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A wall sit is an exercise that involves leaning the back against the surface of a wall and then bending the knees until the thighs are parallel to the floor. Balancing in this position provides an excellent workout for the quadriceps. This is a static exercise, so it provides a constant and targeted strain on the thigh muscles and increases the muscle's strength and endurance.
To perform a wall sit, the athlete begins by standing about two feet away from a wall and facing directly away from the wall. Then, while keeping the feet firmly planted on the floor, the athlete bends at the knees until his or her back touches the wall. He or she then slides farther down the wall until the knees are bent at roughly a 90 degree angle. For added intensity, the athlete can choose to lift one leg off the ground and perform the wall sit with all of the weight resting on the other leg. If an athlete uses this variation, though, he or she should be sure to perform the wall sit using the other leg as well, in order to maintain the same strength in each leg.
Once the athlete has reached this position, he or she should hold the position before sliding back up the wall and eventually resuming the standing position. Throughout the exercise, it is important to keep the back straight and the feet planted firmly on the floor. The athlete should contract the abdominal muscles during the exercise as well, to maintain the proper form and balance.
How long the athlete holds the position will vary depending on his or her fitness level and on the intention of the workout. Sometimes, athletes will do multiple repetitions of the exercise, holding the position for 20 to 60 seconds each time. An athlete also can choose to do only a single repetition, but to hold the position for a longer period of time. One final option is to simply hold the position for as long as possible. When performing this last option, it is important that the athlete be careful when standing back up, because the fatigue of the quadriceps can make returning to the standing position difficult.
Despite this difficulty, performing a wall sit for as long as possible can have several benefits. First, the time provides a benchmark for future wall sits — ideally, as the quadriceps gain endurance, an athlete can try to hold the wall sit a little bit longer each time. Also, an athlete can perform this type of wall sit on each leg individually. If the total time of one leg is drastically greater than the other, this can indicate an imbalance in the strength of the legs.
Whichever variation of a wall sit an athlete chooses, the benefits for the quadriceps are substantial. For this reason, wall sits are very popular among athletes who need to have strong leg muscles. It is a very common exercise for fencing, hockey and sailing, and it also can benefit track and field athletes.