Heels Elevated Squat Benefits | The Ultimate Guide!

Are you curious about heels elevated squat benefits?

Do you wonder how to use heels elevated squats to build big, strong legs?

Then you’ve come to the right place.

In this comprehensive guide, I will show you how to use heels elevated squats to take your physique to the next level!

What Are Heels Elevated Squats?

Heels elevated squats are an advanced exercise variation where you elevated your heels above the ground.

For example, here is a perfect demonstration of the heels elevated squat:

As you can see, the athlete is squatting while standing on a small wooden platform. In other words, he is squatting with his heels elevated above his toes!

There are many different ways to perform the heels elevated squat:

  • Option #1: Using special squat shoes
  • Option #2: Standing on a slanted platform
  • Option #3: Standing on 5 pound plates

And so on. As long as your heels are elevated above your toes, then you are good to go!

Heels Elevated Squat Benefits

The heels elevated squat has three major benefits over traditional squats:

  • Advantage #1: Improved range of motion
  • Advantage #2: Greater quadriceps activation
  • Advantage #3: Reduced lower back stress

Let’s take a closer look at each of these benefits.

Advantage #1: Improved Squatting Depth

Many trainees are not flexible enough to perform a full range of motion squat. For example, if your calf muscles are too tight, then it will be almost impossible for you to squat all the way down, without your heels coming off the ground.

For reference, here is the Olympic Weightlifting superstar Dmitry Klokov showing what a full range of motion squat looks like:

Talk about an impressive squat!

So what do you do if you can’t squat with a full range of motion? One solution is to improve your ankle and hip flexibility. However, this can take a long time.

A faster solution is to squat with your heels elevated!

Elevating your heels on the squat makes it MUCH easier for you to squat with a full range of motion. Many people find that by elevating their heels, they can squat all the way down without any discomfort.

If you have tight calves, and cannot squat all the way down, then here are 3 easy solutions:

  • Option #1: Using special squat shoes
  • Option #2: Standing on a slanted platform
  • Option #3: Standing on 5 pound plates

The easiest solution is to squat while standing on small, 5-pound plates. For example:

The 5 pound plates go directly under your heels.

This way, you can perform heels elevated squats in almost any commercial gym! How cool is that?

The bottom line is that the heels elevated squat is an excellent way to start squatting with a full range of motion while you work on your mobility issues.

Advantage #2: Greater Quadriceps Activation

The heels elevated squat works all of the muscles of the lower body, including the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. However, it really increases the emphasis on your quadriceps!

In fact, research shows that the heels elevated squat is one of the best exercises that you can perform for a special quadriceps muscle called the vastus medialis.

The VMO, or the vastus medialis, is the large tear-drop shaped muscle on the inside of your knee.

The VMO is the quadricep muscle responsible for stabilizing your knee during squats and it is easily the #1 most common structural imbalance in the lower body.

Learning how to train the VMO properly should be a big priority if you want big, strong, healthy legs!

There are many ways design exercises to further recruit the VMO

Some fantastic options include step ups, split squats, and lunges. However, there are also ways to modify barbell squats to more effectively recruit the VMO.

Heels elevated squats are one of the best tools for this objective!

Why do heels elevated squats work the VMO more? 

The reason is simple: the more that your knees travel over your toes, the more you recruit the vastus medialis.

In practice this means the more you elevate your heels (using taller squat shoes, using a higher platform etc.), the more the vastus medialis is recruited!

Advantage #3: Reduced Lower Back Stress

One of the great drawbacks of squats is that they increase the compression forces on the lumbar spine.

Think about it – there is no way you can avoid increased lumbar stress if you are placing a 300 – 500+ pound barbell on your back!

It is simply impossible!

If you are a strong squatter and want to stay in the iron game for a long time then you need to find ways to periodically reduce the stress on your lower back from squatting.

I have written before about how exercises such as the 45 degree back extension, 90 degree back extension, and reverse hyper are excellent for decompressing the lumbar spine.

These are all great options, but another useful tool is simply elevating your heels during squats!

When you elevate your heels you automatically force yourself to squat with a more upright torso.

And when your torso is more vertical you reduce the shearing forces your lower back is exposed to!

Here is an extreme example of a heels elevated back squat. Notice how vertical his back remains throughout the movement:

There is another reason heels elevated squats are easier on the lumbar spine: you can’t lift as much weight on them!

The exercise is just much harder to do than a regular squat which means the load on the bar is reduced, but your legs get smoked all the same.

This sounds like a win-win situation to me!

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Conclusion | Heels Elevated Squat Benefits!

You now know of 3 key heels elevated squat benefits to kick-start your lower body gains!

Of course you do not have to give up heels flat squats entirely.

Rather, incorporating heels elevated squats will be advantageous, both from an injury prevention standpoint and from a muscle building and strength building standpoint.

Now you have no excuse to skip your next leg day!

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

What's going on! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen, I'm the creator of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to take your training to the next level, then you've come to the right place... My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world!

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