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  • Clem Duranseaud

Why we do wall sits in our hiit workouts


Wall sits are a great way to workout your leg muscles and your mental resiliency. I include them in our HIIT workouts for this reason

If you've done my fitness classes for a while, I'm sure you noticed that wall sits make a regular appearance. This leg burning exercise doesn't really do much for us from a "get in shape" perspective, but I'll tell you why they are here to stay.


Wall sits are an isometric contraction, meaning that the muscles neither lengthens nor shortens, aka it is staying still. It's like a plank, but for the lower body.


Isometric contractions strengthen the muscle only at the angle that it's performed. This means that if you hold your wall sit with a 45° of knee flexion, you will will only get stronger at 45° of knee flexion. If you hold it a little higher up, you will get stronger only at that angle.


From a functional perspective, it's not very useful. One of my workout beliefs is that everyone should get stronger throughout a full range of motion. Literally the opposite of isometric contraction. There is a time and a place for those exercises (wall sits are actually amazing to prep for ski season), but usually not in a HIIT workout like we do.


Now that we've bashed them a little, let's get into the reason why I love wall sits, and why you will continue to be subjected to them.


Simply put, they are fantastic to for your mental resiliency.


All isometric exercises have that advantage in my opinion. They always start easy, and gradually, get worse and worse. But here's the thing: no matter how much worse it gets, you know you can always hold on a little longer.


And that's why they are important. they teach us to hold on a little longer in even though our muscles don't want to.


I've done, many, many wall sits with my group classes and I noticed something interesting. In wall sits shorter than six minutes, my legs only started to burn at the halfway mark, regardless of the time.


When we were holding a four minutes wall sit, I would start to get uncomfortable at the two minutes mark. But when we did a six minutes wall sit, my leg muscles would only start to burn at the three minutes mark!


I don't know if others noticed or felt the same thing, but this made me realize how much my physical struggles are linked to my mental perception of them.


Our mental judgement about how challenging a physical endeavour is influences how we respond to it. And that's exactly what we try to get better at with wall sits.


My goal is for you to learn how to perceive the challenge of holding this uncomfortable position in a new way each time. And what I love with wall sits is that no matter how good you get at them, they still burn!


You're never going to feel comfortable in a wall sit, but you will get better and better at being in this challenging sensation. That's mental resiliency. And it has a huge impact on the rest of our lives. The stronger our mental resiliency, the more we can push in other situations, like the rest of our HIIT classes. This in turn helps us progress quicker towards any fitness goals we may have.


There are an unlimited way of strengthening our mental resiliency. It's about being in a position like a workout, a hike, a race, a sporting event and practicing the will to continue even though our bodies are begging for a break.


That's also why I enjoy using them as "breaks" in the HIIT workouts. In theory, you are giving your body a rest from the high intensity work and your breathing and heart rate will slow down. In practice it spices things up nicely without compromising the goal of the workout which is to move intensely.


Wall sits offer you a very safe and convenient way of practicing this. You can do them from the comfort of your home or anywhere you are in the world.


When you do them, have your feet shoulder width apart, heels under your knees and try to have the top of your legs parallel with the ground.


Happy training,


Clem



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