Exercise Spotlight: Heel Elevated Squats

Squats are a quad-dominant exercise that also target the hamstrings and glutes. Elevating the heels places more of an emphasis on the quads, so get ready to feel the burn!

This is a great exercise for beginners to try without any added resistance. Even as a body-weight exercise, with higher reps, it’s quite effective! I often superset heel elevated squats with alternating lunges for maximum quad destruction. Superset means doing the two exercise back-to-back with no break. Bonus: The increased range of motion in heel elevated squats helps improve knee stability.

TIP: If you’re new to weight-training, it may be difficult to achieve full-range of motion in your squat (while maintaining good form) without elevating your heels.

By elevating the heels it will be easier to keep your torso upright and to complete the full range of motion, which will result in greater overall muscle development. Elevate your heels on a step (as shown in the video) and go down slowly for 6 seconds aiming for 12-15 reps.

The next step is adding resistance, but if you’re unable to maintain good form throughout the movement (shoulders retracted, back straight, core tight) make sure to go down in weight. I would start with a single dumbbell or kettle-bell, and then as you are able to increase your weight move to two dumbbells.

Once you are comfortably performing the movement with two 25-30 pound dumbbells, it may by time to try the advanced version-the heel-elevated barbell back squat!

Heel-elevated squats are a great addition to your next legs day. Try 4 sets of 12-15 reps with a 4010 tempo or a 6010 tempo if you’re doing the exercise without added resistance.

How to Read Tempo:

What do I mean by a 4010 tempo? The first number means to go down slowly for 4 seconds for the eccentric or lowering phase of the exercise. The second number is the time to pause at the bottom of the range of motion before starting to lift the weight again. So in this case, there is no pause, indicated by the zero. You are probably piecing together that the third number is the time to complete the lift, so in this case come up for 1 second in a controlled fashion. The final number indicates there is no pause at the top before starting the next rep. A 30X0 tempo for squats would be lowering for 3 seconds, no pause at the bottom as indicated by the 0, exploding back up as fast as possible (as indicated by the X) and no pause at the top.

How do you do Heel-Elevated Squats?

  1. Elevate your heels on a step. Stand with feet in a narrow stance (a bit closer together than shoulder length)
  2. Retract shoulder blades, engage your core and glutes
  3. If you’re holding a single dumbbell or kettle bell ensure it is against your chest
  4. Take a deep breath in, and start to lower yourself down into a squat while keep shoulders retracted and torso upright
  5. Breathe out as you come up in a controlled fashion *keep glutes and core tight


Give the heel-elevated squats a try and let me know how they go! What’s your favourite legs day exercise?

Author: Coach Sofia

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