13 Amazing Wall Sit Benefits: Technique and Tips

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Here in the UK, we are in the middle of our third national lockdown.

As with so many other parts of the world, gyms are closed, exercise classes cannot operate, and personal trainers face heavy restrictions when working with clients.

Online coaching for all of my members presents a whole new challenge compared to my regular coaching routine.

During the first lockdown, I decided that alongside my more complex training sessions, I also needed a less complicated version. 

The Wall Sit Challenge Was Born! 

The 13 Amazing Wall Sit Benefits are:

I am now a huge fan. The Wall Sit Challenge has made my life as a coach so much more comfortable throughout lockdown. 

I'll explain the scientific reasoning of wall sits and further breakdown technique with awesome tips.

What Is The Wall Sit?

The wall sit or wall squat is an isometric leg muscles exercise. Isometric means muscle tension without movement.

In other words, the wall sit works the legs by holding a supported squat position against a wall. This creates tension without the muscles lengthening or shortening and without the hips, knees, or ankles moving. 

The seated position is held for a prescribed amount of time and can be repeated for sets. 

What is a wall sit benefits

Wall Sit Muscles Worked

The leg muscles worked during the wall sit exercise are:

  • Quadriceps (rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius)
  • Hamstrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus)
  • Gluteal muscles (gluteus maximum, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus)
  • Calf muscles
  • Abdominal muscles (transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, and the obliques)

The wall sit is a strength endurance exercise rather than a muscle-building exercise. It is often used to build strength for skiing, surfing, or other sports where a partial crouch is held. 

How To Do A Wall Sit

Step 1

To start the wall sit position, lean back against a flat, sturdy wall and place your feet shoulder width apart. Make sure your whole foot has solid contact with the floor. Keep your stance at shoulder width.

Step 2

Take short steps to move your feet forward while your knees start to bend. 

Step 3

As your feet move forward, lower your back down the wall. Make sure you continue to lean back against the wall. 

Step 4

Stop lowering yourself once your knees reach a 90-degree angle. You should feel like you are sitting on an imaginary chair.

Step 5

To end the wall squat, try not to just collapse in a heap on the floor. Reverse the process until you return to the standing position. 

Coaching Tips

  • Chest: Open your chest and keep your shoulder blades retracted.
  • Arms: Bring your arms out from the body slightly and hold them palms down against the wall.
  • Hips: Ensure your hips, knees, and toes are in a straight line.
  • Back: Do not arch your back. Keep it flat against the wall. 

13 Amazing Wall Sit Benefits

Let’s now talk about the benefits of the wall sit.

Make sure you check out the references section for more scientific research about these great benefits of the wall sit.

1. No Equipment Required

The only kit you need to perform wall sits is a stable floor, a sturdy wall, and a willing body.

This makes the exercise perfect for home workouts, outdoor workouts, or any other situation where equipment is limited, and you want to blast the legs.

2. Increased Calorie Burn

Holding this isometric position not only taxes the muscle fibers in the legs. The wall also works the cardiovascular system by elevating the heart rate and providing a short sharp metabolic boost.

This results in enhanced calorie burn compared to a normal resting state.

3. Builds Muscle Endurance

Wall squats aren’t going to get you quads like Tom Platz, nor are they going to be the secret weapon in your quest for a leg press personal record. 

Wall squats will blast your slow-twitch fibers and build endurance.

Perfect for your next skiing holiday or perhaps to give you that bit of extra endurance when you’re hiking the trails. 

4. Improves Core Stability

One of the wall sit's overlooked benefits is the nature of the exercise places significant stability demands on the body.

You are supported by immovable objects in the floor and the wall, and there isn't a stretchy band or wobbly ball in sight. However, the fact that you have to support yourself in an unfamiliar position means the legs and core have to work together.

They need to strengthen the position (although you could put a wobbly ball behind you for a really unstable wall sit).

This can only be beneficial for stability and balance.

In fact, a study conducted by Cho et al. showed the core activation of the wall sit. Specifically, The wall sit significantly affected the thickness of the transverse abdominis muscle and internal obliques. The effect is very similar to that of squats on the core

5. Lots Of Variations And Adaptations

The wall sit is blessed with an almost endless list of potential ways to intensify the exercise or make it more achievable. 

You can regress the wall sit by standing closer to the wall with a more obtuse leg angle. 

You can make it harder by trying the single-leg variation, the marching variation, or perhaps squeeze a medicine ball between your thighs for increased adductor activation. 

Grab a weight plate or kettlebell and hold it goblet style while you wall sit.

