This post was updated on July 16, 2020.
Wall squats or slides are a replacement exercise for traditional squats. They protect the back and knees while insuring controlled movement, making for a much safer exercise for people with knee or back issues. Wall squats work out the same muscles as a squat, the hips, thighs, glutes and abdominal muscles.
The key to doing good wall squats is to hold the lunge position for as long as you’re comfortable, while letting your pain guide your practice. In other words, don’t squat until your muscles burn, always leaving yourself with something in the tank to work with later and don’t bend to the point of pain in the knees or the back If you feel pain, move back up until it disappears and note how your feet look on the floor. This should be the lowest your workouts go.
If you have osteoarthritis in your knees, you may not be able to bend as far as me or you may bend much further. So long as there’s no pain, that’s okay, at least up to a knee bend of 90 degrees (as if you were sitting in a chair). Even if you can only slide down the wall a couple of inches, you’ll still feel this exercise and reap the benefits.
This video below demonstrates how to do a wall squat possibly and instructs you on adjustments and which muscles should be activating when you do this expercise.
After 5 months of doing this exercise, I am able to do free-standing squats with no problem. In fact, I can do 3 reps of 15 without pause and only feel a slight burn in my muscles. The wall squats have made a huge difference for me and it seems as if I can even graduate to traditional squats: However, doing free-standing squats comes with a great deal of risk and very little reward that I can see for someone with a degenerating spine and osteoarthritis in both knees.
What amazes me is that I no longer experience pain from a deep knee squat up to 90 degrees (at least if it’s not held) which goes to show that exercise really does have a positive impact on osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease and supporting weakened joints with strong muscle is a sound theory.