How to Do Wall Slides

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Scapular wall slides

Targets: Quads, traps, shoulders

Level: Beginner

Wall slides an excellent beginner exercise for improving strength in your quads, glutes, and calves. The closed-chain exercise (where your feet remain in contact with the ground) can also help improve balance and posture. Wall slides are often used in physical therapy for these and other reasons.


Wall slides are most often used to improve leg strength. But if you're struggling to stand up straight or find yourself hunched over most of the day, wall slides present an opportunity to literally straighten up.

Since all you need is a wall, you don't need to hit the gym to fit the exercise into your routine. You can easily work it in at home, at the office, or anywhere there's a sturdy wall.

As a functional exercise, wall slides can help make activities you do in everyday life, such as getting up from a chair, climbing or descending stairs, or even just walking, a lot easier.

With this in mind, wall slides may be prescribed by your physician or physical therapist to help you recover and return to daily activities. When performed with proper form and gradual increases, you'll likely notice rapid gains in your mobility once you incorporate them into your daily routine.

Wall slides are also a good assessment tool for physical therapists and trainers. For instance, the upper-body portion of the move can be used to assess an athlete's shoulder mobility.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Stand upright with your back against a wall and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bring your arms up, pressing your shoulder blades into the wall. The backs of your hands will be against the wall with your thumbs at about the height of your head. The line of your upper arm, from your elbow to shoulder, should be perpendicular to the floor.
  3. Inhale. Slowly bend your knees and slide your back down the wall until your knees are bent at a 45-degree angle (bending more than this will place increased strain on your knees). As you bend your knees, straighten your elbows until your arms are extended straight up over your head, but still against the wall.
  4. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  5. Exhale as you straighten your knees to slide back up the wall until you are fully upright with knees straight and elbows bent back to their starting position.
  6. Repeat for 5 reps.

Gradually work your way up to 10 or 15 reps per set as your quad strength improves.

Common Mistakes

You're Bending Your Knees Too Far

During wall slides, your knees should be bent at a maximum of a 45-degree angle. If you allow your knees to bend any more than this, you'll be putting yourself at risk for injury.

Your Form Is Slacking

As your quads get stronger and you become more familiar with the move, you may find yourself losing focus as you perform wall slides. While you might think this means the move is getting too easy, it could also be a sign that you're slacking on proper form. Remember to go slow and check in with yourself often, ensuring that your arms and knees are in the right position at each step of the exercise.

Modifications and Variations

Need a Modification?

If you find pressing your back against a hard wall to be uncomfortable due to your build, try placing a therapy ball behind your back to create a little space. This can also help you preserve the natural curve of your lower back and reduce pain and discomfort in that region.

If you're unable to bend at the knees, or simply want to focus on your arms, try doing only the upper-body portion of the wall slide. This version is often used by trainers to assess the mobility of a person's shoulders.

Up for a Challenge?

As the strength of your quads improves, you may want to find ways to make wall slides more challenging. The easiest way to increase the intensity of the move is to simply add more reps or sets. You can also try a few creative wall slide variations, including:

  • One-legged wall slides
  • Wall slides with hand weights, such as dumbbells (start with low weights and work your way up)
  • Standing on a slightly unsteady surface, like a pillow, as you do a wall slide

Safety and Precautions

When you're first starting out, doing a set of reps once a day will be adequate. Progress slowly and stop if you start to feel pain or difficulty. Eventually, you may want to increase the number of reps or sets you do in a single workout.

If you add in the use of hand weights, be sure not to choose ones that are heavy enough to be challenging, but not so much so that that your form suffers. You'll be doing your body more harm than good by increasing your risk of strain or fatigue that could lead to injury.

Although wall slides appear easy and can even be a helpful part of physical therapy, it's important that you don't do the exercise too early in the rehabilitation process. Performing wall slides too soon after an injury or in recovery from an illness or surgery can slow healing or put you at risk for further injury.

You may need to avoid wall slides if:

  • You have a back, neck, elbow, shoulders, knee, or foot injury
  • Your overall strength is weakened due to illness, injury, prolonged recovery or bedrest, or a low level of fitness
  • You have injuries or instability in your knees
  • You are recovering from injury or surgery involving your back, shoulders, elbow, abdomen, spine, neck, abdomen, or knees
  • You have ruptured or torn ligaments in your knee or ankle, such as your Achilles tendon or anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)

If you are having difficulty moving around or if you have a lower extremity injury, check in with your doctor and physical therapist before starting or changing up a workout routine.

Try It Out

Wall slides can be a great move on their own, especially since they don't require going to the gym or any equipment. Unlike a lot of exercises, you can do wall slides just about anywhere, at any time. That said, wall slides can also be used as part of your workout routine—either as a warm-up or combined with other moves you can do at home.

Try adding wall slides to these moves to create a full-body, no-gym workout:

By Laura Inverarity, PT, DO
Laura Inverarity, PT, DO, is a current board-certified anesthesiologist and former physical therapist.