for building muscle and strength. However, isometric exercises like wall sits are still important for building muscle stamina.
Over to you
I challenge you to start adding a couple of sets of wall sits at the end of each leg training day. In case you are not training your legs at all, just do wall sits each day for a few minutes. Write down your wall sit hold time on a piece of paper and review your progress after 4 weeks. You will be amazed by the results.
Lastly but not least, please bear in mind that wall sits should not be considered a full leg workout, but instead it should complement a leg workout routine and should be performed in combination with other leg exercises such as lunges or squats.