“I Did A Wall Sit Every Day For A Month To Tighten My Butt And Legs”
Bums and legs… Where all our lumps and bumps go to chill. So when there are whisperings of an exercise that’s great for lower-body toning and tightening, my scrawny limbs and I are always keen to try it. But I’m horrible at solo fitness, so I roped in a couple of other beautiful-butt-and-lovely-leg chasers to motivate me through the month – and so that we could compare the results of this ace move.
The Wall Sit
The exercise in question was the wall sit – basically a static squat. And your reward from sitting perfectly still against a wall? Mega muscle activation. From the big guns – quardiceps, hamstrings, core/lower abdominals, adductors – to the (not so) “minor” ones: abductors, glutes, calves… Mmmmm, all this for seemingly little effort? Totally in.
But before you snuggle up against a wall and begin the wait for those magic results (as we did, ahem), know this: There’s a right way to do the wall sit… and a multitude of wrong ways. “It’s important to get your positioning right so you don’t over-activate/overload certain muscles and under-stimulate others,” says Virgin Active master trainer Aneeka Buys.
Sitting forward will activate more of the hammies and sitting back will activate more of the quads. Buys suggests always sitting back (unless you have very weak quads) – the activations when leaning forward may be lost, and bad form habits are often learned this way.
How To Do It
“Lean back against a wall, with your feet about two foot lengths away from you. Your feet should be hip-width apart and your core well activated so that your back is pressed against the wall. Lower down, bending at the knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor and your knees are directly over your ankles, creating a 90 degree angle at the knee joint,” explains Buys. Keep good joint alignment through your legs (ie. hip, knee, ankle and big toe all aligned), constantly be aware of your form, and… Hold.
Oh The pain… The PAIN!
On Day 1 – a measly 30 seconds – participants were many. By Day 30 – at a full three minutes! – there were three. Because the pain really does vary from minor ouch to agonising, depending on how long you hold the wall sit. And we increased our hold by 10 seconds daily.
How we did it while everyone else dropped like flies? Super-competitive Leigh Champanis-King’s strategy: “I coped much better when I was in charge of the timer – I felt more in control for some reason. Waiting for someone to tell me how long we have puts me in a negative space and I want to stop immediately. (Confession: sometimes I put the timer on on my phone, even when Other Leigh was already timing – it made me feel so much better!) It definitely has something to do with the competitive part of me.”
And then there’s The Wiggle [I was also a fan of this cheat]: “I moved my body around a bit, leaning forward, leaning back etc. Each move gave about a second’s reprieve from the pain, but it was better than nothing,” she says.
And ultra-determined Leigh Cann’s secret? “Breathing through it, chatting, or watching videos of bears scratching themselves against trees…”
Did Our Bodies Change?
Champanis, the Realist, didn’t expect to notice a change, but did feel like her legs got a bit stronger during the challenge. “Obviously, I could be imagining this increase in strength, but my legs did feel stronger by the end (disclaimer: I was also doing multiple squats and lunges most mornings at S.W.E.A.T. 1000).”
Cann, another Realist, agrees: “I do actually feel like my quads are a bit harder and definitely stronger. I would have liked to see a firming in my glutes, but I’ll take the quads anyway.”
As for me, the Complete Fantasist, whether real or imagined, I swear my bum got a leeeeetle bit firmer, perter, cuter! It also felt like I had better control over my leg drive while paddling. I felt stronger in my sport – but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly where or how. Maybe it was more that mental thing of incremental daily improvements: a minor win every day can be a great motivator.
Beyond The Body Benefits…
Shaky legs and cursing aside, wall sitting really did add something extra to my day – from motivating me to push harder in other areas of fitness, to that small ego boost that soaks into all other aspects of your life – and just the reprieve from work, or monotony, whatever.
For Cann, the best part was “doing it in a group and being encouraged by the team.” For Champanis: “The best part of the challenge was getting to spend a few minutes each day away from my desk, laughing and suffering with colleagues. I felt like I accomplished something each day and that I formed a closer bond with my fellow wall-sit sufferers. I’m very proud of being able to do a three-minute wall sit.”
So besides the minuscule physical changes, motivational element and happy vibes, how effective is the wall sit as an exercise, really? Buys says: “A wall sit on its own is not going to improve muscle tone and strength in your legs, unfortunately. The best results are achieved when performed in conjunction with concentric movements like lunges and squats.”
Oh. I mean, we watched bear back-scratching videos and laugh-cried through 30 days of wall sits. I made a guy I REALLY like time me against a tree on our very first camping trip! Surely a shapelier bum – surely!? I posed the killer question to Buys, and her response was…
“This question is very difficult to answer as different people develop muscle tone at different rates, and certain exercises work better for some than others. The body also adapts to what you do often, so one should be more focused on variety and decreasing adaptation, than finding THE EXERCISE for a great butt.” Wisdom that so few of us quick-fixers want to hear – but the truth.
Still proud of our solid-gold three-minuter though…