Wall Sits: How To Do, Better Alternatives,…

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There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing wall sits, what will the effects be?

Wall sits are an exercise where you “sit” on air, with your back against a wall while your knees form a 90-degree angle. Your feet need to be flat on the ground and your legs need to form a 90-degree angle with your back. You then keep this pose for a certain duration.

For the most typical fitness goals, building muscle, healthy aging, and losing weight, wall sits are likely not the best exercise option available.

Even exercises as simple as a bodyweight squat, lunges, and step-ups can offer similar benefits to a larger extent in a shorter amount of time.

That being said, in some cases wall sits can make sense. Ultimately, whether you should add them to your routine depends on things like your personal situation and training goals.

How to do a wall sit

As the name implies, to do a wall sit you will need a sturdy wall or similar object, for example a tree, to do the exercise against. Once you have that, to do a wall sit take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your back against the wall.
  2. Walk forward with your feet and slide down your back against the wall until you are able to sit against the wall with both your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Hold that position for an extended period of time.

One of the benefits of a wall sit is its simple technique.

How to do a wall sit

Wall sit variations and stepping stone

A wall sit done with just your body weight is the standard version of the exercise. There are also a few wall sit variations and stepping stones that can make the exercise easier, different, or harder or help you work toward a full wall sit.

Easier varations and stepping stones

Some people are not ready yet for a full 90-degree angle wall sit. To work up to the full version you can consider doing the exercise without going for the full 90-degree angle in your knees and hips. This will help you train similar muscles but at a less challenging level.

You can also do other stepping stone exercises. The first example is a VMO dip. This is where you stand on the edge of an elevated platform with one foot in the air. You then bend the knee of the support leg just a small amount and raise yourself back up.

The vastus medialis oblique is a muscle that plays a role in knee health. If you can’t do wall sit because your knees hurt, strengthening this muscle with VMO dips may help you resolve this issue.

Harder variations

If you are more experienced with leg resistance training, bodyweight wall sits are very likely too easy to build a lot of extra muscle mass. At this point, you need to turn to other leg exercises or make wall sits harder to keep growing your leg muscles a lot.

Making wall sits harder at the right points in your training journey can also speed up muscle growth compared to doing the bodyweight variation over and over.

The first way to do this is doing wall sits with one leg up in the air so all of your weight rests on the other one. Make sure you do a wall sit of more or less the same duration on the other leg to avoid any muscle imbalances.

You can also add extra resistance like dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, a good weighted vest, and even resistance bands to make wall sits more challenging. Make sure you add the downward resistance as close to your upper body as possible.

With these types of additional weight you can also do other resistance training exercises like a wall bicep curl together with the wall sit.

Another option to engage extra muscles is to use extra equipment in a different way. You can loop a resistance band around your upper legs so that you have to push outward with your thighs to keep them in a straight line forward. This will train your outer thigh muscles more.

Muscles worked with wall sits

With any exercise you will almost always make a variety of different muscles work. Even so, there are a few muscles that will have to work the hardest for moving and keeping your body in position.

In the case of wall sits you have a say in what muscles are mainly worked. This depends on which ones you mostly use to push yourself against the wall.

For most people, the quadriceps (front thighs) will be the first to fatigue when doing walls sits. Besides that, your glutes (butt), calves, and hamstrings (back thighs) may have to work hard too.

Wall sits are mostly a type of isometric exercise. This means that you engage your muscles in a more static way, without moving a lot.

On the other hand, you have isotonic exercises where you engage your muscles in a dynamic way, by moving.

Isotonic exercises are generally more useful for building muscle. That means that other leg exercises are likely better for building a lot of leg muscle.

Benefits wall sits

That being said, doing wall sits is still generally better than doing no exercise at all. Some of the benefits of wall sits include:

  1. Stronger muscles: Wall sits are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your muscles.
  2. Can help with losing weight: Doing wall sits likely requires more calories than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss. Keep in mind that there are better exercise choices if weight loss is your goal.
  3. Improves mood: Exercise like wall sits can promote the release of substances that help you feel good.
  4. No special equipment required: All you need for wall sits is a wall or a similar object like a tree. You can find these almost everywhere at no cost to you.
  5. Improves sleep: Exercise like wall sits can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
  6. Combinable with certain exercises: If it takes a long time for wall sits to become challenging, you can combine it with other exercises.

While inevitably many workouts are better for some of these benefits than wall sits, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.

Potential risks

The main thing to keep in mind is that wall sits can be hard on body parts like your knees, hips, and back even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that wall sits are not (yet) for you. That being said, wall sits are generally a relatively safe exercise.

Wall sit alternatives

While wall sits can definitely be a decent addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training your leg muscles. Some of these wall sit alternatives include:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Step-ups
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Pistol squats
  • Leg press machine
  • Hack squat machine

Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.


Many people will benefit from adding wall sits with the right technique to their routine. That being said, for most training goals other exercise options are likely better.

Keep in mind is that wall sits can be hard on body parts like your knees, hips, and back even if you implement the right technique.

If you are sensitive in these areas you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing wall sits is a workout you love, you can consider implementing this exercise anyway. If not other exercises can likely offer more benefits.

If you do decide to implement more wall sits make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.