How to Do the Wall Sit

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Woman doing a wall sit against a brick wall in gym

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Wall squat, devil's chair

Targets: Quadriceps, glutes, calves

Level: Beginner

The wall sit exercise is a real quad burner, working the muscles in the front of your thighs. This exercise is generally used for building isometric strength and endurance in the quadriceps muscle group, glutes, and calves. The wall sit is not a complicated exercise, but many people often still get it wrong. You know that you are performing the wall fit properly if you form a right angle (90 degrees) at your hips and your knees, your back is flat against the wall, and your heels are on the ground. You should be able to feel a slight pulling of the quad area. You can do this exercise as part of any lower body routine.

Benefits

This exercise isolates the quadriceps muscles of the front of your thighs. The wall sit is often used for gradually building pre-season leg strength for downhill skiing, ice hockey, track and field, running, and other activities. In sports such as running that mostly work the hamstrings, strengthening the quads helps keep you in muscle balance. The wall sit builds endurance and skiers benefit from being able to stay tucked longer without quad fatigue. The wall sit exercise should be used in combination with other quad strengthening exercises, such as the walking lunge or some basic plyometrics if ski conditioning is your goal. In daily life, strong quads are used for getting out of a chair and walking downhill or down stairs.

Step-by-Step Instructions

You can perform this exercise anywhere you have access to a flat wall.

  1. Start with your back against a wall with your feet shoulder width and about 2 feet from the wall.
  2. Engage your abdominal muscles and slowly slide your back down the wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  3. Adjust your feet so your knees are directly above your ankles (rather than over your toes).
  4. Keep your back flat against the wall.
  5. Hold the position for 20 to 60 seconds.
  6. Slide slowly back up the wall to a standing position.
  7. Rest 30 seconds and repeat the exercise three times. Increase your hold time by five seconds as you increase your strength.

Common Mistakes

To get the most out of this exercise and prevent injuries, avoid these errors.

Thighs Not Parallel to the Ground

The position you need to hold is with your thighs at 90 degrees to both your back and your lower legs. At first, you may need to hold with your thighs at a 45 degree angle or less as you build strength. But do not go lower so your thighs are at a higher angle than 90 degrees.

Knees Extending Beyond Ankles

Never allow your knees to extend past your ankles. This is a dangerous position for the knees. Your lower legs should be parallel to the ground with your knees directly over your ankles.

Weight on Toes

The weight should be on your heels, not on your toes. Your heels should be on the ground.

Finishing Down Rather Than Up

At the end of each rep, you need to push into your heels and slide back up the wall. If you instead collapse to the floor you are endangering your knees.

Modifications and Variations

This exercise can be changed to match your fitness level to make it more accessible or to give yourself more of a workout.

Need a Modification?

Because the wall sit is intense, you may need to modify your position or the length of your hold the first few times you try this exercise in order to complete it. Making a modification is fine, as it will still help you build strength as you work up to being able to complete a regular wall sit.

  • You may find it more comfortable to place an exercise ball between your back and the wall.
  • To decrease the intensity of the wall sit, don't slide down the wall quite as far. Aim for a 45-degree angle at the hips rather than a 90-degree angle. This will take a bit of pressure off your knees and lighten the load on the quads.
  • Another way to modify the exercise is to hold the position for a shorter amount of time at first and increase your hold time as you get stronger. Try to hold for five to 10 seconds in the beginning.
  • A similar exercise, the wall slide, may be used in physical therapy when recovering from an injury.

Up for a Challenge?

If you are a multi-tasker, get into wall sit position with a dumbbell in each hand. You can do bicep curls, lat raises, and shoulder presses.

Simply holding a weight while doing a wall sit will increase the load and make the exercise more intense.

You can progress to a single-leg wall sit, which will challenge your balance and work more muscles. From the wall sit position, extend one leg in front of you for a few seconds. Return that leg to the floor and then extend the other leg. Be sure your thighs remain parallel to the floor and your knees don't extend beyond your ankles.

Safety and Precautions

This exercise places most of the weight on the knees and it should not be done by anybody who has an existing knee injury or condition without discussing it first with your doctor or physical therapist. You may feel a burning sensation in the quads, but if you have pain in the knee or kneecap, stop the exercise.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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