Wall sit is one of the best bodyweight exercises that work your leg muscles.
It is an exercise that targets many different muscles together, and it is one of the most effective exercises to build endurance and isometric strength.
The traditional exercise concentrates more on the lower body.
But, by taking advantage of the many wall sit variations at your disposal, you can extend its benefit to other parts of the body.
The exercise is not very difficult to perform, yet many find it hard to do it correctly.
You don’t need any equipment for the traditional exercise. You only need to have access to a flat wall, and you will be good to go.
How to do the basic wall sit exercise
Also known as Wall squat, devil’s chair
Targets: Glutes, Quadriceps, calves
- Stand upright with your back and torso against a wall. Your feet must be a shoulder-width apart and about 2 feet away from the wall.
- Brace and tighten the muscles in your abdomen. Then, slide your back slowly down the wall until your thighs are 90 degrees with the wall. Make sure your feet are directly above your ankle and not jutting over your toes.
- Make sure your back stays flat with the wall and keep your ab muscles contracted.
- Stay in that position for 20-60 seconds.
- With your heels firmly on the ground, slowly slide your back up the wall into an upright position to complete the cycle.
- Rest for about 30 seconds and repeat the cycle 3 more times to complete a session.
- Gradually increase the number of seconds you hold the position as you gain more strength.
- If you are a beginner, you can start the wall sit by holding your thighs at 45 degrees or less instead of 90. You can then increase the angle gradually as you build more strength.
- Your knees should never extend beyond your ankles. This is the most effective way to work your quads.
- Do not put your weight on your toes. Make sure your heels are firmly on the ground. Doing so will concentrate your weight on your heels.
- All the listed exercises put pressure on the knees(1). Thus, do not attempt any of them if you have an existing knee condition or injury. Instead, discuss with your physical therapist or doctor before trying any of the postures.
- You may experience some burning sensation in your quads.
- Stop the exercise if you feel any pain in your knee or kneecap.
9 Wall Sit Variations That Work Your Whole Body
Here are 9 devil’s chair exercise or wall sit variations to help tone your whole body.
You must master and get very comfortable with the standard exercise before trying these wall sit variations.
Weighted Wall Sit
Also known as Dumbbell Wall Sit, Wall Sit with Dumbbells
Required: Dumbbells or kettlebells
- Start this exercise by holding dumbbells or kettlebells of appropriate weight in each hand by your side.
- Slide into position while holding the dumbbells or kettlebell. Your hands must be well stretched and pointing downwards.
- Hold the pose for as long as you can and return to the standing position.
- Repeat, as described above.
- Alternatively, you can use just one dumbbell for this exercise. To do this, hold the weights on your thighs when you get into the sitting position.
Wall Sit with Shoulder Press
Target: Hamstrings, quads, anterior deltoids, calves, lats, lateral deltoid, glutes
Benefits: One of the wall sit variations that will help tone your upper body and shoulders
Equipment needed: You need dumbbells for this and other wall sit variations.
- Slide into the wall sit position while holding dumbbells in each hand and by your side.
- Raise your arms and with your elbows bent, bring the dumbbells towards your ears, such that your biceps and forearms are at right angles.
- Lift the weights as far as you can towards the ceiling. Keep your biceps very close to your ears.
- Lower the dumbbells slowly to ear level while still in the wall sit position.
- Repeat the process about 10x to complete a cycle
Do not start this exercise with very heavy dumbbells. Doing so could put too much pressure on your lower back.
Wall Sit with Stability Ball
Also known as: Stability Ball Wall Squat
Equipment Needed: Exercise ball
Target: Quads, glutes calves, hamstrings, adductors, lower back
Benefit: Another of the wall sit variations that can help tone your hips and legs. It can also help improve the stabilizing and balancing capabilities of your body
- Get into the wall sit starting position with a ball between the lower section of your back and a wall.
- Press your back on the ball to make sure the ball is stable
- Pull your two shoulders down and up and concentrate your weight on your heels
- Then, get into the wall sit position by rolling the ball with your back to lower your body towards the floor. Inhale slowly and keep your core tight as you do this.
- Remain in the sitting position with your hands on your thighs for a few seconds. Start Exhaling and roll yourself back to your starting position to complete a set.
- Aim to complete 5-10 reps per session at the beginning and up to 15 reps as you gain more experience.
Wall sit with Straight Leg Lift
Target: Lower and upper abs, quads, glutes, hamstrings, adductors, calves
Benefits: Like many of the listed will sit variations, this pose can help build your strength and stamina
- To do this exercise, get into the standard exercise position as described above. Tighten your core and lift and fully extend one leg until it is parallel with the floor
- Keep the leg extended and pointed in front of you for about 30 seconds. Make sure to keep your thighs parallel with the floor and your knee directly above your ankle. Keep your extended leg and your hips at the same level.
- Return the lifted leg to the floor and repeat the process with the other leg
Wall sit with bicep curls
Target: Glutes, hamstrings, quads, deltoids, calves, biceps, flexors, wrist extensors
Benefits: Another of the wall sit variations that can help tone your upper arms
- Get into the basic wall sit position while holding a dumbbell of appropriate weight in each hand.
- Rotate your palms to face you.
