Slant Board Squats: Your Cure for Skinny Quads!

By Matt Walter
Last update:
Slant Board Squats: Grow Them Quads!

Key Points:

  • Slant boards assist with achieving full depth in squats for those with a limited range of motion.
  • They can compensate for poor ankle mobility and help improve squat form.
  • Individuals with longer femurs may benefit from using slant boards for a more balanced, quad-focused squat.
  • Slant board squats put a greater emphasis on the quadriceps, making them a useful addition for those looking to develop bigger, more powerful legs.

Slant board squats are a variation that involve standing on an inclined surface, changing the mechanics and emphasis of the movement. This exercise targets the lower body muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

By performing squats on a slanted surface, you can maintain a more upright torso, increase your range of motion, and experience more activation of your quadriceps muscles.

Slant board squats have gained attention for their potential to help improve lower body strength and flexibility, particularly in the quadriceps and ankle joints. They are especially beneficial for individuals looking to increase their ankle flexion, a common limitation that can affect squat depth and overall lower body mechanics.

They are also amazing if you have long legs and a short torso! Having long legs myself, I’ve always struggled to maintain an upright torso while squatting. Which has been great for glute and ham development, but has left my quads as a weak point.

My slant board has helped bring up this lagging body part tremendously!

Adding slant board squats to your routine can also contribute to better knee health by allowing your knees to travel past your toes (anterior knee translation). This not only helps provide a better stretch in the quads, but research indicates that performing squats with knees traveling past the toes can enhance knee stability in the long term, contrary to the common misconception that it leads to increased pressure and potential injury.

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Why Squatting Is So Hard? The Issue Is Poor Ankle Mobility

Proper squatting requires adequate mobility in various joints, particularly the ankles. Ankle dorsiflexion, the bending of the ankle where the toes are brought up toward the shin, is essential for a deep squat. Limited mobility can lead to poor squat form and an ineffective range of motion.

Poor ankle mobility can stem from multiple factors:

  • Tightness in the calf muscles, including the gastrocnemius and soleus.
  • A history of ankle injuries, which can lead to scar tissue and stiffness.
  • Sedentary lifestyles that involve prolonged sitting, contributing to joint stiffness.

When you try to squat with restricted ankle movement, you face challenges:

  • You may not be able to keep your heels on the ground, which may cause you to lose balance.
  • There is a tendency for your torso to lean excessively forward, which can place additional strain on your lower back.
  • Compensation by overusing other joints, like the hips and knees, could potentially lead to discomfort or injury.

Adding a slant board during squats can help by:

  • Allowing deeper squats with correct form even when ankle mobility is limited.
  • Helping to gradually increase the range of motion in the ankles over time.
  • Reducing the risk of compensatory injuries by providing a more manageable angle for squatting.

Using slant board squats as part of a mobility routine can be beneficial for those struggling with ankle stiffness.

Why You Should Consider Adding Slant Board Squats to Your Routine

Slant board squats are an effective variation to standard squats and they offer several advantages.

First, they reduce stress on the knees by altering the angle at which the squat is performed. This makes slant board squats a beneficial exercise for individuals recovering from knee injuries or those looking to prevent them.

Second, incorporating slant board squats can improve ankle mobility. The inclined plane allows the ankle to work through a greater range of motion, and over time, this can lead to increased flexibility in the ankle joint.

Finally, slant boards allow you to squat to full depth while maintaining an upright torso. This position places a larger stretch on the quadriceps, which is crucial for maximizing muscle development.

How to Perform Slant Board Squats

Correct positioning on the slant board is crucial for maximizing muscle activation and ensuring safety during the movement.

Muscle Engagement

The primary muscles worked during a slant board squat are the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, and calves. Secondary muscles include the hamstrings and core stabilizers.

  • Quadriceps: Engaged throughout the movement; more emphasis due to angle.
  • Gluteus Maximus: Activates during the upward phase.
  • Calves (Gastrocnemius and Soleus): Under tension because of the foot angle.
  • Hamstrings: Work as synergists.

Movement Mechanics

How to Perform Slant Board Squats
  1. Starting Position: Stand with feet on the slant board, heels high and toes pointing toward the ground. Your whole foot should ideally be on the board, with your toes just off the floor. You can, however, start with your toe box on the ground until you get more comfortable with the feeling of the movement.
Slant Board Foot Position
Slant Board Starting Position With Toes Off the Board
  1. Descent (concentric phase): Unlike a traditional squat, begin by bending your knees and pushing them past your toes. Hinge at the hips as necessary to lower your butt toward your calves. This phase should be performed slowly, taking 3 to 5 seconds.
  2. Bottom Position: Descend as far as possible. Ideally, you should end with your torso mostly upright, your hamstrings smashed into your calves, and your butt near your heels.
  3. Ascent: Drive through your whole foot and extend the hips and knees to athletically return to the starting position.

Pelvis Biomechanics

When performing slant board squats, the pelvis plays a crucial role in the movement’s functionality and safety. The position and orientation of the pelvis affect the activation of various muscle groups and impact overall stability.