Pick up a pair of dumbbells and hit a set of bicep curls, lateral raises, or, if you're feeling courageous (and flexible), some overhead press movements

One of the things that makes the wall sit so appealing is its versatility and adaptability.

6. Increases Focus And Concentration

The wall squat has such a wonderful blend of elements to focus on that there really is no hiding place where you can let your mind wander off.

You have to stay on top of your posture, balance, and breathing.

All while trying to convince yourself that the creeping lactic acid build up in your thighs is bearable for at least another 20 seconds.

Wall sits most definitely train you to focus and focus hard. 

7. Improves Bone Density

Wall sits are a weight-bearing exercise.

This means that force is applied to the bones during the exercise. When we do this safely and for the correct amount of time, the bones respond to the training effect, the result is increased strength and density.

This is fantastic for good health and could help prevent acute injuries such as fractures or chronic issues such as osteoporosis.

8. Trains The Calf Muscles

You know those things at the bottom of your legs, just above the ankles! Joking aside, the calf muscles do tend to get a bit overlooked/neglected.

Any exercise that gives the calves a bit of a blast can only be a good thing. 

Try wall sit heel raises for a new level of calf muscle torture.

9. A Form Of Stress Relief

Hear me out on this one!

I had numerous reports from my clients who followed my wall sit challenge that the 10-15 minutes a day they were following the routine was when they would put their headphones on and just tune out from the typical lockdown day.

The structured and easy to follow nature of the sessions meant they had time to focus on their breathing, posture, balance, and just enjoy their time—what a brilliant thing to do at the end of a stressful day.

10. Wall Sits Are Really Challenging

You don't have to follow my wall sit challenge or any other coaches challenge to realize just how challenging they can be.

Because the wall sit is time-based, you cannot throw in a couple of cheat reps or grab the lighter dumbbells to finish the last set. 

When you find a functional limit to the time you can hold the position, the real challenge starts. Can I go 10 seconds longer? Can I do an extra set? The amount of fun you can have with them is endless. 

11. Easy On The Knees

Escamilla et al. performed a study to investigate the stress forces of the knee joint during various wall sits and the single leg squat.

After thorough data analysis, the found the force on the knees was greatest when the feet were closer to the wall. In addition, they found to reduce the stress on the knees you can reduce how far down you go.

For people with bad knees, the wall sit is a great option as long as you don't descend too far down. 

12. Improves Gluteus Medius Strength

A study done by Han et al. tried to show the effect of squat exercises on glute medius strength. Among the 4 single leg squat exercises, the single leg wall sit had the largest glute medius muscle activation.

The researchers recommended the single leg wall sit be used for glute medius weakness as long as your hips are not too adducted (close together).

The study shows you can improve glute medius strength with wall sits due to the uneven weight distribution. In turn, the strength gains can be used towards regular barbell squats or even deadlifts.

single leg wall sit benefit

13. Helps Posture

One really neat benefit I found was the effect of wall sits on posture.

Lee at al sought out to study the effect of unstable modified wall sits on the posture of female university students. The unstable factor was due to them doing the wall sit on an balance pad.

The results? Well, amazingly they found students doing the unstable modified wall sit showed better numbers in posture factors. Specifically, they had improved trunk posture, pelvic position, and position of the scapulae.

The authors concluded the unstable wall sit to be used as a great tool for correcting posture in adults.

Common Mistakes With The Wall Sit

Although wall sits are a basic exercise with a high level of safety, there are a few common mistakes which you should look out for. 

Wearing Inappropriate Footwear

Make sure you use good quality athletic footwear, not flipflops or flimsy fashion shoes.

Footwear with no grip will cause you to lose balance and even injury if you slip.

Allowing Your Knees To Fall In Or Out

Try and maintain a line between your hips, knees, and toes. If you cannot hold this position, consider regressing the wall sit as discussed above.

Arching Or Rounding The Back

Allow your back to lean firmly against the wall in a neutral spine position. It is also a good cue to think about bracing your pelvis.

Advancing Too Fast

Just because you’ve seen that person on YouTube talking about how they spend 15 minutes at a time in the wall sit doesn't mean you should set yourself unrealistic goals.

The risk of injury from wall sits is very low. However, if you do too much too soon, your risk increases.

Why not try 3-4 sets of 30 seconds with 30-60seconds rest in between to start off with. This will give you an excellent gauge of where you are in terms of volume.

How To Implement Wall Sits

There are many ways to use wall sits as we have already discussed.

They are the perfect at-home exercise or even as a go-to exercise for hotel room workouts. You can even throw in wall sits during long periods of travel (when we finally return to some normality). 

