T Nation

Importance of Shoes and Flexibility in Olympic Squats


I've made it a goal of mine to achieve a perfect ATG, high bar squat. I find the videos of guys squatting this way really impressive. I've got pretty inflexible hips and ankles, so I've been stretching a lot for the last week, and I'm making some good progress on my squat form.

I noticed, though, that the guys I watch squatting in the videos online are all wearing weightlifting shoes, which have an elevated heel. Right now, without shoes, I can do an ATG wall squat - but my feet feel pretty wide and turned out. If I narrow my stance, I just stop in the middle of the descent, like I can't pull my hips under me or my knees stop going forward (or both). I feel stuck. BUT if I put one inch weights under my heels, I can squat all the way down in this narrower stance.

So, I had been planning on stretching until I could hit the ATG squat with a fairly narrow stance, without the help of an elevated heel. But now I wonder if that's over-kill. Or even possible. Can most Olympic weightlifters squat ATG with a narrow stance, without the help of an elevated heel? Should I modify my goal be a good ATG squat, but with a wider stance because I'm not elevating my heel?

Generally, given the role of an elevated heel in Olympic weightlifting, what should my flexibility goals be? To squat well with elevated heels, or even without them?


Take what I say with a pinch of salt. I have no real OL experience.

I am very short 5 "6 so I can squat atg easily anyway but I tried some front squats today now that my flexibility /clean grip is improving rapidly and it is much easier to stay more upright with a heel than without.


How narrow is narrow? I go just a bit wider then shoulder width, toes pointed out a bit.

I'm only 5'10 but generally taller people find it harder to ATG squat. That doesn't mean they CAN'T, but it just takes more work.

Most decent OLifters will have the flexibility to squat ATG without a heel but a lot still can't. Also when people say ATG most of it is just a bit deeper then parallel imo and not really ATG. ATG would actually be literally a few inches off the floor with your ass...

Aim for a narrow (shoulder width) squat that is ATG with a heel.

Not many OLifters squat without oly shoes because thats what they wear when lifting. I can squat ATG without a heel but that isn't specific...I compete with my oly shoes on.

Post up a video and we'll see how you are.

Keep working your mobility.



Thanks for the tips.

For reference, I'm 5'7" - but my legs are proportionally long and my torso short. Sucks for squatting.

I just tried squatting with my heels about 18" apart, maybe a touch wider (I think this is about shoulder width), and my feet turned out at about a 30 degree angle. It felt alright; I could go much lower than parallel while staying pretty upright. But I felt a pretty big stretch on my inner thigh/groin area.

I then tried squatting with my heels about 16" apart, but elevated on 10lbs plates, and feet turned out closer to 15 degrees. This felt good. Definitely ATG, like 5" off the grass. Nice and solid, up and down. This is what I imagine Olympic squats should feel like.

I then tried squatting with heel 16" apart, but with heels flat on the ground. I didn't get quite to parallel - and then I stopped. I felt stuck. I leaned forward and tried to wiggle my way down, and I sort of got ATG, but the form was horrific.

Anyway, I'll try to post some videos sometime this week, so you can see for yourselves. Thanks again.


Although my ATG squat isn't as good as Koing's, I can squat deep, and occasionally I end a workout with some overhead squats with barefeet to work on better mobility. When that gets easier, keep narrowing the grip until you are at shoulder width.

Quadruped rockbacks are a good exercise for hip mobility while keeping a tight back:
Get on all fours, set back with your butt towards your heels while keeping a tight back (stick your butt out). Do it over the edge of a bed too, that way your toes can hang off.

I have another good warmup for the knees for squatting, but I will have to post a vid for it.


I had never heard of Quadraped rockbacks, and from the description I thought you might be fucking with me (get on all fours at the edge of the bed, stick butt out... yeahhh). But anyway, I tried them, and they hit EXACTLY where I am tight when I squat. Front of the hip socket. I'll work on stretching that. Thanks!