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One of the most popular - and important - debates in the exercise world is around the effectiveness of repetitive movements versus isometric hold exercises. For example: the benefits of ab crunches which is a repetitive movement versus planks which constitute an isometric hold.

In this comparison, planks outrank crunches as well as leg raises as planks recruit multiple muscles which in turn helps to burn more calories. Much like planks, wall sits are an isometric hold.

Wall sits are a terrific way to strengthen the core and legs, and increase the body’s stability and balance. Wall sits are also a great test of an individual's skill and strength: the longer one is able to hold the position, the better their overall strength and fitness levels.

Those having persistent problems or pain in the knees or hips could feel more strain while performing this exercise, hence it is important to seek advice from a certified fitness instructor.

  1. Benefits of doing the wall sit exercise
  2. How to do the wall sit correctly
  3. Wall sit types and variations
  4. Exercises to do along with wall sit
  5. Takeaway

Wall sits are an excellent exercise for core stability and for improving leg and core strength - the benefits are similar to performing movement exercises like squats.

Isometric holds such as wall sits have many different benefits, some of which are listed below:

  • Burns calories: A wall sit is great in the pursuit of weight loss as it helps to shed calories quickly by keeping the muscles contracted for a long time, as opposed to repetition based exercises, which lengthen and contract the muscles alternatively.
  • Builds muscle strength: Being able to hold your own body’s weight for long periods of time is an effective way to build strength in the core and lower half of the body, which in turn helps in other exercises. (Read more: Bodyweight exercises)
  • Builds abs: Keeping the core engaged throughout the wall sit exercise is a great way to develop abdominal muscles. (Read more: How to make six-pack abs at home)
  • Improves muscle endurance and stamina: Wall sits are often used by elite athletes - especially in the off-season - when they train to build endurance and prepare for competitions. Sprint runners, hockey players, skiers, soccer players and many others have been known to incorporate wall sits in their training regime. (Read more: Functional training)
  • Prevents injuries: Those with injuries or weakness in the knees may benefit by performing wall sits regularly, as this exercise helps build and develop strong quadriceps, or front thigh muscles. Stronger muscles above and below the knees help take direct pressure off the joint, thereby preventing injuries. (Read more: Running injuries)
  • Develops all lower-body muscles: The wall sit is an exercise which helps strengthen and develop every muscle group in the lower section of the body - right from the glutes all the way down to the calves. Strong and shapely legs and buttocks are a happy result of performing this exercise. (Read more: Lower body exercises for men and women)
  • Improves balance and flexibility: Wall sits are great for improving the overall posture of the body as they help to strengthen the core and lower back muscles. 
  • Stronger bones and joints: Even though wall sits are not weight-training exercises, they are still considered to be a weight-bearing one, and all load-bearing exercises tend to have a positive effect on the joints and bones in the body, as they help develop tissues.
  • Sharpens focus and relieves stress: Wall sits require you to summon all your concentration and will power to hold the position. This helps in improving your focus, as you try to get through the pain barrier. The effort to overcome the discomfort clears the mind, thus helping to deal with stress.
  • No equipment needed: Last but not least, a major advantage of performing wall sits as opposed to other exercises is that it requires no equipment whatsoever. Just an empty wall in your living room is good enough to give you a solid workout. The exercise costs nothing.

A wall sit appears to be one of the simplest exercises, but it puts your lower body to the test. Here's how to do it properly:

Equipment required

  • None

Muscles worked

  • Abs, core, glutes, thighs, calves

Difficulty level

  • Easy to intermediate

Sets & reps

  • Begin with 20-30 seconds per sit and gradually increase

Technique

  • Stand against a regular wall with your head and back touching the surface.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and about two feet away from the wall.
  • Slide down to a squat position. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor - make sure that your knees do not extend beyond your toes.
  • Hold the position for 20 seconds or for as long as you can hold it comfortably. Keep breathing normally and keep your hands at a neutral position.
  • Rest for 30 seconds and repeat.

Tip: If you feel pain in the knee out of poor form or any discomfort, you can raise yourself above the parallel-to-the-thigh line to avoid further aggravating it or injuring yourself. If you still feel knee pain, stop doing the exercise in that case. Keep your core engaged and do not hold your breath at any stage.

Another advantage of performing wall sits is that there are multiple variations of this exercise, so much so that entire workouts have been designed around this position in particular. While the conventional wall sit remains a favourite among fitness enthusiasts, here are some advanced versions of this simple-looking exercise:

  • Single legged wall sit: Once you have mastered the conventional wall sit and can hold yourself for more than a minute, it is time to introduce some difficulty into the routine. Performing the conventional wall sit with one leg lifted off the floor and kept straight, almost like a pistol squat or an L-sit, makes it even more challenging.
  • Weighted wall sit: Hold a weighted medicine ball between your thighs while performing the wall sit, as it will put extra pressure on your inner thigh muscles to continue to hold. When you start tiring out, simply let the ball fall to the floor.
  • Stability ball wall sit: Instead of directly positioning yourself against the wall, use a large stability ball - also called a Swiss ball - to hold against the wall and perform the exercise.

As if holding this position for half a minute or longer weren't enough, fitness professionals have gone a step further and devised a series of exercises that can be performed with the wall sit. Here are a few examples:

  • Wall sit bicep curl
  • Wall sit shoulder press
  • Wall sit lateral raise
  • Wall sit with resistance band
  • Marching wall sits
  • Wall sit with raised heels

Wall sits are easy to perform and extremely effective in boosting your strength and endurance levels - they are a great addition to any workout routine.

This exercise has several benefits, not only in terms of muscle growth but enhancing your body’s resistance while performing other movements to strengthen the lower section of the body.

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References

  1. Cho M. The Effects of Modified Wall Squat Exercises on Average Adults’ Deep Abdominal Muscle Thickness and Lumbar Stability. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2013 Jun; 25(6): 689–692. PMID: 24259831.
  2. Wahl MJ and Behm D. Not All Instability Training Devices Enhance Muscle Activation in Highly Resistance-Trained Individuals. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008 Aug; 22(4):1360-70.
  3. Wilkerson GB and Colston MA. A Refined Prediction Model for Core and Lower Extremity Sprains and Strains Among Collegiate Football Players. Journal of Athletic Training. 2015 Jun; 50(6): 643-650.
  4. Clijsen R et al. Effectiveness of Exercise Therapy in Treatment of Patients With Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Physical Therapy. 2014 Dec; 94(12): 1697–1708.
  5. Wiles JD et al. The safety of isometric exercise: Rethinking the exercise prescription paradigm for those with stage 1 hypertension. Medicine. 2018 Mar; 97(10): e0105.
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