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Ask the Lab: Squats

PLEASE NOTE: The medical opinions in USTA.com's Ask the High Performance Lab are responses intended for the average player. Please consult with your primary physician before beginning any new exercise program.

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From: Dennis, Florida:
Should tennis players perform traditional squats with the heels on the ground or should the heels be raised during the squat? When I try this, I feel it more in my quads.

Dr. Mark Kovacs: Dennis, Thanks for the question. Sometimes in gyms around the country you may see people perform squats with their heels raised on a weight plate or book. The impact of raising the heels of the ground, by using a small weight/book (Figure 1), will change the angle at the knee and the hip during the squat. You are correctthat the quadriceps will be loaded to a slightly greater degree in this position. However, there are some concerns for a tennis player by having the heels of the ground.

1) The major negative to this position for a tennis player is that it shortens the angle at the achilles and gastrocnemius-soleus (calf) position. This is typically one of the least flexible areas of a tennis player and can result in numerous negative adaptations that may affect the entire kinetic chain through the knees, hips and even up through the shoulder. By performing this modified squat technique, you would be reducing the flexibility and strength in the lower leg and could predispose you to future injuries.

 

Ask the Lab: Figure 1 squats



2) The goal of efficient tennis movement is to lower the center of gravity, while being strong, flexible and balanced. This position requires strength in the gluteal muscle group (buttocks) in a low position. One of the best ways to train this low position is to work on squatting with the weight back in your buttocks and heels (while the heels are flat on the ground). By raising your heels, you are limiting the development of your buttocks, which will not translate in to better body position on-court.

If the purpose of squatting is to develop greater strength and subsequent power on the tennis court, the traditional squat technique would be more beneficial than the modified technique with the heels of the ground. However, their may be rare instances during a periodized program where the modified squat technique may be appropriate. I would suggest speaking with a certified strength and conditioning specialist in your area who may be able to assist in evaluating your strengths and weaknesses and provide you with individualized guidance based on the needs of each athlete.

 

Ask the Lab: Traditional squat 1


Ask the Lab: Traditional squat 2


Ask the Lab: Figure 1 squats


Ask the Lab: modified squat 2



Mark Kovacs
About the Author:
Mark Kovacs, PhD, CSCS, is the USTA Manager of Sport Science and is a tennis researcher, certified strength and conditioning specialist and certified tennis professional. He was a former tennis All-American and NCAA champion. The USTA Sport Science department is responsible for testing, training and tracking top junior and professional tennis players as well as producing, evaluating and disseminating sport science and sport medicine information relevant to tennis.

 

 
 
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