Tilt and Alignment: Slant board squats challenge the anterior pelvic tilt. They naturally encourage a posterior tilt, positioning the pelvis under the torso. This alignment helps engage the gluteal muscles while minimizing excessive lumbar extension, which can reduce stress on the lower back.

  • Anterior Pelvic Tilt: Often caused by prolonged sitting and inactivity, it can lead to imbalances.
  • Posterior Pelvic Tilt: Engages during slant board squats, contributing to core stability.

Muscle Engagement: Proper pelvic positioning during slant board squats allows for targeted muscle activation.

  • Gluteals: Emphasized during the squat, especially when maintaining a posterior pelvic tilt.
  • Hamstrings: Work in conjunction with the gluteals, providing stability and power.
  • Quadriceps: The inclined angle increases quadriceps engagement compared to flat squats.

Stabilization and Mobility: The slant board squat demands stabilization of the pelvis during the lowering (eccentric) and return (concentric) phases of the squat. Mobility is also a key factor, as a full range of motion is required to perform the movement most effectively.

Adequate hip flexor length and hamstring flexibility can assist in achieving optimal pelvic biomechanics.

  • Stabilizers: Include the core muscles which help to maintain the correct pelvic position.
  • Movers: Primary muscles include gluteals and legs.

This exercise can potentially correct dysfunctional movement patterns arising from poor pelvic mechanics, but you must perform slant board squats with proper form to maximize the biomechanical benefits.

Foot Biomechanics

When performing slant board squats, the biomechanics of the foot play a crucial role in both the effectiveness and safety of the exercise. The foot serves as the foundational contact point with the slant board, so its positioning and movement influence the alignment and force distribution throughout the entire body during the squat.

Key Components of Foot Biomechanics in Slant Board Squats:

  • Pressure Distribution: During the squat, weight should be evenly spread across the foot to maintain balance and control. Excessive pressure on the forefoot or heel can lead to biomechanical imbalances.
  • Ankle Mobility:
    • Dorsiflexion: The ability to flex the foot upward toward the shit. Limited dorsiflexion can cause compensatory movements at the knee and hip.
    • Plantarflexion: The ability to point the foot downward. An appropriate range enables effective push-off and power generation in the squat.

The Role of Footwear: Proper footwear is essential to support foot biomechanics. Features like a non-compressive sole and adequate arch support can enhance alignment and performance.

Never squat in running shoes! Running shoes have too much cushion and not enough support side-to-side. The cushioning decreases force output at your foot and provides an unstable environment. And the lack of side-to-side support doesn’t adequately support your ankles.

Ideally, Olympic Lifting shoes should be worn during squats. Most of us aren’t buying a dedicated pair of squat shoes, however. So, as a great alternative, choose a good training shoe like the Nike Metcon or Reebok Nano. These are designed for overall training and will be plenty adequate for most people’s squats.

Benefits of Slant Board Squats

Slant board squats are designed to enhance lower-body strength and flexibility, which support joint health and mobility. A key benefit to lifting with your heels elevated is improved quadriceps activation due to the increased angle of the squat. This emphasizes pressure on the front part of the leg and can lead to greater muscle activity and development.

Individuals recovering from leg injuries might find slant board squats useful, as they allow for scaled intensity depending on the angle of the board. By promoting anterior knee translation (knees in front of the toes), they serve as an effective tool for either rehab or standard fitness routines.

The biomechanics of slant board squats can vary based on the degree of the decline, which offers customization of the movement to fit personal goals or physical therapy requirements. This personalization ensures a functional exercise beneficial across various levels of fitness and mobility, aiding activities like sitting and lifting.

Who Are Slant Boards Best For?

Slant boards can be a beneficial tool for various individuals seeking to address specific lower body strength and mobility challenges. They ensure correct squat form and provide targeted muscle engagement.

People With Knee Issues

Individuals experiencing knee pain or recovering from knee surgery may find slant boards useful. The inclined surface helps in reducing the strain on the knees during squats by altering the squat mechanics.

People With Limited Range of Motion (ROM)

Those who struggle with achieving full depth in their squats due to stiffness or joint pain can get assistance from slant boards. These boards encourage a deeper squat without overextending the joints.

People With Poor Ankle Mobility

A slant board assists in compensating for poor ankle dorsiflexion. This allows the user to squat more effectively by improving the angle of the shin during the exercise.

People With Long Legs Relative to Their Torsos

This is me, all day long! I have very long legs and a relatively short torso. Because of this, I have a very exaggerated hip hinge, placing more emphasis on my hamstrings and glutes.

A slant board will help you achieve a more upright torso, placing more emphasis on your quads.

Those Seeking to Grow Their Quads

Slant board squats put a greater emphasis on the quadriceps. Fitness enthusiasts aiming to isolate and develop this muscle group may benefit from incorporating slant board squats into their regimen.

Individuals Looking to Prevent Injuries

Proper squat form is crucial for injury prevention. Slant boards help maintain proper alignment of hips, knees, and ankles, which can reduce the risk of strain or injury.

