Back Squats with elevated heels or flat heels – that is the question…

Back Squats with elevated heels or flat heels – that is the question…

Regularly I get asked why I regularly do recommend doing Back Squats with elevated heels….

Simple answer: Because this variation has its advantages….

3 Advantages of Back Squats with elevated heels

1. Increased Recruitment of the Vastus Medialis

Elevating the heels allows for the knees to pass the toes to a greater extent. This increases vastus medialis recruitment. The strength of the Vastus Medialis is crucial for knee stability. That means, moving your knees over your toes to a greater extent does have a positive effect on your knee stability and is a natural movement that can be found in everyday activities e.g. taking the stairs.
2. Depth of the Squat 

Elevating the heels allows for knees to be further brought past your toes. Besides the increased recruitment of the Vastus Medialis, the elevation allows for an increased range of motion within the knee joint through greater dorsiflexion of the ankle, and thereby for a deeper squat – especially if the ankle mobility is restricted in early training phases. Therefore a good place to start for beginners with minimal strength training background.

3. Decreased Compression of the Lumbars 

By elevating the heels, the torso will be in a more upright position. This decreases the compression of the lumbars and the recruitment of the Erector Spinae. This allows a higher training volume without overloading the lower back in athletes whose lumbar erectors aren’t conditioned yet – mainly in untrained athletes.

Squats with elevated heels are an excellent solution to improve mobility and flexibility in the ankle and hip joint and to optimize knee stability – especially in the beginning with untrained clients. Back Squats with flat heels does offer certain advantages as well

3 Advantages of Back Squats with flat heels

1. Increased posterior chain recruitment 

Having your heels flat on the ground decreases the range of motion within your knee and thereby your quadriceps recruitment. This way you’ll recruit more fibers of the posterior chain – Erector Spinae, Gluteus and the Hamstrings- are recruited. This offers various advantages.

2. Heavier Loads

Through increasing posterior chain recruitment, squats with flat heels allow for heavier loads to be moved. This indirectly offers a positive effect on increasing power in any other exercise (radiation effect).

3. Increased carryover for sprinting and jumping-related sports 

80% of an athlete’s Vertical Jump ability and short term Sprinting Speed are based on the power output of the Posterior Chain – consisting primarily of Erector Spinae, Gluteus and Hamstrings. Through increased posterior chain recruitment and a related increased training effect on the posterior chain, the squat with flat heels does provide the greater effect on Vertical Jump ability and short term Sprinting Speed – and thereby to the performance on the field or the ice.

Squats with flat heels are an excellent solution to increase Posterior Chain recruitment and Maximal Strength as well as the Power Output of the Posterior Chain which directly correlates to the Vertical Jump and short term Sprinting Speed.

We do recommend weightlifting shoes to every more advanced athlete. Besides providing dorsiflexion through the slightly elevated heel, the main benefit of weightlifting shoes is the increased stability. Weightlifting shoes do not replace elevating the heel through the use of small plates and the YPSI Squat Board.

Conclusion: Its not an either or question. The question is when do you use which variation of the Back Squat for maximal Progress.

Picture: YPSI Coach Goran Sirovina demonstrating a Back Squat with elevated heels.

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