Squats are quadriceps-dominant, multi-joint exercises. The quadriceps muscle group includes the vastus medialis, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and the rectus femoris. Although squats place most of the demand on the aforementioned muscles, they also target the glutes and hamstrings as primary movers.
Several other muscles – including the adductors, abductors, abdominals, erector spinae and calves – act as synergists. Elevating the heels when squatting places even more emphasis on the quadriceps muscles, so this exercise is a double whammy for the front of the legs.
Squats improve all of the major muscle groups of the body, but they are most geared toward increasing quadriceps mass and strength. They are important for improving all speed-related sports that involve ground contact, including sprinting, football, soccer, baseball, and basketball.
Squatting and its related exercises – step ups, split squats, lunges – are many times thought of as the strength development exercises for the legs, as opposed to the family of deadlifts and Olympic lifts, which relate more specifically to power.
Heels elevated squats improve the recruitment of quadriceps muscle fibers for a few reasons.
The heels elevated squat is not an exercise for beginners. It is only to be performed by people who know how to squat properly. If you don’t have proper ankle flexibility, do not perform squats with heels elevated. You are going to make the problem worse by shortening your ankles.
Place a wedge board on the floor where you will be squatting. Alternatively, use two, 25lb plates to elevate your heels. Adjust the squat rack safety catches to slightly below shoulder height, and place a barbell across the rack. Take an even grip on the barbell and get under the bar, placing it across your upper trapezius (traps). Lift it off the rack.
Carefully walk backward to the wedge board, or weight plates, and elevate your heels. Be sure to keep your stance hip width apart.
Keeping your spine erect and your lower back slightly arched, inhale as you bend your knees and lower your body in a controlled manner. Perform a full squat until your hamstrings cover your calves, and your glutes are well below your knees.
At the bottom of the movement, exhale and drive your body up from the bottom position, maintaining proper alignment of your feet and knees.
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