I vividly remember the wall sit being my state volleyball team coaches’ favorite punishment when we’d act up on a trip. Mucking around in training? Wall sit. Misbehaving at nationals? Wall sit.
Recently I was wondering whether this exercise is any good for your vertical jump and in what ways might it be beneficial for those looking to jump higher.
Unfortunately, wall sits will not help you jump higher, as multiple studies have demonstrated, however if used properly, they may still be beneficial for athletes looking to increase their vertical jump.
In the rest of this article I’m going to summarize the research on wall sits as it relates to the vertical jump. We’ll go over what circumstances make the wall sit particularly effective, as well as cover the various drawbacks of using this exercise in your jump training.
Why Do Wall Sits? And Why Not To Do Wall Sits…
A wall sit is what we call a knee extensor isometric movement. An isometric is any exercise where you’re exerting force but there’s no movement at the joint, i.e. we’re holding at the point between the eccentric and concentric portion of the squat.
Isometrics like the wall sit, if used properly, can be very effective tools to have at your disposal.
Isometric training may be included into athletes’ training regime to avoid getting overly fatigued while still acquiring positive neuromuscular adaptations; to improve the strength at a biomechanically disadvantaged joint position of a specific movement; to improve sports specific movements that require mainly isometric contraction; and when athletes have limited mobility due to injuries.1https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30943568/
First I’ll provide you with a list of the major reasons why anyone would and wouldn’t want to do an iso like the wall sit, and then we’ll look at how all this ties into vertical jump training.
Benefits Of Wall Sits
- Wall sits won’t damage your body – Isometrics are extremely easy on the body. Because there’s no movement, there’s very little strain on your joints, ligaments, and tendons. This makes wall sits perfect for anyone who is dealing with any sort of knee injury, those who are overly fatigued, or anyone doing a deload week.
- High engagement of CNS – Isometrics/wall sits allow you to establish a really strong neural connection with the muscle being trained. This will allow you to recruit more muscle fibers and you’ll be able to feel or ‘squeeze’ the muscle more tightly.
- Pain relief – Isometrics also have an analgesic effect which helps reduce pain and discomfort. In this sense, isos are quite comparable to myofascial release (i.e. foam rolling). This is one of the reasons why the Spanish squat is so effective at reducing knee pain in tendinopathy sufferers.
Disadvantages Of Wall Sits
- Strength transferral limited to joint-specific angles – Typically isometrics develop strength only at the angle of the exercise itself. For instance, in the wall sit, if your knees are at a 90 degree angle, you’ll become stronger in this position but they do a poor job of transferring that strength to other joint angles. The rule of thumb is that you’ll develop strength in a range of 15% proximity to the angle being trained at.
- Poor explosive strength carryover – Due to the non-existent range of motion, it’s no wonder these exercises don’t help much with developing explosive strength.
- They suck – They are not enjoyable to coach or for athletes to perform. There’s a reason my old coaches used them as punishments!
Will Wall Sits Help You Jump Higher?
Unfortunately the research seems to suggest that wall sits will not make you jump higher!
One 2015 study revealed that isometric training (in this case they used a mid-thigh pull and not a wall sit) increased ‘isometric peak force’ as well as the peak force generated in the vertical jump, however this did not produce any increase in vertical jump height.2https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25647649/
As I mentioned earlier, we know isometrics are very limiting in how they translate to athletic movements. The wall sit angle also isn’t quite the same as the vertical jump knee flexion angle.
Another quite recent study looked at the effects of a six week isometric training program on vertical jump development. The isometric angle used was designed to “replicate the angle at which a vertical jump is usually initiated”.
The experimental group increased significantly in strength (mean gains of 17.3%). However, this increase in strength was not accompanied by an increase in jumping ability.3https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10671188.1964.10613305
So unfortunately all of the evidence seems to suggest that isometric exercises such as the wall sit are not going to help you jump higher. You’ll get stronger, yes, at least within that limited range of motion, but you aren’t likely to increase your vertical jump.
When To Still Use Wall Sits In Your Vertical Jump Training
So we’ve already established that wall sits and other isometric exercises aren’t particularly effective at directly increasing your vertical jump… but does this mean we should never include them in our training?
Do Wall Sits In Deload Weeks & When Injured
Personally I like to use wall sits on deload weeks. For me the objective of a deload week is to let my body rest and recover. Isometrics are a great way to still get some muscular stimulation and blood flow without fatiguing the body or interrupting this recuperation process.
They can also be great if you’ve been training hard for a while but it’s not yet time for a deload. If you’re dealing with fatigue but still need to get some reps in, this is a decent low impact option.
If you’re dealing with a patellar tendonitis flare up, have shin splints, or any other lower body injury that’s preventing you from lifting heavy, wall sits may be a decent option to help relieve pain and promote blood flow enabling your body to heal itself.
Do Wall Sits At The Start Of Your Session
Isometric exercises if used towards the beginning of your workout can help improve stability and performance throughout the workout. The key is not to fatigue yourself too much; it’s more of a warm up than a strength exercise.
What’s The Verdict?
We have a good amount of research that suggests isometric exercises like the wall sit simply aren’t particularly effective exercise for increasing your vertical jump.
The vertical jump is a very dynamic movement where force is being generated at a range of angles. Isometric exercises really shine at developing strength at highly angle-specific movements. It seems that relatively low-force isometrics like the wall sit don’t typically carry over amazingly well to explosive movements like jumping.
I do believe there is a place for wall sits in your training, but they should mostly be reserved for injury management and for reducing fatigue on the body.