- While contracting your biceps, curl the dumbbells upwards to your shoulders. Hold the position and squeeze your biceps for one or two seconds.
- Then, while rotating your palms such that the dumbbells come into contact with the wall behind you, slowly lower your arms and bring them back to their original position.
- This will complete a set.
- Do not move your upper arms while doing this.
- Aim to complete between 8 and 10 sets per session while still in the wall sit position.
Aim to use 4 seconds when curling upwards and another 4 seconds for the downward move. Thus, you must aim to complete each set in 8 seconds.
Wall Squat Lateral Raise
Equipment Needed: Like other wall sit variations, you need a pair of dumbbells of appropriate weight and a wall
Target: abs, hamstrings, quads, calves, glutes, biceps, lats
Benefits: One of the wall sit variations that help tone, strengthen, and stabilize your shoulders and upper body abs. Also helps tone the abs
Get into position while holding dumbbells in each hand and by your side. Keep your feet about a shoulder-width from each other.
Engage your core. Then, slide down the wall with your back till your knees are at right angles with your hips. Keep your hands fully stretched and by your side.
With your hands still fully extended, lift the dumbbells till your hands are at right angles with your body, and bring them down to your side. Repeat. Keep your palms facing downwards as you raise and lower the equipment.
Aim to do up to 12 reps to complete a set while in the sitting position and 3 sets per session.
Wall Sit with Crossed Arms
Target: Upper and lower abs quads, calves, hamstrings, glute
Benefit: One of the wall sit variations that is great for the abs, butts, and thighs
- Stand upright and place your back and torso against a wall. Your feet must be two feet away from the wall and a shoulder-width apart.
- Cross your arms at your chest
- Contract your abs and slide slowly down the wall till your knees and thighs are parallel with the floor. Hold the position for about 10 seconds ( or more if you can).
- Exhale and slowly slide upwards to your starting position
- Repeat to make a set
- To benefit more from this version of the wall sit variations, aim to go through 10 sets per session
Wall Sit with Resistance Band
Required: Resistance band (or belt)
Target: Core, hamstrings, calves, quads glute, adductors
Benefits: One of the few wall sit variations that can help tone and burn fat around your inner thighs
- To start this wall sit varaition, strap a resistance band (or belt) around your thighs and get into the basic exercise starting posture
- Slide down the wall till you get to the point where the wall and your legs are at right angles. Keep your legs wide open though out the exercise.
- While in the sitting position, push out with your hips and open your knees much further. Keep doing this as many times as you can
- Then, slide up the wall.
- Repeat to complete a set
- Aim to complete 10 sets per session
Wall Sit with Rotation
Required: Medicine ball
Target: Glutes, core
- Get into the basic exercise position while holding a medicine ball in both hands
- Twist your torso and the ball slowly to the right till the ball virtually touches the wall and then back to the center to complete one rep.
- Reverse the direction by twisting to the left and back to the center
- Keep your core tight and your head forward
- To make this version of wall sit variations more beneficial, do not bend your elbows. Instead, keep your hands fully extended.
- Aim to do 20 reps in total per session
What to do next?
The wall sit exercise may seem like a basic exercise and overlooked for that reason. But you cannot ignore the many benefits these wall sit variations can contribute to your fitness and health.
As a compound exercise, it can work various parts of the whole body. This is very true if you advantage of the many wall sit variations at your disposal.
Do not concentrate on the basic position alone.
Instead, work through some of the many wall sit variations we have listed. You must then aim to include some of these into your fitness plans for a healthy lifestyle.
- Morrissey MC, Seto JL, Brewster CE, Kerlan RK. Conditioning for skiing and ski injury prevention. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1987;8(9):428–437. doi:10.2519/jospt.19184.108.40.2068
- Goldring N, Wiles JD, Coleman D. The effects of isometric wall squat exercise on heart rate and blood pressure in a normotensive population. J Sports Sci. 2014;32(2):129-36. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2013.809471. Epub 2013 Jul 24. PMID: 23879248.
- Cho M. The effects of modified wall squat exercises on average adults’ deep abdominal muscle thickness and lumbar stability. J Phys Ther Sci. 2013 Jun;25(6):689-92. doi: 10.1589/jpts.25.689. Epub 2013 Jul 23. PMID: 24259831; PMCID: PMC3804993.
- Lee Y. The influence of unstable modified wall squat exercises on the posture of female university students. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Aug;27(8):2477-80. doi: 10.1589/jpts.27.2477. Epub 2015 Aug 21. PMID: 26356770; PMCID: PMC4563294
- Graham J. Wall squat with stability ball and dumbells. Strength Cond J. 2009;31(1):48-49. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e318195a278
- Han HR, Yi CH, You SH, Cynn HS, Lim OB, Son JI. Comparative Effects of 4 Single-Leg Squat Exercises in Subjects With Gluteus Medius Weakness. J Sport Rehabil. 2018 Nov 1;27(6):513-519. doi: 10.1123/jsr.2016-0193. Epub 2018 Jun 22. PMID: 28714757.
- Jung S, Hwang UJ, Kim J, Jeon I, Kwon OY. Relationship between lower extremity extensor strength and wall squat performance. Phys Ther Korea. 2019;26:20-28. doi:10.12674/ptk.2019.26.4.020