Exercises to Avoid: Wall Squats With Stability Ball

Doing squats with a stability ball between your body and a wall is pretty common.  If you can’t visualize it or maybe haven’t seen it before, here it is:

Why People Do it

This exercise is done for a few reasons.  Some people use it as a regression from a full squat.  That’s fair and I guess it shows they’re trying to learn and maybe make their way up to manly things like loading a barbell with weight and throwing it on their back.  I would argue that it isn’t really a regression though, as more stress is put on the quads making the exercise more difficult and worse for a whole bunch of reasons.

Others may do it because they think it looks cool, and anything with a stability ball is more functional right? Noooooo

Some carry out the exercise simply because they’ve seen others do it.  Maybe they want to increase their exercise repertoire and decide to try it out.

The last reason is the worst: because people have seen trainers teaching it.  This kills me.  Don’t assume everything a trainer does is correct or useful.  I’m not saying there are tons of trainers out there doing this, but I’ve certainly seen it.

Why it’s Bad

Leaning against something, in this case a stability ball is the main issue.  Doing so essentially deactivates the posterior chain.  It thinks, “wow this is easy! I’m just gonna shut off.”  Your posterior chain is the muscles on the backside of your body.  With squatting, the key posterior muscles are the glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae (the muscle that maintains upright posture in our backs).

On top of this, squeezing a ball in between you and a wall is putting some pressure on your back.  I’ve seen tons of people compensate by hunching over.  The exercise turns into a hunching crouch sort of thing.  It gets pretty ugly.

This is far from natural, so why are we squatting like this?  And in case you were wondering, it isn’t OK to remove the stability ball from the exercise and just do ‘wall squats’, where you hold a squatting position against the wall.

I remember in high school when the skiing coach would have the team do wall squats for as long as possible. The boys took pride in seeing who could hold the position the longest. This is similar to holding the plank for as long as possible and is a prime example of people assuming quantity is the ultimate goal.  We want QUALITY folks. Quality.

Alternatives: 

Using the TRX suspension trainer is a good alternative.  The guy gives a decent demonstration in the video below.  I don’t understand his obsession with being half naked in his videos though…

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Bodyweight squats are a good alternative.  You can do whatever you like with your arms; what ever feels comforable and maintains good form.  You can cross them at your chest, hold them out in front etc.

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I hope you ditch the stability ball wall squats and use these alternatives.  It’s tough to decipher between what’s legit and what’s not.  The trainer in the first video was pretty convincing right? It’s scary.  Help me improve the fitness industry by sharing this post.  Like it on Facebook, tweet it, do your thing.

Get lifting and stay safe.

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2 Comments on “Exercises to Avoid: Wall Squats With Stability Ball”

  1. Great point about the wall squat! Other than using it in a physical therapy setting, I don’t feel it’s got much value. I have even seen people on their cell phone doing that exercise – not a good sign.

    • Jeremy Smith August 31, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      I most certainly agree with you. Some modalities of training are shunned in the gym environment by certain onlookers, but definitely are of good use in physical therapy. The leg press machine is another good example.

      And being on a cell phone should be banned in gyms! hahahaha

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