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Heel-Raised Foot Posture Does Not Affect Trunk and Lower Extremity Biomechanics During a Barbell Back Squat in Recreational Weight lifters

Lee, Szu-Ping1; Gillis, Carrie B.1; Ibarra, Javier J.2; Oldroyd, Derek F.3; Zane, Ryan S.4

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: March 2019 - Volume 33 - Issue 3 - p 606–614
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001938
Original Research

Lee, S-P, Gillis, CB, Ibarra, JJ, Oldroyd, DF, and Zane, RS. Heel-raised foot posture does not affect trunk and lower extremity biomechanics during a barbell back squat in recreational weight lifters. J Strength Cond Res 33(3): 606–614, 2019—It is claimed that weightlifting shoes with a raised heel may lead to a more upright trunk posture, and thus reduce the risk of back injuries during a barbell back squat. These proclaimed biomechanical effects have not been thoroughly investigated. The purpose of this study was to compare trunk and lower extremity biomechanics during barbell back squats in three foot postures. Fourteen recreational weight lifters (7 men and 7 women) between the ages of 18 and 50 years performed barbell back squats in three conditions (barefoot on a flat surface, barefoot on a heel-raised platform, and wearing heel-raised weightlifting shoes) at 80% of their 1 repetition maximum. Surface electromyography was used to assess the activation of the knee extensors and paraspinal muscles at L3 and T12 spinal levels. A 3D motion capture system and an electrogoniometer recorded the kinematics of the thoracic spine, lumbar spine, and knee during the back squat to a depth where the hip was at least at the same level to the knee. Results indicated that none of the heel-raised foot postures significantly affected trunk and lower extremity muscle activation (thoracolumbar paraspinal [p = 0.52], lumbar paraspinal [p = 0.179], knee extensor [p = 0.507]) or the trunk angles (thoracolumbar spine [p = 0.348], lumbar spine [p = 0.283]) during the squat. Our results demonstrated that during barbell back squats, heel-raised foot postures do not significantly affect spinal and knee extensor muscle activations, and trunk and knee kinematics. Heel-raised weightlifting shoes are unlikely to provide significant protection against back injuries for recreational weight lifters during the barbell back squat.

1Department of Physical Therapy, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada;

2Select Physical Therapy, Las Vegas, Nevada;

3Rehabilitation Department, St. Rose Dominican Hospital—Siena Campus, Las Vegas, Nevada; and

4Outpatient Physical Therapy Clinic, Desert View Hospital, Pahrump, Nevada

Address correspondence to Szu-Ping Lee,

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Copyright © 2019 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association.