- Building strength in the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and other supporting muscles of the hips
- Gradually exposing the body to greater ranges of knee flexion
- Restoring optimal length tension relationships in the muscles that control the foot and ankle
- Restoring optimal length tension relationships between the hips and lower back
- Training the body’s energy systems to utilize different forms of energy and maintain proper mechanics as the body fatigues
- Exposing compensation patterns or ways that the body “cheats” to deload certain muscle groups. In the case of the ACL injuries and surgeries, the body does everything possible to deload the quads.
Simply put, this exercise is a powerhouse. And it’s extremely simple, which means anyone can do it. All you need is a wall, knowledge of how to perform it properly, and intense desire to become better.
If you provide the wall and intense desire, we’re going to provide the knowledge below.
With any exercise, it is important to match the intent of the exercise with the execution of the exercise.
If you’re going to work our butt off working out and rehabbing, you better make sure we are accomplishing the things we set out to accomplish.
So, let’s take a look at the wall squat and figure out how to do just that.
The intent of the wall squat is to train the muscles of the upper leg (hamstrings, quads, abductors, adductors, glutes, etc.) and core to work synergistically to support the upper body in hip flexion and knee flexion.
When we train this properly, we can re-program the body to utilize muscles optimally, eliminate compensation patterns, and reduce stress/pain throughout the kinetic chain.
In order to perform this exercise with intent, here’s what needs to happen.
Position your feet approximately the length of your thigh away from the wall. The goal is for your heels to be directly under your knees when you pull into your squat. The feet should also be approximately hip width.
Keeping your feet in this position, lean back to the wall (using your arms for support if needed). Once back to the wall, try to flatten your back against the wall to create a neutral spine (this may take a good deal of core activation/lengthening).
Maintaining the foot position and contact with wall described, pull the hips down and back into the wall, activating the hamstrings. The weight should be distributed so that you can push straight down into the ground with both heels evenly. Work only in a range of motion in which you can maintain a neutral spine and the ability to push down through heels. Additionally, do not work in a range of motion that causes discomfort (tightness or pain) greater than 3/10. Breathe through your diaphragm and keep the upper body relaxed.
Hold this position for the maximum duration that you can maintain proper form. Your goal is to hold this position for up to 5 minutes at a time by the end of your ACL recovery.
Resetting compensation patterns is one of the most important parts of the ACL recovery process. As we mentioned above, the body will do everything possible to take load OFF of the quads after ACL surgery. It’s your responsibility to train the body to load the quads again. During the isometric wall squat, pay attention to how your body tries to deviate from the proper position outlined above. Does it do any of the following?
- Feet too wide
- Feet too narrow
- Pressure too far forward or too far back on foot
- Knees in front of or behind ankles
- Knees cave in or knees out (should be aligned with hips)
- Hips come off the wall
- Lower back comes off wall
- Shoulders/head forward (should be resting on upper body)
If so, make a mental note and work to ensure you maintain proper position throughout the duration of the hold.
The most important take away from this article is to perform this exercise with intent. Know what you are trying to accomplish, how you will accomplish it, and then work like heck to make sure you’re executing. If you’re not, slow down or modify. If you exercise in this manner, you will see gains in strength, mobility, and decreases in pain throughout the ACL recovery process.
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