The Wall Sit Exercise, Explained In Detail + 8 Variations To Try

The wall sit is an isometric exercise that focuses on your lower body muscles including your quads, glutes and calves, while also working your core.

In this guide, we will look at the fundamentals of a wall sit exercise, how to do it properly, its benefits, and eight different variations you can try out during your next strength training session.

What is a Wall Sit Exercise? 

Did you ever imagine a wall could be a piece of strength training equipment? 

Well, it can be, and for our purposes today, it is precisely what we will need to work out. As the name states, a wall sit exercise is a bodyweight exercise that requires a wall, or something sturdy to lean against, to perform it properly.

The wall sit is an isometric exercise, an exercise where the muscles are contracted and held in a static position without any movement of the surrounding joints, which primarily works your legs and core.

How To Do A Basic Wall Sit Exercise

A basic wall sit.

First off, you need to find a wall or something stable that you will be able to lean your back against to hold yourself up. 

  1. Stand two feet in front of the wall, facing away from it.
  2. Place your back against the wall and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  3. Engage your core, keep your weight in your heels, and slide down the wall in a controlled manner until you are seated, knees bent at a 90-degree angle, and thighs parallel to the floor. As with any squat, ensure your knees do not pass in front of your toes and that they are lined up above your ankles.
  4. You can place your hands straight out in front of you, by your sides, or clasped against your chest.
  5. Hold this position keeping your back flat against the wall, and avoid sliding downward or angling yourself up. 
  6. Hold this seated position for the desired amount of time. 

If you are a beginner, this exercise will feel tricky as your thighs will begin to burn soon after you have assumed the correct position. Begin with short intervals, such as 15 or 20 seconds, and gradually work your way up in 5 seconds increments until you reach 3 or 4 sets x 45 – 60 seconds a pop. 

Suppose you have tried sitting at 90 degrees but can not hold the position just yet. In that case, you can try sitting at a 45-degree angle to start until you build up enough leg strength to maintain the correct position.

The wall sit exercise is full of benefits for anyone who performs it. Let’s take a quick peak at what some of those benefits are.

A person doing a kettlebell wall sit.

Benefits of the Wall Sit Exercise

Including wall sit exercise into your strength training workouts has the following benefits.

Wall sits:

  • Protect joints by strengthening quads without joint extension, which can be helpful if suffering from common runner overuse injuries such as runner’s knee.
  • Improve stability, especially with variations that include lifting one leg at a time and performing upper body exercises simultaneously. 

Now, let’s take a look at some variations to spice up those wall sits.

8 Wall Sit Exercise Variations To try Out

Performing the same exercise over and over again can not only be monotonous, but after repeating the exercise several times, you will get stronger and stronger, and the basic wall sit may begin to feel a bit too easy.

As with squats, lunges, planks, and any other number of exercises, there are a bunch of variations that you can try out after you’ve mastered the basic exercise. 

Let’s take a look at 7 different variations that you can try out to spice up your workout: 

#1: Kettlebell Wall Sit Exercise 

A kettlebell wall sit.

After you have mastered the basic wall sit, add some weight to the exercise to make it more challenging. You can use a kettlebell, dumbbells, or even a medicine ball. 

  1. Hold a kettlebell with both hands at chest height, palms facing in, and keep your elbows together. 
  2. Lower down into a basic wall sit position. 
  3. Hold for the desired amount of time.

#2: Single Leg Wall Sit Exercise 

Single leg wall sit.

Let’s add the challenge of making this exercise one-legged! You must engage your core to keep your body upright and avoid tipping over to one side. 

  1. Begin in a basic wall sit position.
  2. Lift one leg off the ground and stretch it out before you.
  3. Hold for the desired amount of time.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Note: As you progress, you can also add weight to this variation to ramp up the difficulty. 

#3: Marching Wall Sit Exercise 

A person doing a marching wall sit.

This is similar to the one-legged version but with a twist that demands even more core stability. 

  1. Begin in a basic wall sit position.
  2. Lift one leg off the floor toward your chest, keeping your knee bent. 
  3. Pause for a second or two in this position.
  4. Bring your foot back to the floor.
  5. Repeat with the other leg. 
  6. Alternate legs as if you were marching. 
  7. Repeat for the desired amount of time.

#4: Wall Sit with Calf Raise 

A person doing a calf raise wall sit.

With this variation, we will add in some addition work for our calf muscles.

  1. Begin in a basic wall sit position.
  2. Lift your heels off the floor and push up on your toes, performing a calf raise. 
  3. Hold this position for a second or two.
  4. Bring your heels back to the floor. 
  5. Repeat for the desired amount of time. 

Note: You can also do this by alternating legs, lifting your right heel, and then your left. 

#5: Resistance Band Wall Sit Exercise

Reistance band wall sit.

How about adding in some adductor work with this one? You will need a mini resistance band for this variation.

  1. Loop a resistance band around your thighs, just above your knees. 
  2. Perform a basic wall sit with the resistance band tight around your thighs, pushing your knees outward to avoid collapse. 
  3. Hold for the desired amount of time. 

#6: Tension Wall Sit Exercise 

Medicine ball wall sit.

For this variation, you will need an exercise ball or another object that you can hold between your legs. We’ll really feel the burn in our thighs with this one! 

  1. Begin in a basic wall sit position.
  2. Place an exercise ball between your thighs and maintain it stable for the duration of the exercise. 
  3. Hold for the desired amount of time. 

#7: Pallof Press Wall Sit

Pallof press wall sit.

Why not add a little extra core and stability work to this one? You will need a kettlebell or dumbbell to perform this exercise. 

  1. Begin in a basic wall sit position, holding the weight with both hands to your chest, palms facing each other. 
  2. Engage your core and push the weight straight out in front of you.
  3. Hold the weight in the extended position for a second or two. 
  4. With control, bring the weight back in toward your chest. 
  5. Repeat for the desired amount of time or number or reps. 

If you want to add some upper body work into these exercises, you could also perform bicep curls, lateral raises, or shoulder presses while holding the position. Just make sure your technique doesn’t waiver.

#8: Wall Sit with Bicep Curls

The Wall Sit Exercise, Explained In Detail + 8 Variations To Try 1

You will need two dumbbells for this variation. 

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. 
  2. Assume the basic wall sit position. 
  3. Perform bicep curls in a controlled motion, never releasing the tension on your arms. 
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps or for an amount of time. 

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to switch up your wall sit exercises, so you’re not always doing the same old thing. So get ready to strengthen those legs and try out our wall sit exercise variations.

If you would like to add some other great strengthening exercises to your training program, you can check out our other exercise guides for more ideas:

Squat Variations For Runners 

Lunge Variations For Runners

Plank Variations For Runners 

Upper Body Workout For Runners 

The Wall Sit Exercise, Explained In Detail + 8 Variations To Try 2
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Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community she is known for her ear to ear smile even under the toughest race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

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