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Overcoming Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: Mastering the Wall Sit

Dealing with persistent pain in the front of your knee? You might be grappling with patellofemoral pain syndrome. In this blog post, we’ll explore a crucial exercise to jumpstart your journey to a pain-free life. Whether you’re a basketball enthusiast or simply navigating daily activities, the single-leg wall sit could be the solution you’ve been searching for. Let’s delve into the details of this exercise and understand how it can strengthen your patellofemoral joint.

Understanding Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome:

Patellofemoral pain syndrome stems from stress and discomfort in the joint between your kneecap and knee, known as the patellofemoral joint. While it’s often confused with Jumper’s knee, it’s essential to recognize the differences between these two conditions. To summarize and put it as simply as possible, Jumper’s Knee is a pathology of the tendon, while patellofemoral pain syndrome is a pathology of the joint. Check out this video to learn more about the differences:

Significance of Quadriceps Strength:

     The quadriceps plays a huge role in stabilizing the patellofemoral joint, especially with the tracking of the knee cap in its groove. A weakened quadriceps is a major contributor to patellofemoral pain for a few reasons.

     Firstly, when a muscle is weak, it tends to get tight. As a result, the weak and tight quadriceps will lead to increased compression at the patellofemoral joint.

     Secondly, the 4 muscles of the quadriceps work together to allow for proper stability of the knee cap. Therefore, when the muscles are weak and cannot do its job, the patellofemoral joint won’t be as stable and will lead to increased movement and irritation. 

     Consequently, the goal of rehab is to boost the capacity and stability of the patellofemoral joint. By doing so, you will be able to handle the strain of daily living and playing sports. Activating and strengthening the quadriceps becomes an essential component of rehab. However, people tend to find it difficult to activate and strengthen their quadriceps muscles because exercises they try are painful.

     For example, a squat is generally a great functional exercise to build strength in the legs and quadriceps. However, going down and up with your full body weight is painful and the more you do the more it hurts. It turns into a vicious cycle where your knees are painful because your muscles are weak, and your weakness contributes to more joint irritation and pain. So how do you break this cycle and strengthen the quadriceps?  Keep reading

Single Leg Wall Sit

     One of the core exercises we typically have our clients perform and progress to for patellofemoral pain rehab is the single-leg wall sit. Unlike the functional body weight squat or isolated knee extension machine exercises, this exercise aims to gradually build activation and strength in a different way. It will be more challenging and a bit more functional than the isolated knee extension exercise, and significantly less irritating than the body weight squat.

     The goal is to perform this exercise at 90 degrees or parallel to the ground on one leg; however, if you’re new to this exercise or haven’t done a wall sit before. We suggest you start with a double leg wall sit at 45 degrees, progress to 60 degrees then 90 degrees. Once you’re able to perform that then try a single leg wall sit at 45 degrees, 60 degrees, and finally 90 degrees.


  • Position your back against the wall with one leg in front.
  • Lower yourself into a squat position, ensuring your knee stays at a 45-degree angle.
  • Maintain the position for 30 to 45 seconds, engaging your quad and keeping an upright trunk.
  • If the single-leg version is challenging, use your other leg for support or lean your body slightly to the side.
  • Progressively work towards lower angles, aiming for about 90 degrees but avoiding surpassing it.


  • A helpful cue during the wall sit is to imagine pushing the floor away from you. This forces you to activate the quads more effectively, enhancing the benefits of the exercise.
  • By focusing on controlled movements and gradually increasing difficulty, you’ll be able to build your quads without irritating your patellofemoral pain.


The single-leg wall sit not only activates and strengthens the quads, but also enhances the joint’s capacity to endure stress. By starting at a higher angle and gradually working towards lower angles, you create a safe and effective path to recovery. As you get lower on your wall sit, the patellofemoral stress increases that is why you should gradually progress to it.

     If you’re eager to conquer patellofemoral pain and regain a pain-free lifestyle, the single-leg wall sit could be your secret weapon. This exercise provides a straightforward yet powerful means to activate the quad and build resilience in the patellofemoral joint. Begin at a higher angle, progress methodically, and witness the transformative effects of this rehab exercise. With consistency and the right guidance, you can overcome patellofemoral pain and resume enjoying your daily activities with ease.

     Furthermore, this is just one component of rehabilitation for patellofemoral pain. You need to address other impairments to proper rehab from the pathology and progress towards your goals. As a result, we highly suggest you work with a rehab specialist to develop a collaborative plan of care and rehab program for yourself. If you need assistance with this, reach out to us at

The Basketball Doctors - Gabriel Ignacio Physical Therapist

Dr. Gabriel Ignacio PT, DPT, OCS, TPI

The Basketball Doctors - Marco Lopez Physical Therapist

Dr. Marco Lopez PT, DPT, CSCS

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