Bad Exercise

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Wall Squat

I mostly believe in the principle, “There are no bad exercises, just bad application and form.”

However, with the exception of specific rehab protocols, I label the Wall Squat as a “Bad Exercise” and should be avoided by most trainers and coaches. This is to include both dynamic/static forms, with or without an implement such as a stability ball sandwiched between body and wall.

The Wall Squat is typically performed by leaning your back against a wall, walking your feet out until aligned under the knees and then squatting down to 90 degrees. The movement can be performed statically, holding at the bottom of the squat position for a given period of time or dynamically, by squatting up and down for a given number of repetitions. If you really want to feel the burn, you can perform this on 1 leg.

Not only is the wall squat not functional, but also potentially injurious to the knee joint.

1. Nobody sits or stands with their weight back as if leaning against a wall in any functional movement – Nobody!  Not only is it awkward and inefficient, but virtually a bio-mechanical  impossibility for anyone to do. Therefore, bad exercise.

2. The knee joint is master of 2 ranges of motion – knee flexion and extension. You can bend and straighten your knee, along with about 15 degrees of rotational wiggle room – that’s it. This means the knee is not a sliding/gliding joint and therefore does not tolerate shear. Firmly put your open hands together and rub them – that is shear. Now move your knee, it doesn’t do shear. The Wall Squat produces shear in the knee, which strains the ligaments, quadriceps tendon and the joint itself. Shear creates friction and that creates wear, tear and potential injury.

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Not my rule, blame Newton, specifically, his Third Law of Motion which is what we need to factor to understand why the Wall Squat is a bad idea. When you lean against the wall, you are said to be pushing your direction of force into the wall. The Third Law of Motion dictates that the energy and force directed into the wall pushes back against you. This creates an energy tug-of-war horizontally pushing force back and forth through the knee while squatting – Shear. Therefore, bad exercise.

I think it’s important we keep in mind that just because an exercise may be challenging, painful and/or produces groans from your athletes, does not necessarily mean it has any value.

Do you have any examples of a bad exercise?

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2 Responses to Bad Exercise

  1. Agreed!! I would add walking lunges as most trainers are not teaching it properly. I see many individuals performing the lunges with lots of knee wobble – means they are not ready for it.

    Trainers need to take a step back and develop optimal lower body stabilization before advanced exercises.

    • Chris Weiler says:

      Thanks for the feedback Warren. I’m with you, horse first, then cart. Unfortunately, it’s often done the other way. Knee wobble in walking lunges, well you just need to do more of them right? Yikes!

      I would apply your perspective generally to all exercises. If you can’t stabilize the joints required by the exercise, then you have just assessed a possible restriction and what likely needs development to support that ROM.

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