Wall Sits for No One

Wall sits. 
What are they good for? 
Absolutely nothing. 

Digging a hole and filling it up is more purposeful. A stroll down the driveway burns more calories. Getting up off the couch demands more flexibility. Jumping up and coming down is far more physically taxing. And brain training? Well, wall sits are like learning to write by pressing your face into a letter chart.

Do not confuse "difficult" with "worthwhile." 

Wall sits build endurance? Endurance at what? Okay - I'll give you down-hill skiing. But there are about a thousand more efficient and productive ways to gain strength and endurance for that. I'll also give wall sits "effort." While even the worst resistance training machines demand more strength, flexibility, and energy burn, none of them rival the misery of wall sits.

Wall sits are misery for the sake of misery. So if that's what your after...

Yeah, exactly. How do you progress wall sits? I mean, other than timing them until you collapse of boredom and muscle cramps. What you need is a creative, attention-getting way to increase the ineffectiveness of wall sits, piling on the misery with...even more lack of benefit. 

This? No. Oh - no.

When the lever arm is zero, torque is zero, no matter how large the force.

THIS is precisely why you should have actually learned your simple Newtonian physics instead of whining around and questioning why exercise science and athletic training majors have to take basic science courses. This is why you should always keep an eye out for applying those basic trigonometric functions and free body diagrams.

[Incidentally, it's also why a good trainer or PT is worth something.]

You can stack the weight of an entire hippo on someones thighs. I don't care if you have the Cat In The Hat himself come and balance on the person with a book on a ball with a fish and a rake. It's all the same to the wall sitter (well, until their patella dislocates or tibia splinters)

Instead, try some goblet squats or step-ups, side lunges or even burpees or pistol squats, suitcase lifts, jumping jacks, somersaults or pirouettes, or, or...

Trainer, coach, teacher, wellness coordinator, great uncle Jimmy... Please. You can do better than wall sits.


You are not strong

Don't tell me about your 5-day per week exercise routine. I don't care about your spinning, Zumba, your half marathon, or yoga. Your hundreds of poor quality squats and lunges during Insanity or BodyPump Class are probably making the problem worse. Your lower back, IT-band, knees, or feet are taking a beating for a reason.
You are not strong

Could it be that despite your lofty efforts, you are not strong? What's that? No, I'm not talking about anything close to Powerlifting or otherwise competitive fitness. You don't believe it? Allow me to show you.

Try lifting this modest weight off the ground without your spine bowing. Lift with your legs, not with your back? Well show me your version of what that actually looks like. Hold that same modest weight in front of you with both hands, and show me how you step up 12 or 16 inches. Show me even one good squat with chest tall, hips sitting back, heels on the ground, knees and trunk not buckling inward 


Despite all the time and energy invested in exercise, you remain weak. Don't get me wrong, your routine is probably great for your heart, for burning calories, and for maintaining the blood flow to the brain that keeps you mentally sharp. Those benefits are truly priceless. But your bones and joints are suffering, and I'm pretty sure that I know why...

-- - - ---

The tone here is intentional. Yes, this is me from behind the barrier of these flickering pixels:

When I'm anywhere other than Internet Land, I'm learning to be careful how I say it. I've noticed that certain words can be quite offensive to someone who takes the time and effort to train, who takes pride in their body and exercise routine.

So then.

"Your hip abductors are not doing their job."

"You're not recruiting the core muscles."

"It's challenging to do it in that specific manner." 

"Your brain is not use to this movement pattern."

In the end, these are all gentle versions of the same statement. Yet the problem remains. There may be flexibility or structural issues. Less than optimal movement patterns are almost always implicated. And more often than not, you're plain...Well, ya'know.

There was a time when physical therapists and other health professionals were taught to test strength by attempting to isolate individual muscles. This book by Florence Kendall was (and still is?) the Bible of strength testing. I still use these when such isolating may provide pertinent information. But I've found it far more revealing and quickly obvious to both myself and the client to simply use a handful of functional tests.

Some functional tests involve jumping or acceleration type movements. I usually reserve these for a young or athletic population. But nearly everyone gets some variation of a functional squat test, lung test, and step up test. They reveal far more than manual muscle tests ala Kendall.

Try a few for yourself.

1. Deep Squat - described briefly above or look it up.

2. Lunge - There are many variations. I usually have clients hold a light weight and lunge backward, checking for the rhythm of hip and knee bending that allows the heel to stay down, the shin to stay vertical, and the torso to remain upright.

3. Pick things up - Pick something up from the ground without rounding your back, lifting your heels, or allowing your knees to jut together or far out in front. Hopefully you find your hip hinge!

Possibly why your lower back, hips,or knees are hurting.
4. High Step-Up Test - hold a light load in front with both hands and step up 12 to 18" (depending on your body height) by pulling up with the lead leg and not pushing off the floor. There should be no side to side movement of the knee or side tilt of the pelvis.