This is “The Lift,” where we break down simple fitness activities you can do anywhere — and not just do them, but do them right. With these helpful tips, you can take control of your exercise process at your pace.
Wall sits are like kombucha: a little burny, a little boring, but very good for you.
Read on for the wall sit guide your glutes, quads, and core have been waiting for.
How to do a wall sit the right way
- Stand facing away from a wall, with feet hip-width apart.
- Brace your core, then bump your butt back and bend knees to lower until knees, hamstrings, and calves make a 90-degree angle.
- Hold this position, keeping midline tight.
It sounds pretty damn straightforward. And it is. Still, there are a few tweaks that can take your form from pulp to Hulk.
Push into your whole foot
There shouldn’t be any breathing room between your heel and the floor or between your toes and the floor.
You want to be pressing your entire foot into the floor, says strength and conditioning specialist Alena Luciani, founder of Training2xl. “Think about pressing your big toe, pinky toe, and heel into the floor,” she says.
Tighten your torso
At this point, you should notice we’ve already reminded you (twice) to keep your core braced.
Third time’s the charm, so here’s another reminder to brace that midline.
“Keeping your belly button punched into your spine — meaning, keeping your core braced — will protect your lower back and spine,” says Justice Roe, a Boston-based fitness coach, certified trainer, creator of Queer Open Gym Pop-Up, and host of Fitness for All Bodies workshops.
“Failure to do that can jank up your lower back,” he says.
Lower back injury? PASS.
Engage your upper body
Your legs may be the first muscle group to feel the burn. But that doesn’t mean your upper body gets to snooze.
“Think about juicing grapefruits with your armpits [as you’re wall-sitting] to engage and create tension in your upper body,” says Luciani.
Wondering why? Well, if your upper body is activated, it’ll help keep your shoulders from rounding forward, which would place your lower back in a less-than-ideal position.
Plus, where tension is created, muscle is built.
Squeeze your glutes
“It’s easy to miss out on the opportunity to strengthen your glutes during the wall sit,” says Luciani. “You need to pay attention and make sure you’re consistently squeezing your glutes.”
As you sit, think about crushing a bunch of blueberries between your butt cheeks (or grapes, if that’s more your thing). This, she says, will make you better prepared for movements like the air squat, back squat, and front squat.
Maintain a neutral neck
A what kind of neck??
When your neck is neutral, your head is stacked directly over your neck. It’s not twisted, tilted, or contorted.
To maintain this position in the wall sit, Luciani recommends thinking about holding a big ol’ egg between your chin and chest. “You don’t want to drop the egg, and you don’t want scrambled eggs either.” In other words, you need to hold it ~just so~.
Finally, proof that just as ’buch is worth drinking, wall sits are worth doing.
Before you can understand why the wall sit is such an effective strength exercise, you have to understand isometric exercises.
Isometric holds (sometimes called static holds) are exercises that involve *not* moving.
Roe explains: “With isometrics, you get into a position that engages a group of muscles and then hold that position, keeping those muscles activated the entire time.”
A wall sit definitely qualifies. A few other examples are the plank, hollow hold, and handstand hold.
“Isometrics exercises force you to put your muscles under tension for a long period of time, which ultimately leads to increased strength gains,” says Luciani.
Here’s how isometrics help
More time under tension = more activation of the muscle fibers = more muscle breakdown = more muscle growth = greater strength gains and muscle mass.
Benefits of increased muscle mass:
- faster metabolism
- increased calorie burn
- increased fat burn
- reduced injury risk
Requires zero equipment
Literally all you need is a wall, ledge, or column (or a sturdy, willing partner) to brace yourself against.
If the classic wall sit is too hard for you, Luciani says, “You can shimmy up the wall a little bit to alleviate some tension on your quads, or you can put a chair underneath you so that you feel more secure.”
You can also literally just sit in a chair and squeeze the hell out of your glutes, quads, and hamstrings for similar results.
If, however, you want to ramp up the intensity of the wall sit, you can simply grab a weight plate or med ball and hold it either straight in front of your body or in your lap.
Can be done while drinking kombucha
This is just another plug for kombucha (seriously, it’s awesome).
According to Luciani, the wall sit is a good stepping stone to the air squat.
“The wall sit teaches folks to maintain a tight core, which they’ll need to be able to do to master the air squat,” she says. “Failure to brace your middle during an air squat can cause your back to round and shoulders to dump forward, which puts your spine in a wanky position.”
If air squats are already part of your exercise routine, take video of yourself doing one real quick. If your back makes a C or S shape at any time during the move, do yourself a solid by incorporating more core-strengthening moves like wall sits into your routine.
Depends on your goals.
If you’re using wall sits to work up to an air squat or strengthen your core, Roe recommends holding it as long as you can with good form, resting for a minute or two, and then repeating for a total of 3 reps.
If you’re doing this in place of barbell back squats (looking at you, CrossFitters stuck at home), you’re going to want to hold for a while. Think: 5 holds of 1–2 minutes with 30 seconds of rest in between.
Roe adds: “You can also use the wall sit to warm up for weighted squats or a workout with a lot of air squats.”
Bottom line: A workout should feel like a challenge, but working at your own pace can help you stay consistent. So listen to your core (and glutes).
Gabrielle Kassel is a New York-based sex and wellness writer and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. Follow her on Instagram.