Wall March Variations for the Win

About the Author: Eric Cressey

Today’s guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance – Florida coach, Dylan Lidge.

Wall marches are drills that have been used commonly over the years in the strength and conditioning and track and field communities. Unfortunately, many coaches don’t appreciate how much you can build on the basic wall march to teach a number of different movement competencies.

This closed chain exercise can be used in warm-ups as a more dynamic movement. As a great “bang for your buck” warm-up, it provides glute activation, hip flexion/extension, ankle mobility/stability, foot position awareness, and even scapular protraction/upward rotation. It also teaches an athlete the feeling of a stacked position, which is key for producing force efficiently. Not to mention, this is an excellent way to teach athletes sprint mechanics, primarily during acceleration.

To perform the Glute Wall March, stand upright with your palms against the wall at shoulder height. Push the wall away as if you are at the top of a push-up. Next, take a few steps back to get into a forward lean while keeping your heels on the ground. This should be around 45 degrees, as this position allows an athlete to produce more horizontal force into the ground, which is required during acceleration. From there, lift both heels off the floor and transition to the toes of the feet (just like doing a calf raise). Flex one hip and allow the femur to raise until it is perpendicular to the torso. The shin angle of this leg should match the torso angle. Dorsiflex the ankle to match the angle of the femur. Meanwhile, the opposite leg should be straight. We see “triple extension”, or extension through the hip, knee and ankle; this will create a straight line from the head to the heel and reaffirm the “stacked”position. Cue the athlete to push into the wall with high intent. In order to push the wall, the athlete must put force into the floor or “drive the floor away.”

Here are some key benefits:

Glute Activation

Pushing the floor fires the glute, which pulls the hip into extension. The Glute Wall March puts the athlete in hip extension they will get to on the field. Owning hip extension in this position is a great way to prep an athlete to perform on the field or in the gym, and protect against excessive arching through the low back, which may create spine discomfort/injuries.

Hip Flexion

The core stability the wall provides assists an athlete during hip flexion, which is when we often see compensations in posture, such as excessive lumbar flexion and extension. Especially with athletes who display poor lumbopelvic control, this position can set them up to own their hip flexion.

Ankle Stiffness

Ankle stiffness is necessary for athletes to display elasticity while running or changing direction. If you’re looking for a drill to improve ankle stability or to improve your “bounce” during plyometrics, give this a try.

Foot Orientation

The orientation of the foot on the floor is in late stance during the Glute Wall March. This is a great way to build an arch for those who have flat feet. An adaptation many pitchers develop is a flat arch in order to access pronation as they drift off the rubber. Overall, late stance is able to bias supination, which can help counter those in excessive pronation.

Scapular Protraction/Upward Rotation

The serratus anterior is important for driving the “rotation” aspect of scapular upward rotation via its protraction capabilities. Athletes, especially those who throw overhead, need to be able to get the scapula “around and up” the rib cage in order to in order to both create a good ball-socket congruency at lay-back, and also to reach thee arm overhead and finish out in front.

Running Mechanics

The Glute Wall March allows an athlete to feel the position they need to be in during the acceleration phase of a sprint. During acceleration, athletes must apply horizontal force into the ground. This requires a forward lean. As the glute wall march is closed chain exercise, it provides stability for the athlete to feel the necessary forward lean during acceleration.

Fortunately, we have several variations we can use to bias our training toward different benefits. Here they are:

Glute Wall March Isometric Holds

Isometric holds are a great way to get an athlete to feel a position. Typically, we’ll program three five-second holds on each side – although you could also do 30s/side if you’re looking to really reap the tendon health benefits of this drill.

Glute Wall March ISO – Supinated Forearms

This has all the benefits of a glute wall march iso hold, but it’s an easy way to sneak in a forearm stretch in a population that often lacks elbow extension and forearm supination.

Glute Wall March 1-2’s

Once an athlete understands what a stacked position should feel like, progressing to this variation can allow them to put more force into the floor. A common cue is to pretend the legs are “pistons of an engine.” This promotes the feeling of leg drive during acceleration.

Wall Assisted Load and Explode

This dynamic variation can help an athlete feel more intent of driving the floor away. It’s a great way to help an athlete use the ground to produce force while maintaining a stacked position.

As you can see, these drills deserve a place in your training programs, whether it’s warm-ups, arm care, movement training sessions, or as a filler in between power training or strength exercises!

About the Author

Dylan Lidge serves as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Cressey Sports Performance – Florida. Prior to joining the staff, Dylan completed an internship at CSP-FL in the summer of 2020. He graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a B.S. in Kinesiology. He is currently studying at the University of Illinois-Chicago for his MS in Kinesiology with a concentration in Biomechanics. At UIC he holds a position as a teacher’s assistant in an exercise technique course, as well as an instructor for a personal fitness course. In 2019, he interned with the UIC Strength and Conditioning staff assisting with the baseball team. Dylan has coached baseball at the collegiate, high school, and youth levels.