There are many different ways to squat. However, one of the most popular variations is to squat with your heels elevated.
There are many ways to do this: you can use special squatting shoes that have a raised heel or you can place small 2.5 or 5 pound plates under your heels. You can even squat while standing on special slat boards that raise your heels above your toes.
Heels elevated squats are so effective because they change the angle of your feet so you can squat deeper and with a more upright spine. This helps you to train your quadriceps harder while minimizing the stress on your lower back.
In my experience you should squat with your heels elevated if you want to improve your squatting depth, squat with a more upright spine or train your quads harder.
They aren’t the best choice if you want to squat with as much weight as possible but if you want to really train your quads hard without wearing out your lower back then they are an awesome choice. Many people find that heels elevated squats are just what they need to reach their fitness goals faster while staying injury free.
Here are three big reasons why you should squat with your heels elevated:
- You Want To Improve Your Squatting Depth!
- You Want To Squat With An Upright Spine!
- You Want To Train Your Quads Harder!
Let’s take a closer look at each of these situations.
Reason #1: You Want To Improve Your Squatting Depth!
One of the biggest advantages of heels elevated squats is they help you to squat with a full range of motion even if you aren’t very flexible.
Most people can’t squat with a full range of motion because their heels come up off the floor in the bottom position of the exercise. They just don’t have enough flexibility in their calves.
If you have tight calves but still want to squat deep then heels elevated squats are perfect for you! Your calves are already raised up so you don’t have to worry about your calves coming up in the bottom position.
Just take a look at the following video:
As you can see your ankles don’t have to bend as much in the bottom position of a squat when your heels are already elevated. This makes it a great choice for anyone with tight ankles. You also don’t need as much flexibility in your hips or lower back to squat this way because your hips aren’t stretched as much in the bottom position.
In my experience the heels elevated squat is a great exercise to use while you are working on your flexibility so you can perform a full range of motion squats with your heels flat.
Reason #2: You Want To Squat With An Upright Spine!
Squatting with a barbell on your back can put a lot of pressure on your spine. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if you want to take some of that pressure off of your lower back and spine then heels elevated squats are a great choice.
When you elevated your heels you naturally squat with a more upright spine. This reduces the compression forces and shear forces on your lower back so you can recover faster from your workouts.
Squatting with your heels elevated also forces you to use less weight on the bar which also reduces the stress on your lower back. Even if you have a healthy lower back you may want to try this exercise. Most trainees find they can squat more frequently or with more volume / intensity because there is less stress on their lower back.
Reason #3: You Want To Train Your Quads Harder!
Did you know that heels elevated squats are one of the best exercises you can use to train your quads harder? It’s true! When you raise your heels you force your knees to travel further over your toes in the bottom position of a squat. Don’t worry, this is perfectly safe if you aren’t dealing with some type of knee injury.
If your goal is to use squats to train your quads harder then heels elevated squats are a perfect choice. Many taller bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger find that squatting with their heels elevated is the only way to really fatigue their quads on back squats.
Of course there are ways to modify the heels elevated squats exercise to train your quads even more. One of the best strategies is to squat with your heels elevated AND close together. This is sometimes called a “quad squat” or a “cyclist squat” because of how hard it hits the quads.
Here is a perfect video example of the cyclist squat:
I think you will be shocked at how effective the cyclist squat is for training the quads. Just don’t be surprised if you have to use significantly less weight when you squat this way. The narrow stance puts you in a more challenging mechanical position but you will feel the exercise in your quads more than ever!
The bottom line is heels elevated squats are one of the best exercises you can perform for bigger, stronger legs. They are a great choice if you have a hard time squatting all the way down or if you want to keep pressure off of your lower back. As an added bonus most people find their quads work much harder than usual with this squatting variation.
So give heels elevated squats a try! They may be just what you need to reach your fitness goals faster.
“As a kid I always idolized the winning athletes. It is one thing to idolize heroes. It is quite another to visualize yourself in their place. When I saw great people, I said to myself: I can be there.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
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