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Master the Wall Sit - Good Form, Variations, & Common Mistakes

Reading Time: 3 minutes 35 seconds

By: ISSA

Date: 2020-12-15T00:00:00-05:00


The wall sit, also known as the wall squat, is an excellent, low-impact exercise for the lower body. It's an isometric exercise that challenges the muscular endurance of the quadriceps (quads), hamstrings, and glutes.

Many clients dislike the wall squat because it can be a challenging exercise, however, one of the reasons we love it is because it doesn't require equipment. You can do it pretty much anywhere (as long as you can find a wall).

Follow along as we explore how to properly execute a wall sit, ways you can modify the wall sit for your client, and some common mistakes to watch for!

The Essentials of the Wall Sit

To begin the wall sit exercise, find a sturdy wall next to a floor with good grip (is not slippery). The client will place their feet about shoulder-width apart with the toes pointing forward, gently press their back against the wall, and engage their core muscles. Keeping the knees over the ankles and the shoulders back, the client will slowly slide down the wall until the quads are parallel with the floor (knees at a 90-degree angle). The heels should press into the floor, the back maintains contact with the wall, and the abdominal muscles engage throughout the entire exercise. The client will hold the squat position for a set time (typically somewhere between 30-90+ seconds) and press back up into the starting position to rest before beginning the next rep.

As the glutes, hamstrings, and quads work to fight gravity, it's common for clients to feel a burning sensation in their quads and their legs may shake a bit! It's important to note, however, if clients have knee pain or knee injuries you may want to consider skipping the wall sit exercise.

Wall Sit Variations

The wall sit may appear to be a fairly simple exercise but there are many different ways you can modify the move to fit your clients' needs.

Decrease/Increase Time

The wall sit should be challenging. However, every client's ability is different. Some clients may find 15 seconds incredibly difficult whereas other clients may be able to wall sit for two minutes.

Use a Resistance Band

If your clients are looking for a little extra challenge, you can have them put a resistance band on the outside of their thighs, just above the knees. Clients will engage more muscles holding themselves up while simultaneously keeping resistance on the band to prevent the knees from caving in.

Squeeze a Medicine Ball

Much like the resistance band, a larger medicine ball can add difficulty by forcing the client to hold the isometric contraction while activating the inner thigh muscles to keep the medicine ball from dropping.

Use the Upper Body

Although the lower body is doing the bulk of the work during the wall sit exercise, you can have your clients add upper body movement for more of a challenge. Arm exercises like dumbbell curls, shoulder presses, etc., can engage the arms and also challenge the core and lower body to work a little harder to stabilize the body while in the wall sit position.

Lean on an Exercise Ball

Putting a stability ball in between your client's back and the wall is another way to make the wall squat more challenging. Clients will execute the wall squat with normal form, but their back will be pressed against the stability ball instead of the wall. The ball creates an unstable surface that makes the muscles work a bit harder to stabilize and maintain the proper position during the exercise.

Add Weight

More weight can increase the intensity of the wall sit. Whether your clients wear a weighted vest or hold a dumbbell, adding additional weight on top of their body weight will challenge the legs.

Common Mistakes

There are a few common mistakes some clients make when adding wall sits to their workout plan.

1. Incorrect Foot Placement

If the feet are in the wrong place, the client can experience additional stress on the knees or lower back. The toes should point forward and ankles should be under or slightly in front of the knees. The weight of the body should be in the heels with the toes also on the ground.

2. Rounding the Shoulders/Spine Comes Away from the Wall

The spine should remain neutral throughout the entire wall squat. So, although not every single part of the back will touch the wall (because the spine naturally curves), parts of the back and shoulders will have contact with the wall throughout the movement.

3. Not Low Enough

If your client sits too high, the legs don't have to work as hard. So, if they want to challenge the quads, they need to get low enough (knees at a 90-degree angle).

Regardless of which variation you choose, proper form is always essential! Help your clients master basic form and then progress them with the appropriate modifications. Their legs will fatigue, it will burn, and they may not like you during the bulk of the exercise, but they'll thank you for the progress later!

Turn your passion into your profession with ISSA's Certified Personal Trainer Course. You'll learn appropriate exercises, proper programming, and how to challenge your body and mind to become a healthier you!

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