The effect of elevating the heels on spinal kinematics and kinetics during the back squat in trained and novice weight trainers

J Sports Sci. 2020 May;38(9):1000-1008. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2020.1738675. Epub 2020 Mar 17.


This research assessed the influence of various heel elevation conditions on spinal kinematic and kinetic data during loaded (25% and 50% of body weight) high-bar back squats. Ten novice (mass 67.6 ± 12.4 kg, height 1.73 ± 0.10 m) and ten regular weight trainers (mass 66.0 ± 10.7 kg, height 1.71 ± 0.09 m) completed eight repetitions at each load wearing conventional training shoes standing on the flat level floor (LF) and on an inclined board (EH). The regular weight training group performed an additional eight repetitions wearing weightlifting shoes (WS). Statistical parametric mapping (SPM1D) and repeated measures analysis of variance were used to assess differences in spinal curvature and kinetics across the shoe/floor conditions and loads. SPM1D analyses indicated that during the LF condition the novice weight trainers had greater moments around L4/L5 than the regular weight trainers during the last 20% of the lift (P < 0.05), with this difference becoming non-significant during the EH condition. This study indicates that from a perspective of spinal safety, it appears advantageous for novice weight trainers to perform back squats with their heels slightly elevated, while regular weight trainers appear to realize only limited benefits performing back squats with either EH or WS.

Keywords: High bar back squat; spinal curvature; statistical parametric mapping; weightlifting shoes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Heel / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Shoes
  • Spine / physiology*
  • Time and Motion Studies
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*
  • Young Adult