The squat exercise is one of the best ways to strengthen your lower body, and this bodyweight modification is one way to make sure you’re doing the move correctly. The next time you’re at the gym, take a weight plate (the cast iron circles you add to a barbell to make it heavier), and set it on the ground. Stand in front of the plate in your squat stance with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Lift your heels up and plant them on the edge of the plate (the balls of your feet will still be pressing down into the ground). Now squat.
You’ll notice that you were probably able to get a bit lower and the exercise just felt a little better in general. Pretty snazzy huh? Clifton Harski, Fitwall’s director of training and global head coach, explains that this heel raise addresses one of the major (and sneaky) limitations that restrict you from squatting effectively: ankle mobility.
“When one cannot adequately flex at the ankle you’ll see some common changes in foot positioning, either excessively wide stances, turned out feet, or coming up onto the toes during a squat and losing heel contact with the ground,” says Harski. “By placing a small rise under the heel, you allow the body to squat in a more natural way, which is to share the load between the heels and balls of you feet. As a result you can take a more natural stance.”
Ankle mobility will also help you bend your knees deeper while keeping your torso more upright, Harski explains. “In a squat we would like to see a more upright torso when compared to a deadlift (where you are hinging more and bending your knees less).” Better form leads to better results and reduces your risk of injury.
So when you’re doing squats, keep these form tips in mind.
Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all squat stance or trick, explains Harski, but when you are doing a squat exercise, here’s are some important form tips to follow:
- Go as deep and low as you can comfortably.
- Keep your knees tracking over your toes (no collapsing in).
- Your back should remain flat (no rounding).
- Keep your chest lifted, don’t allow it to cave in.
- Feet should constantly press against the ground, don’t come on to the balls of your feet.
If you’re struggling to make the above happen, try the weight-plate squat trick.