Unlocking Strength and Muscle Gains with Heel Elevated Squats

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Apr 3,2024|11 min| 872

A great movement to blow up your legs

When it comes to your leg days, whether you are training for bodybuilding or a strength sport like powerlifting, the chances are that there is some variation of the classic movement, the squat placed in your workout routine. However, the classic barbell squat can get old, the hack squat might hurt your knees too much, and the leg press might just not do it for you. That being said, heel elevated squats are a great way to switch up your squatting routine.

Heel elevated squats might just be the key to unlocking new levels of strength, stability, and muscle engagement, which can help with hypertrophy. This variation of the classic squat exercise offers a range of benefits that can help you achieve your fitness goals faster and more effectively. Let’s take a look at this great leg movement.

What is a Heel Elevated Squat?

A heel elevated squat is just how it sounds, a squat where your heels are elevated. Now, this does not mean you are on your tippy toes, or on a foam roller like the image above, that could just lead to injury. Instead, you elevate your heel by putting something underneath your heels, typically it will be a weight plate. There also are weightlifting shoes that have elevated heels for a more natural path of movement. Let’s dissect this movement a bit further.

How to Perform Heel Elevated Squats

Setup: Begin by placing a small platform or weight plates under your heels, elevating them by about 0.5 to 1 inch. You can use specialized heel-elevating platforms designed for this purpose or simply use stable objects like weight plates or wooden blocks.

Stance: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, toes pointed slightly outward. (You also can use one plate under your heels and do a “duck stance” with your toes out to bias the quads). Maintain a straight posture with your chest up and shoulders back. 

Execution: Lower your body down by bending your knees and hips, as if you were sitting back into a chair. Keep your heels firmly planted on the elevated surface throughout the movement. Aim to lower your hips until your thighs are parallel to the ground or slightly below, ensuring your knees stay aligned with your toes.

Ascent: Press through your heels to drive your body back up to the starting position, engaging your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement to fully extend your hips.

Repetition: Perform the desired number of repetitions, focusing on maintaining proper form and control throughout the exercise.

Benefits of Heel Elevated Squats

There are plenty of benefits to heel elevated squats. Let’s take a look.

Increased Range of Motion: Elevating the heels allows for greater ankle flexibility, enabling you to achieve a deeper squat position. This increased range of motion helps to better engage the muscles of the lower body, particularly the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.

Improved Squat Mechanics: For individuals with limited ankle mobility or tight calf muscles, heel elevated squats can help to improve squat mechanics. By reducing the need for excessive ankle dorsiflexion, this variation allows you to maintain a more upright torso position, which can alleviate stress on the lower back and knees.

Enhanced Muscle Activation: Elevating the heels shifts the emphasis slightly forward, placing greater emphasis on the quadriceps muscles. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals looking to target the front of the thighs for muscle development and strength gains.

Core Stability: Performing squats on an unstable surface challenges your core muscles to maintain stability throughout the movement. The elevation of the heels adds an additional element of instability, forcing your core muscles to work harder to stabilize your body.

Functional Transfer: The strength and stability gained from heel elevated squats can translate to improved performance in various functional movements and sports activities. Whether you're an athlete looking to enhance your agility and explosiveness or simply seeking to improve your everyday mobility, this exercise can help you build a solid foundation of strength and stability.

Safety Considerations

While heel elevated squats offer numerous benefits, it's essential to perform them with proper form to minimize the risk of injury. Here are a few safety considerations to keep in mind:

  • Start with a conservative heel elevation height and gradually increase it as your flexibility and strength improve.

  • Focus on maintaining a neutral spine throughout the movement, avoiding excessive rounding or arching of the back.

  • Keep your knees aligned with your toes and avoid allowing them to collapse inward during the squat.

  • If you experience any pain or discomfort while performing heel elevated squats, stop immediately and consult with a fitness professional or healthcare provider.

Where to Find Good Programs

When it comes to finding proper programs, it may be difficult to do so. There are a lot of programs out there that do not cater to everyone, do not use progressive overload properly, and just overall are not ideal. If you are a lifter or a beginner to the gym, check out Boostcamp, the lasting lifting app you'll ever need. With the Boostcamp App you can find tons of different workout routines that will truly push you to the limit, and they are made by renowned evidence-based coaches. Boostcamp also lets you create your own custom routines and log your progress, which is great for tracking your progress and making linear progression.

To maximize your gains and simplify your fitness journey, consider using Boostcamp, the last lifting app you'll ever need. Boostcamp helps you track your progress, offers customizable training programs, and provides expert guidance to ensure you get the most out of your chosen workout program whether it's linear
push pull legs or upper lower or whatever you choose. There are also plenty of different program styles to choose from such as push pull legs or upper lower splits. Start making the most of your workouts and download Boostcamp today!

Heel Elevated Squats Wrap Up

In conclusion, heel elevated squats are a valuable addition to any lower body workout routine, offering a range of benefits for strength, stability, and muscle development. By incorporating this variation into your training regimen and paying attention to proper form, you can take your squats to new heights and unlock your full potential in the gym.

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