I have used wall sits in many ways during sports performance training.

For example, I have used them with rugby union forwards, who have to push in a scrum, followed immediately by running to the next phase of play. I would have the guys perform weighted wall squats at one end of the sports-hall, followed by short multi-directional shuttle runs.

Wall sits are great as “finishers” for a leg workout. Just to rinse out every last bit of energy from the legs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do Wall Sits Work?

Wall sits work the muscles of the legs, including the quads, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. They also activate the core muscles.

How Do Wall Sits Work?

Wall sits cause the muscles to work isometrically. This means the muscles are functioning without moving.

Do Wall Sits Hurt?

Wall sits can vary from benign to slightly uncomfortable, all the way to "oh my god, get me out of here, my legs are about to explode." It all depends on how you choose to perform the exercise and for how long.

Are Wall Sits Bad For Your Knees?

In a healthy individual with no history of knee pain, wall sits should not cause any issues.

They are sometimes used to strengthen the quads of people with knee pain. Most force goes through the knee when you stand up from the wall sit, so it is often useful to assist this movement.

What Do Wall Sits Do For Your Body?

Wall sit benefits include muscle toning as well as strength. Due to the difficulty of the exercise, wall sits provide calorie burn as well as improved core strength to your body.

How Long Should You Hold A Wall Sit?

To get the most from wall sit benefits, you should hold wall sits for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Ideally, you should take a 1 minute break and do multiple sets for 30 minutes.

What Happens If You Do Wall Sits Everyday?

Well, you will have more mental toughness that's for sure! In addition, wall sits help with tone and motor control due to the isometric nature of the exercise. You'll be able to strengthen muscles around your knees and keep them safer during movements.

Final Thoughts

Wall sits are a challenging and fun exercise that requires no specialist equipment. They can be performed by anyone, anywhere there is a stable floor and a sturdy wall. 

Wall sits are fantastic for building leg endurance. However, they will not build muscle or increase your maximum lifts. 

Wall sit benefits can be a fantastic way to train the legs during a lockdown or perhaps encourage family members to get up off the couch and have a go. 

References

Escamilla RF, Zheng N, Imamura R, Macleod TD, Edwards WB, Hreljac A, Fleisig GS, Wilk KE, Moorman CT 3rd, Andrews JR. Cruciate ligament force during the wall squat and the one-leg squat. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Feb;41(2):408-17. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181882c6d. PMID: 19127183.

Escamilla RF, Zheng N, Macleod TD, Edwards WB, Imamura R, Hreljac A, Fleisig GS, Wilk KE, Moorman CT 3rd, Andrews JR. Patellofemoral joint force and stress during the wall squat and one-leg squat. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Apr;41(4):879-88. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31818e7ead. PMID: 19276845.

Han HR, Yi CH, You SH, Cynn HS, Lim OB, Son JI. Comparative Effects of 4 Single-Leg Squat Exercises in Subjects With Gluteus Medius Weakness. J Sport Rehabil. 2018 Nov 1;27(6):513-519. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2016-0193. Epub 2018 Jun 22. PMID: 28714757.

Lee Y. The influence of unstable modified wall squat exercises on the posture of female university students. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Aug;27(8):2477-80. doi: 10.1589/jpts.27.2477. Epub 2015 Aug 21. PMID: 26356770; PMCID: PMC4563294.

Goldring N, Wiles JD, Coleman D. The effects of isometric wall squat exercise on heart rate and blood pressure in a normotensive population. J Sports Sci. 2014;32(2):129-36. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2013.809471. Epub 2013 Jul 24. PMID: 23879248.

Cho M. The effects of modified wall squat exercises on average adults' deep abdominal muscle thickness and lumbar stability. J Phys Ther Sci. 2013 Jun;25(6):689-92. doi: 10.1589/jpts.25.689. Epub 2013 Jul 23. PMID: 24259831; PMCID: PMC3804993.

DISCLAIMER: This article is for intended for educational purposes only and not as an individualized exercise prescription, therefore no one can be held liable in the occurrence of injuries, damages or monetary losses as a result of the information.

About The Author

Nathan Carter is a highly qualified fitness professional with over fifteen years of experience. He has enjoyed several roles over this time, including: Tutor & Assessor for Level 2 Fitness Instructors and Level 3 Personal Trainers Sports Performance & Conditioning coach for a professional rugby team. Nathan has been a sponsored surfer for many years. His relationships over his career have included companies such as Billabong, Santa Cruz, Fanatic, ION and Finisterre. Health, Fitness and Wellbeing are not just Nathan’s career. They are his passion, his hobby and his lifestyle.

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