Learn everything you need to know about heel elevated squats.
If you’re looking for a powerful glute-burning exercise to add to your fitness routine, look no further—heel elevated squats are one of the most effective lower body exercises! Working out with this movement can give you strong, toned legs and hips in no time. In addition, using an elevated surface such as a weight plate or box at the base of your feet during this exercise, you’ll be able to target those muscles (especially quads) better and benefit from it.
In addition to providing step-by-step instructions on executing the move correctly, we’ll also discuss its benefits and offer possible alternatives to different levels and goals. Ready? Let’s get started!
Heel Elevated Squats Technique and Muscles Worked
Heel elevated squats are a type of squat variation that can aid in muscular strength and hypertrophy of your lower body—glutes, hamstrings, and quads. When performing heel elevated squats, the heel is lifted off the ground using a platform or weight plate while the heel of your foot remains flat. This results in the greater glute and quad activation.
How to Do Them
- To start, stand on one or two steps, plates, or other heel-raised surfaces behind the end of a step.
- Squat down and ensure that your knees remain behind your toes and your torso is kept upright.
- Extend your legs and ensure that your heels are pushing into the heel-raised surface to keep proper form and maximize the effects of heel elevated squats.
You can perform this exercise with your bodyweight, dumbbells, or a barbell.
Tips to help with heel elevated squat form include:
- Set up your feet and hips correctly.
- Maintain an upright posture with a flat back angle throughout the exercise.
- Keep your core engaged for stability.
- Control the eccentric (lengthening, downward part of squat) portion of each rep.
Heel elevated squats are a valuable exercise tool to help build strength and mobility. When variations of your regular squat use heel elevation, it changes the angle of your heel above your toes, which gives you benefits you can’t get from standard squats.
More Quad Activation
Elevating your feet onto a higher surface, such as a box or plate, will put your body at an angle that activates more of your quads during a squat (1). A traditional squat tends to target all the muscles in your lower body without emphasizing any particular muscle.
Improves Balance and Stability
A benefit of doing heel elevated squats is improved balance and stability. Since more weight is shifted onto your quads and glutes during this exercise, it requires better balance than a traditional back squat because there are fewer points of contact with the ground—your heels are planted but not firmly fixed as they would be on the floor.
This forces you to engage your core muscles more throughout the exercise to remain stable and maintain good form while performing each rep. As a result, you’ll have better overall balance when completing this version of squats compared to regular back squats or other variations such as front squats or goblet squats.
Increased Range Of Motion
In addition, heel elevated squats also allow for an increased range of motion due to their altered biomechanics compared to regular back squats or other variations such as front squats or goblet squats. As a result, you’ll increase overall flexibility and mobility—crucial factors for strength sports athletes!
Less Lower Back Stress
More weight being shifted onto your quads and glutes during this exercise puts less stress on other body parts, such as the lower back and hips (2). For example, a traditional squat compresses your spine more.
Heel Elevated Squats Alternatives
Heel elevated squats allow you to focus the body movements on specific muscle groups to get the most out of a single exercise. For those who want to mix up their routine, plenty of alternative exercises can also be effective in building strength and muscle.
Glute-hamstring raises will improve glute and hamstring activating and improve lower back health.
Hip thrusts are an excellent alternative to heel elevated squats that can help strengthen the muscles around your glutes, hamstrings, and hips.
Bulgarian Split Squats
For beginners, Bulgarian split squats are a great way to start while gaining experience in controlling balance with body weight and learning how best to activate the target muscle groups properly—just be sure only to use your bodyweight if you’re a beginner (feel free to add dumbbells or a barbell if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter).
Adding any of these alternative exercises into your workout routine will provide a fresh challenge while continuing to build strength and prep you for heel elevated squats.
Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) to consider before trying out heel elevated squats.
- What are heel elevated squats?
Heel elevated squats are performed with your feet on a plate or step.
- What are the benefits of heel elevated squats?
This exercise will activate your glutes and quads more than traditional squats and other squat variations. In addition, they’ll place less stress on your back.
- Are there any risks associated with heel elevated squats?
Because of the angle of this exercise, it can place more pressure on your knees. So if you have knee problems, we recommend avoiding this exercise. Otherwise, you can try out some knee sleeves for support.
More Exercise Guides
If you found value in this exercise guide, check out some of our others to work out other muscle groups:
- Frog Squat Exercise Guide: How to, Benefits, and Alternatives
- Seated Good Mornings Exercise Guide: How to, Tips, Benefits, and Alternatives
Heel elevated squats are a practical addition to any weightlifting routine due to their ability to shift more weight onto your quads and glutes while still providing an increased range of motion thanks to their altered biomechanics when compared to traditional back squats or other variations such as front squats or goblet squats.
Furthermore, they offer improved balance and form since they require better engagement from core muscles throughout each rep for proper form and stability while lifting weights. If you’re looking for an effective way to increase strength without putting too much strain on other body parts, such as the lower back or hips, give heel elevated squats a try!
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- Lu, Z., Li, X., Xuan, R., Song, Y., Bíró, I., Liang, M., & Gu, Y. (2022). Effect of Heel Lift Insoles on Lower Extremity Muscle Activation and Joint Work during Barbell Squats. Bioengineering (Basel, Switzerland), 9(7), 301. https://doi.org/10.3390/bioengineering9070301
- Sayers, M. G. L., Bachem, C., Schütz, P., Taylor, W. R., List, R., Lorenzetti, S., & Nasab, S. H. H. (2020). The effect of elevating the heels on spinal kinematics and kinetics during the back squat in trained and novice weight trainers. Journal of sports sciences, 38(9), 1000–1008. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2020.1738675