THE WALL SQUAT
Turn Around And Improve Your Squat Performance
For most people, wall squats are an exercise that involves placing your back against the wall (or on a physioball placed against the wall) and performing squats with a supported torso. The assistance from the wall permits you to stay up taller and shifts much of the workload onto your quadriceps. While this exercise will make the muscles in the front of your thighs burn, it does little to improve your mobility or strength. My advice is to turn around and face the wall to develop better squat mechanics, balance, and functional mobility.
The ability to perform a full squat is an important basic movement pattern. The overhead squat is one of the seven critical tests in the Functional Movement Screening process used to assess an athlete’s readiness to compete. Squatting is a basic mobility pattern that is important for long term independent living, a healthy lumbar spine, and a calorie hungry metabolism. The restoration and preservation of the ability to move through a proper squat pattern should be a part of every fitness program.
As infants, we mastered a full, steady squat. A baby must develop control of the squat in order to progress to the next level of mobility–standing and walking. Prolonged sitting, weakness in the muscles that stabilize the pelvis, and the lack of basic spinal and hip mobility in daily activity restricts our ability to move into this basic pattern of movement. Add in some well meaning but mobility reducing fitness activity and you produce an environment that fosters immobility.
Wall Squatting 101
The wall serves as instant feedback to prevent most mistakes. If you let the knees collapse inward, slouch over at the spine, or lean the head forward ,you hit the wall and are unable to descend any further.
Face the wall and position the toes twelve inches away from a wall. The toes should point out no more than thirty degrees. A mirror that provides a side profile can be helpful for visual feedback on your performance. The basic wall squat starts with the hands placed across your chest or out to the side of your shoulders. Push the hips back and lower into the squat. The wall keeps your posture tall and forces the knees out. If you find the wall squat difficult, then you need to perform it often and improve you performance. Start with three or four sets of five to ten repetitions.
As your mobility improves, simply move closer to the wall. Holding the hands behind the head or holding a band overhead increases activation in the thoracic spine and shoulder girdle muscles. You can add resistance by holding a kettlebell suspended from both arms. Watch the video that accompanies this article.
Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS
GET IN YOUR CAGE
Stretch Station Mobility Restoration
Invented by Gary Gray, a physical therapist from Adrian Michigan, the Stretch Station has been a primary piece of equipment at all of our facilities. It enables the physical therapy patient or fitness client the ability to perform three dimensional mobilization of the major peripheral joints and spine. I have not found another piece of exercise equipment that is as beneficial for improving movement as the Stretch Station.
It Has To Happen In Standing
The Stretch Station allows you to mobilize joints and move in the anti-gravity, standing upright position that it functions in every day. Gravity eliminated, floor stretching programs often fail to produce better movement when gravity comes back into play. Any new movement you develop with mobility training is only beneficial if it can occur in a standing position.
A Little Lift Goes a Long Way
Traction force (pulling apart) of a joint is a key component of all manual medicine. It helps relieve pain and makes greater joint mobility easier to achieve. The overhead bars of the Stretch Station enable you to lift up and partially decompress the spine, hips, knees, and even ankles during mobility training. This low level traction force assists in the development of better mobility. Deconditioned and overweight patients can perform hip and knee mobility training and remain pain free with the assist of the Stretch Station.
One Good Turn…
Most floor mobility training does little to develop better rotation at the joints that are supposed to produce
rotation–thoracic spine, hips, and ankles. The Stretch Station has an angled floor and multiple handle sites that enable users of all sizes to work on improving rotation. Thoracic spine and hip mobility work is particularly beneficial for athletes that must swing a club or throw a ball.
Identification of Asymmetries
Using the Stretch Station, patients and fitness clients can immediately identify when one side of the spine, one hip, or one shoulder is more restricted than the other. Training away asymmetries at a single joint or movement pattern is important for injury prevention and optimal performance.
A Bridge to Better Performance
I have fitness clients perform thirty seconds of mobility training on the Stretch Station followed by a complimentary strengthening exercise. The idea is to neurologically reinforce the new motion achieved with the Stretch Station using an appropriate strengthening activity. This pairing of the Stretch Station work with a strengthening drill has been very effective in restoring movement and decreasing pain.
Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS