Training

Should Your Use Plates Under Your Heels While Squatting?

February 7th 2020

Stop squatting with plates under your heels today!

Did I catch your attention?

Squats are widely recognized among athletes, coaches, trainers, fitness enthusiasts and even average gym visitors as an extremely effective and advantageous exercise. 

They are frequently incorporated into the workout regimens of everyone from strength athletes to distance runners. 

Why? 

Because squats engage, work, and build muscles from your head to your toes. They are an exercise that uses muscles throughout your entire body, and because of doing so, they are an effective exercise for gaining strength and growing muscles in a relatively short amount of time. 

However, everyone’s body has a unique structure, with individualized mobility capabilities and mechanics. 

So, each of us may have different abilities, may experience different effects and may have different bodily responses from the same exercise. 

Because of this, some people (based on anatomical structure) experience enhanced benefits from squatting with plates under their heels or wearing heeled weightlifting shoes. 

This is because our anatomical variables affect our ability to achieve optimal mobility and affect our form. 

Should lifters use plates under their feet while squatting?

This is not proper gym etiquette and should be avoided. If you truly lack proper ankle mobility, are a taller lifter, have a narrow squat stance, shallow pelvis or a combination of these situations, investing in heeled shoes may be the best solution for you.

Heeled shoes effect on squatting 

While there may be several anatomical variables that affect your capabilities and how deeply and easily you can achieve an optimal squat, the main thing that influences your squatting success is ankle mobility. 

People with greater ankle mobility may see less of an effect from heeled shoes than people who have anatomical variables that affect their squatting capabilities, as heeled shoes help facilitate the mobility they may be lacking. 

Lifters with the following anatomical variables may benefit the most from a heeled shoe: a lack of ankle mobility, longer femur length, above average height, narrower stance width, or a shallow pelvis.

Heeled shoes assist in facilitating high levels of ankle dorsiflexion, or how much the ankle can flex towards the shin, and can help to better engage the quadricep muscles. Catching a snatch at the bottom of a squat requires most lifters to go well past their ankle dorsiflexion range of motion, and heeled shoes were created to help facilitate that need for a greater range of motion within their squat, and to help lifters achieve a deeper squat.

However, when choosing a shoe for squatting, it is incredibly important to consider your stability. 

The stability of your foot directly affects the stability of your knees and hips. When you disconnect your foot from the floor, you lose some of the integrity of that stability, and you may lose control. 

Some people will feel more stable, and others less stable, from wearing weightlifting shoes. Different weightlifting shoes will affect everybody’s stability differently.

Three of my recommendations for heeled shoes

Nike Romaleos 3 XD Men's Training Shoe

These are a heavier feeling shoe, but that feeling gives a great sense of stability. These shoes are great for lifters with wider feet. 

Adidas Men's Powerlift 4

These shoes are extremely similar to the Nikes, with the same structure and design, but they are better suited for lifters with narrower feet. 

Reebok Men's Lifter Pr Cross-trainer Shoe

This pair has a heat-activated foot wrap that molds to your foot for a customized fit.

Squatting with plates under your heels

Some lifters will simulate the effects of heeled shoes by squatting with 5-10lb plates under their heels. 

Again, their goal is to improve mobility and flexibility in their ankle and hip joint, along with optimizing knee stability, in order to achieve a deeper squat or to better engage their quads. 

This isn’t necessarily damaging or detrimental, and in some cases, they see a similar effect to using a weightlifting shoe. 

But some lifters believe this to be unethical or fear that the plates may slip, and could lead to injury or other ill effects.

Especially if you are in a commercial gym.

Do you want to touch a 5lbs or 10lb plate after someone stepped on them?

Chances are these same plates never get cleaned off.

And you wonder why you get sick after a hard workout and you touched your face a few times during the gym.

Safety first

Do you cringe when you see someone doing a heavy squat and they are trying to step delicately onto a 5lbs plate?

It’s bad enough that we subject ourselves to grow our legs.

But we also need to make sure we don’t miss our step.

That we step precisely on the plate so that our heels are on the plate.

Too little and we do not get enough dorsiflexion.

Too much and we need to readjust.

Every single step and movement with a heavy load on your back is draining your energy.

You need to be efficient with your squatting.

Every single aspect of it.

This is one reason why many lifters have a squatting ritual and stick with that for decades.

Having external circumstances like stepping on plates under your feet is something that can be solved with a good pair of heeled shoes.

Or you can do it the more natural way - actually working on improving your ankle and hip mobility.

For some people, this can be achieved fairly quickly if your body does not store tension there.

For some, it can be a very uncomfortable journey in order to unlock new degrees of mobility.

And really, the choice will be up for you to make in the end anyway.

Why do I feel more secure with plates under my feet while squatting?

You feel stronger in this position because as you drive your squat upward, your natural ankle mobility will determine the best position your foot should be in.

For a lot of people, having help with dorsiflexion from plates underneath your heels will make squatting a much more enjoyable experience.

You will not need to worry about mobility but instead just focusing 100% on the squat. You also get a bit more emphasis on your quads since you are bent a bit more forward than usual.

Still a tough journey but one less factor to worry about.

Should I work on squat mobility or buy a heeled shoe?

The million-dollar question with the million-dollar response, it really depends.

Only you truly know your body.

For myself personally, I have always used a flat shoe. I have always stretched and paid close attention to my mobility and flexibility as well.

Could that be in my genetics? Maybe but you could place responsibility outside of yourself or on yourself.

You know how hard you are working in order to develop a good squat technique.

We are fortunate to live in a time where people can just get assistance with almost every exercise they are doing.

Maybe before the internet ages, people were squatting with wooden blocks or flat stones under their feet. You do not see anyone of them complaining…

The point being is this, work hard and squat hard. There are a ton of exercises that can be done to improve your ankle and hip mobility. 

It is just that using a heeled shoe can allow lifters to get to squatting a whole lot quicker without much hard work on flexibility.

In my book, I would say do it the hard way and humble yourself with improving your mobility.

Final thoughts

Squatting is an exercise that has a wide range of positive effects on the body, and most of the population can benefit from adding some form of squat to their fitness regimen. 

But, it is important to bear in mind that everyone’s body has a unique structure, with individualized mobility capabilities. 

Using a heeled shoe may provide an advantage for achieving your desired squat, and the shoes you choose can significantly influence your squat.

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