Weight and Resistance Training - Troubleshooting the squat - squats with heels better?

04-03-2008, 11:09 AM
I know may be a stupid question but I wear moderate heeled shoes to work. (2" or less). So I tend to practice my squat whenever possible and I did a squat in my work shoes and my squat seemed a lot better than any squat I do with flat shoes.

So my question really is - If I think I have a better squat with my heels being raised up, is there something I should be concentrating on to improve my normal squats? Like stretching, practicing specific moves, etc etc?

I know it is a long shot in asking but if someone knows, I think I may have a way to figure out what is 'wrong' with my squats.

04-03-2008, 11:29 AM
At first glance it appears likely to be a flexibility/mobility issue. Where that is, is really the question. Could ankles, calves, hamstrings, etc. or tight hip flexors, etc.

What type of flexibility and mobility work are you currently doing?
Do you spend a lot of time in heels?
When you stand and try to point your toes upward, what degree of an angle can you reach?
I think you said a few weeks ago that you got a foam roller. Are you finding a lot of trigger points in the calves, hamstrings, quads or glutes?

Of course, as Alwyn Cosgrove recently wrote. "Poor range of motion may actually be an issue of stability, not of mobility." Read this, try that test in #1 and see how you do:


04-03-2008, 12:03 PM
Squatting with raised heels is a notorious knee wrecker. I would decrease the weight and work on box squats off of a low box. Resetting at the bottom of the lift really helps you straighten out your form and lose bad habits like letting your hips rise too fast.

LiLi Gettin Thin
04-03-2008, 12:10 PM
I've found that too! I don't think it's a flexibility issue in my case, though. I mean it may be, but I'm pretty darn bendy. And...I don't know but it feels *better* on my knees. (I've always had issues with my knees and used to have to wear a brace when I did any lifting.) It feels so easy that I feel like I'd be cheating on my squats if I wore some sneakers with a higher heel to the gym.

04-03-2008, 12:15 PM
Interesting. I often use 10 pound plates under my heels when I'm doing dumbbell squats - not quite 2 inches, but probably 1.5? I started doing it this way when I read this about plate tectonics in NRLFW (p.163):Why the plates under the heels? In theory, doing squats with heels elevated shifts more of the work to the vastus medialis, one of the four quadriceps ,muscles, which has a role in protecting your knees." I have had knee issues in the past so decided to do these this way. My knees don't bother me at all and I actually feel like it throws something extra into it - coordination/balance.

Actually on the next page he says to try challenging yourself and doing the exercise on your toes, without the plates.

04-03-2008, 12:31 PM
Wow, pretty interesting!

And I wasn't doing a major workout in my work shoes, but just practicing my squats. I think you are right though in that it is more of a stability issue because when I started using a barbell for squats, it became a lot more difficult to go deeper. Throw in overhead squats and it is even more difficult. I do feel my body 'shuts down' on the squat sometime.

Depalma - The roller has found some spots but really there are few trigger points found with it. My calves are probably the worst of all but even then its not as bad as I thought.

I'm also starting yoga again but I've been doing some stretches.

04-03-2008, 01:09 PM
There could still be multiple issues here, but based on what you said i'd attack three things first. Ankle mobility, core stability, and form. It appears likely that you have tight and overactive plantarflexors and the dorsiflexors may be weak and inhibitied. Do some ankle mobility drills and perhaps some dumbell dorsiflexions and foam roll the calves after each workout to release the tightness here.

I would also work on more core stability. Planks, roll outs, the jacknifes that you love so much are all great. Perhaps add some standing ab crunches for some core strength.

And to groove the movement pattern, I second Robert's suggestion of doing some box squats and resetting at the bottom or if you lighten up the weight a bit, you might even want to start at the bottom. The body finds it easier to go someplace it has been before. If you can start yourself in the proper deep squat position, then you will find it easier to find that position again. You might even want to try this unweighted at first. I remember watching Dan John teach the overhead squat to someone who couldn't descend into proper position even with just a piece of PVC pipe as resistance. He had him put the bar on the floor, then had him descend into proper position, then gave him the pipe had him put it over his head in the overhead squat position (basically having him start from the bottom up) and the guy then proceeded to knock out a few excellent, nearly perfect reps.

If you are still having difficulty after that, It might be a worthwhile investment to schedule one session with a personal trainer. Have him/her do a static and dynamic assessment to see if there are postural distortions caused by muscle imbalances and have him/her watch your form in the squat. This should give you an idea of which muscles or form issues to target on your own.

04-07-2008, 10:42 PM
I was going to say as well, that I had seen pictures of people training while using a plate for a little lift. I can't recall if it's for squats though, or other things like increasing the challenge on ldead lifts and stretching.

When do u leave for Ca Nelie?

04-07-2008, 10:58 PM
You learn something new everyday. I thought you were suppose to have your toes off the floor and heels firmly down.