Whatever you want from your workout routine, leg training is a must. Your lower body makes up about 50% of your total body muscle mass, and skipping leg day will have a significant (and negative!) impact on how you look, feel, and perform.
There are lots of exercises you can use to work your legs, and lots of training tools too. Most involve weights or machines, but there are also some tremendous bodyweight-only leg exercises, such as lunges, step-ups, and split-squats.
As good as these exercises are, they have one thing in common – they involve a large movement at your knee and hip joints. We call this type of exercise isotonic, which means equal energy. In simple terms, an isotonic exercise involves a lifting phase followed by a lowering phase or a lowering phase followed by a lifting phase.
Wall sits are different.
With wall sits, your muscles generate force without changing length. This is called an isometric or static contraction. Other isometric exercises include planks and dead hangs.
Requiring no exercise equipment, wall sits are ideal for home exercisers, but gym-goers can do them too. In this article, we list some noteworthy wall sit benefits and explain how to do this handy exercise.
Wall Sit Benefits
What Is a Wall Sit and How to Do It?
Wall sits, also known as wall squats and ski squats, are a bodyweight isometric lower body exercise. All you need to do wall sits is a smooth wall to lean against. To do wall sits, follow these step-by-step guidelines:
- Stand with your back to a smooth, solid wall. Your feet should be about 18-25 inches from the base of the wall and around shoulder-width apart.
- Lean your back against the wall. Cross your arms over your chest.
- Sit and slide your back down the wall until your knees are bent to around 90 degrees.
- Push your back against the wall and hold this position for the prescribed duration. Keep breathing throughout, and do not place your hands on your legs for assistance; that’s cheating!
- Stand back up and rest. Use your arms to help you stand back up if necessary.
Experiment with the position of your feet. Moving your feet further out increases glute and hamstring activation, while keeping your feet closer to the wall will force your quads to work harder.
What Are The Benefits of Wall Sits?
Like all compound leg exercises, wall sits are a very beneficial exercise. Reasons for doing wall sits include:
With no equipment required, you can do this exercise almost anywhere and anytime. It’s ideal for home exercisers.
Easy to Make Less or More Challenging
Make wall sits harder by holding a weight in your hands. Make it easier by not squatting as deep. Also, the harder you push your back against the wall, the sooner you’ll tire, and the harder the exercise will feel.
With no real movement of your knees or hips, wall sits are very joint-friendly. If high-rep or heavy-weight squats, lunges, or leg presses hurt your knees, wall sits are a useful alternative.
Easy to Learn
Exercises like lunges and squats can take time to master. You need to know how to do them properly before you start trying to use too much weight or do too many reps. Wall sits are MUCH easier to learn. In fact, you should be able to pick them up right away.
Easy on Your Back
Most leg exercises indirectly involve your lower back. Given that 90 percent of adults have or will suffer from back pain at some point, this is not necessarily a good thing. When you do wall sits, your lower back is supported by the wall, so this exercise is very easy on your lower back and lumbar spine.
How Long Should You Hold a Wall Sit?
It’s impossible to tell you exactly how long you should hold a wall sit because the answer depends on several factors.
As a rule, you should hold your wall sit until your legs start to tire. This will probably be accompanied by a burning sensation in your thighs, and your muscles may shake too.
Factors that will determine how long you can hold the wall sit include:
How Hard Are You Pushing?
If you just squat and lean against the wall, you may be able to hold a wall sit for several minutes. But, if you push your back as hard as you can against the wall, 15-30 seconds may be your limit.
How Fit Are You?
Advanced exercisers will probably be able to hold a wall sit for longer than beginners.
How Heavy Are You?
Wall sits are harder for heavier exercisers. It doesn’t matter if that weight is muscle or fat; your body weight will have an impact on your wall sit performance.
How Many Sets Are You Doing
If you are doing one set, you will probably be able to hold a wall sit for a long time. But, if you are doing several sets, you’re going to get gradually more tired, and the duration will likely decrease from set to set.
What Other Exercises Have You Done?
If you’ve already done squats, lunges, and leg presses in your lower body workout, your leg muscles will already be tired, and you won’t be able to hold a wall sit as long as you could if your muscles were fresh.
Your Pain Tolerance
The longer you hold a wall sit, the more your legs will burn. Your wall-sit duration will depend on how much pain you can take. Some people naturally have a higher tolerance and will be able to do this exercise for longer. Women are often better at wall sits than men.
However long you hold your wall sit, try to increase the duration as you get stronger. If you always do the same time, e.g., 30 seconds, your fitness and strength will soon stall.
5 Wall-Sit Variations and Alternatives
As good as wall sits are, there are a few variations and alternatives you can use to make sure you don’t get stuck in a workout rut and stop making progress. Try these equally beneficial wall sit exercises.
Wall Sits on Your Toes
Perform as usual but rise up onto your toes and keep your heels elevated. This increases calf activation to turn wall sits into a total leg exercise.
Single Leg Wall Sits
Slide down the wall as usual but then raise one leg. This makes wall sits MUCH more challenging.
Freestanding Wall Sits
No wall? No problem! Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and then squat down. Hold this position for as long as required. This exercise is sometimes called the Slavic or third-world squat.
Side-On Wall Sit
For this variation, stand sideways onto a wall and lean against it. Bend and lift your innermost leg. Bend your outer supporting knee and squat down until your thigh is about parallel to the floor. Hold this position while pushing your shoulder against the wall with your outermost leg. This increases outer thigh activation.
Wall Sit, Squat, Squat Jump Superset
Hold your wall sit for as long as you can. Push yourself away from the wall, and then do 10-15 regular squats. Finish off by doing 5-10 squat jumps. Do not pause between exercises. Rest a minute and repeat.
Wall sits are a simple yet effective way to train your legs. They’re ideal for beginners and home exercisers, but gym-goers and more advanced people can do them too. Ultimately, the harder you push your back against the wall, the harder it becomes. It’s the ultimate self-regulating exercise.
Because wall sits are an isometric exercise, they don’t put much stress on your joints. There is no repetitive movement, and that means less wear and tear. If you have arthritic knees, wall squats could be the leg exercise you’ve been looking for.
Wall squats aren’t much of a fat burner, as they don’t involve any movement and won’t increase your heart or breathing rate. But, done as part of a circuit, you could still use this simple exercise to help you lose weight.