Everyone knows how effective squats are, but so many people struggle to perform the movement through the full range of motion without discomfort.
Enter… the slant board.
Using a slant board can be one of the most effective ways to squat because it allows the athlete to reach the desired depth much more easily, with less discomfort and without the risk of lower back rounding.
In this article we’ll take a deeper (wink) look at why squatting is so much better on a slant board!
Slant Board Squat Benefits
Are slant boards good for squats? Yes, and for a multitude of reasons…
What Does Squatting On An Incline Do?
The obvious answer to this question is that it elevates your heels up off the ground, but what exactly does this accomplish?
Forces Body Into Natural Position
The popular wisdom is that you should squat deep with a straight spine, but there’s actually no evidence that suggests this is or ever was a natural position for us to be in.
Not only is the first position unnatural, but it’s extremely difficult to get into this position and then adding load makes it even tougher.
The second position is fine for sitting in, but isn’t exactly safe for performing squat repetitions in because of the rounded lower back…
The third position is safest to perform squats in because the spine is in a healthy position.
But the problem is that it requires a lot of balance to stay up on your toes like this and there’s a ton of pressure on your Achilles tendon, which means it’s not a practical position to squat in.
By using a slant board, we can ‘artificially’ recreate this third squat stance but with far more stability.
Makes The Squat More Quad Dominant
You can perform squats one of two ways: hip/glute dominant or quad dominant.
When we think of hip dominant squatting, think about powerlifters doing low bar squats – the weight is primarily moved by hip flexion/extension as opposed to knee flexion/extension.
On the other hand, if we look at our friend, Mike Israetel, he has a very quad dominant high-bar squat characterized by a very upright stance with the knees coming forward.
Neither way is necessarily ‘better’ than the other, but they’re both very different.
Quad dominant squatting will, you guessed it, develop your quads far more effectively than it will your glutes or hamstrings.
Poor Ankle Mobility Makes Squatting Hard
The reason most of us struggle to get into a strong squatting position is because of poor ankle mobility.
As modern humans, we walk around all day wearing shoes.
Shoes tend to have elevated heels on them, which drastically reduces the range of motion we naturally evolved to have by walking barefoot.
As a result, the vast majority of us have really poor ankle mobility purely as a function of our modern day lives.
People in primitive cultures who spend a lot of time walking around barefoot also seem to have no issues getting into that second deep squat position depicted above.
If you work diligently on improving your ankle mobility, your squat will start to feel a whole lot more comfortable through that full range of motion.
Even if you have perfect ankle mobility, using a slant board is still a great way of altering the squat to be more quad dominant.
Is Squatting On A Slant Board Cheating?
In fact, if squatting on a slant board is cheating, then Olympic lifters have been cheating for years!
Olympic weightlifting shoes have a raised platform on them which is effectively the same as having 2 tiny slant boards under your feet…
You’ve probably seen people squatting on weight plates at the gym also.
This is a very common alternative to slant boards.
It’s not ideal though because stability on weight plates is much lower when compared to a slant board.
So it’s no secret that squatting with an elevated heel is going to allow you to achieve a superior range of motion and better activation of the quads.
Using a slant board is one of the easiest ways to achieve this improved setup.
How To Use A Slant Board For Squats – The Right Way
The key with squatting on a slant board is a fairly narrow (shoulder width) stance and to keep your knees tracking straight out over your toes.
Notice how the knees are not flaring out to the sides…
Your torso should remain very upright throughout the movement.
Don’t Squat Through Pain
If you experience any discomfort whatsoever, don’t continue squatting.
Start with an assisted squat using a stick/pole to lean on until you can complete the full squat without support.
You should also take a look at incorporating some of the many other exercises you can do on a slant board to develop the flexibility, mobility, and strength required to perform the full squat.
What Is The Right Angle For Slant Board Squats?
Anywhere from 20-30 degrees is going to be ideal, but it really doesn’t matter much at all and is largely up to personal preference.
If you have excellent ankle mobility, you could use a slant board on a 15-20 degree angle and it would still make a big difference.
Going above 35 degrees probably is unnecessary and will potentially limit your stability.
Personally I feel a 25° incline angle is optimal for squats.
Having used slant boards with 30° inclines, I think this can be slightly too aggressive especially if you’re looking to lift heavy.
Great Alternative: Squat Wedge
Similar to the slant board is the ATG heel wedge (or simply a squat wedge) which, as you can imagine, is a wedge that goes under your feet to achieve the same heel elevation.
While these aren’t the best when it comes to static calf stretching, they’re ideal for squatting, and are often quite a bit cheaper than slant boards!
Be sure to check out my full roundup of the best squat wedges in 2023!
Best Slant Board For Squats?
There are a number of really excellent slant boards on the market and I highly recommend you check out my roundup of the best slant boards in 2023 to figure out which one is best for you.
Regardless of which slant board you go for, you’ll soon come to realize why this item is high on my list of the best knees over toes training equipment!