I did a single-leg wall sit every day for a week — here's what happened to my legs

a photo of a woman doing a single leg wall sit
(Image credit: Getty Images/skynesher)

As a fitness writer and personal trainer, I love nothing more than a fitness challenge, but single-leg wall sits were not on my to-do list after my week of five-minute wall sits a few months ago (you can read all about that here on Tom’s Guide). 

Would this exercise be as brutal as it sounds? I gave it a go for a week so you don’t have to. Read on to find out what happened. 

What are the benefits of a single-leg wall sit?

A single-leg wall sit is not for the faint-hearted — it’s an exercise that challenges every muscle in the lower body, in particular the quads, but also the hamstrings, calves, and glutes. Plus, your core muscles get a workout too as they’re fired up keeping you flat against the wall.

The beauty of wall sits is that they keep your muscles under tension throughout the exercise — your muscles are working hard to stay in the seated position against the wall. Time under tension is what causes muscles to grow and get stronger, so a wall sit is an excellent exercise to throw into your lower body regime if you are planning on boosting your muscles. 

As a PT, I have often thrown wall sits into my gym classes and a single-leg wall sit is a move that many do struggle with. However, as a unilateral exercise, it is great at working each side of the body individually, ensuring that strength is balanced, rather than one side taking more of the slack and working harder.

I was skeptical about doing a single-leg wall sit every day for a week. Rather than set an amount of time in which to hold my single-leg wall sit, I decided to hold it for as long as I could, swapping legs when the first leg was worn out. But first…

How to do a single-leg wall sit 

So for starters, you need a clear area of wall. I also recommend doing a few lower body stretches beforehand to prep your legs:

an illo of a man doing a single-leg wall sit

(Image credit: Shutterstock)
  • Stand facing away from your wall. Slide down the wall, bending your knees as you drop down until your knees are at a right angle to the ground.
  • Your back should be firmly against the wall and your feet flat on the floor, with your ankles directly under your knees.
  • Next, while engaging all of your core and lower body muscles, lift your left foot from the ground. You can either keep your knee bent with your foot lifted or if you can, aim to straighten this leg out.
  • Make sure you swap legs, so each leg gets a turn

Want to make it harder? Try placing one of the best adjustable dumbbells or a barbell plate on your lap. You could even add an ankle weight to the foot that’s lifted, just to add some extra resistance.

I did a single-leg wall sit every day for a week — here's what happened

I couldn’t hold it for long

Upon lifting my left leg from the floor, I set my timer and managed a 1-minute 20-second wall sit on each leg. However, compared to a standard wall sit, this was pretty pitiful. 

These are HARD

As predicted, these single-leg wall sits are tricky and noticeably harder than a classic wall sit, using two legs. I was a little rocky as I tried to straighten out my leg, so often I found myself simply hovering my leg above the floor and holding it for a period of time. 

Oh and might I add, they didn’t get particularly easier as the week went on. 

By the end of the week my legs were sore

I’m used to training every day, whether that is lifting weights, going for a run, or doing some form of Pilates class as active recovery, but holding a single-leg wall sit left my legs in tatters by the end of the week. I was surprised that such a simple, bodyweight movement could make such a difference — it just goes to show that adding some variation to your workouts is a great way to shake things up. 

It’s the quads that get it

As I mentioned, a lot of muscles are at work during a single-leg wall sit, but oh my word were my quads quivering by the end. Other muscles that took some slack were my calves and my glutes. Walking up and down the stairs by the end of the week was a struggle. 

I placed more focus on my core

I found that in order to stay in the single-leg wall sit position, I needed to really brace my core — I made a conscious effort to squeeze every muscle in my midsection as I held the static sit. I am fairly certain that after a few minutes of squeezing, my abs were popping a little bit more than usual. 

I did a single-leg wall sit every day for a week — here’s my verdict 

I didn’t realize how tough this exercise would be, but here I am a week later, and although my legs are definitely sore, I was impressed at how hard they had to work in this bodyweight move. I will definitely look to incorporate more single-leg wall sits into my lower-leg workouts, especially when working out from home with no equipment. They’re also great as a finisher to burn the legs out after a weights-based workout.

If you struggle with single-leg wall sits, stick with regular wall sits until you feel ready to lift a leg off the floor. If you’re up for the challenge, add weight, or increase the time in your single-leg hold — just get ready to feel your muscles shake!

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Lucy Gornall

Lucy is a freelance health and fitness journalist as well as a pre and post-natal personal trainer. Although a sweaty gym session (skipping rope is a must) is her favorite way to ‘relax’, she’s also a fan of bingeing on The Office, snacking on chocolate-coated raisins, and fizz-filled brunches with friends.