Fitness Enthusiasts Exploring New Exercises

Adding variety to a fitness routine can prevent boredom and plateauing. Slant boards offer a new challenge for squats and can refresh an individual’s workout program.

When Using A Slant Board Isn’t A Good Idea

Pre-existing Knee Conditions: Individuals who suffer from knee problems, such as patellar tendinitis or meniscus injuries, should exercise caution. The inclined angle can place extra stress on the knees, potentially exacerbating these conditions.

Balance Issues: A slant board can challenge one’s balance. Those who are prone to falls or have a poor sense of balance might find it difficult to maintain proper form, increasing the risk of injury.

Post-Surgery Recovery: Patients recovering from lower body surgeries should consult their healthcare provider or physical therapist before attempting slant board squats.

Beginners: Novices may struggle to maintain the proper squatting technique on a flat surface, let alone on an incline. Master the squat before progressing to a slant board.

Age Considerations: It is often not recommended for elderly individuals who might have impaired balance or weaker joint stability.

Adding Extra Weight to a Slant Board Squat

Slant board squats can be performed using various pieces of equipment. These variations include using dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or just your own body weight to enhance lower body strength and stability.

Bodyweight Slant Board Squats

This is where you should start until you are comfortable with the feel of the slant board.

The bodyweight slant board squat focuses on form and control, making it an excellent choice for beginners or for those emphasizing rehabilitation and joint health. It serves as a foundational movement to master before progressing to weighted variations, ensuring correct posture and knee alignment throughout the range of motion.

The Dumbbell or Kettlebell Slant Board Squat

Dumbbells are a great way to add resistance to slant board squats. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height or by your sides (suitcase squat), or hold a single dumbbell with both hands across the center of your chest (goblet squat).

Back Squat or Front Squat

Slant Board Barbell Front Squat

Using a barbell increases the intensity of the squat and allows for a heavier load to be used. The weight of the barbell is distributed across the shoulders (either front or back). This variation is beneficial for developing overall lower body power.

Just make sure to check the load restrictions of the particular slant board you purchased! Make sure it can handle your own body weight, plus however much additional weight you are using.

Additional Slant Board Exercises

Calf Raise

Calf raises on a slant board increase the stretch and contraction within the calf muscles. The inclined angle creates a more challenging workout, aiding in strengthening the lower leg.

Position your feet with heels down and toes elevated, typically shoulder-width apart. This angle increases the stretch on the calves and can reduce the pressure on the lower back.

Toes Elevated Deadlift

By elevating the toes during a deadlift, the slant board places greater emphasis on the hamstrings and lower back. This variation can help improve posterior chain strength.

Jefferson Curl

Slant Board Jefferson Curl

The Jefferson Curl, using a slant board, intensifies the stretch on the hamstrings. This exercise encourages a greater range of motion and spine articulation.

Patrick Step

Using the slant board for Patrick Steps challenges the knees and engages the quads. It requires maintaining balance while stepping up and down.

Simply stand on your slant board with one leg extended so the foot is slightly off the board. Squat down until your raised foot’s heel touches the ground in front of the slant board. Pause, then return to the starting position.

The Patrick Step

ATG Split Squat

A split squat on a slant board helps target the quads and improves hip mobility. The angled front foot increases the exercise’s difficulty, enhancing its effectiveness.

Tibialis Raise

Specifically designed to strengthen the tibialis anterior muscle (muscle in the front of your shin), the slant board creates the optimal angle for this raise, which can help prevent shin splints.

This is an often-neglected muscle, and developing it can balance out your calves and stabilize your knee joint.

Romanian Deadlift

Performing a Romanian Deadlift on a slant board puts added stress on the hamstrings and glutes. This subtle change in angle can result in a more intense exercise.

Adding Slant Board Squats to Your Workout Routine

When integrating slant board squats into one’s exercise regimen, clear progression and safety are paramount. This technique targets specific muscle groups and helps improve squat mechanics.

Warm-Up Exercises

Before performing slant board squats, warm up to prepare your leg muscles and joints. Dynamic stretches focusing on the hips, knees, and ankles are beneficial.

Start with a set of ten bodyweight squats on a flat surface. Then, move on to some dynamic stretches for any muscles that feel overly tight. Dynamic stretches for your quads, hamstrings, hips, hip flexors, and inner thigh muscles may help you feel ready for the work ahead.

These activities increase blood flow and reduce the risk of injury.

Perform a second set of bodyweight squats on the floor. If you feel warm, you have a good range of motion, and your joints feel ready, it’s time to break out your slant board.

Do 5 to 10 reps with just your bodyweight on the slant board to get a feel for the movement, and then you’re ready to start either ramping up to your working weight or for your first working set of bodyweight slant board squats.

Sets and Reps

If you are looking to build your quads with slant board squats, you want to pick a repetition range that targets hypertrophy. I recommend at least sets of 10 reps. Anything heavier than that is probably better performed on a flat surface.

Start with 2 sets of 10 to 20 reps and see what that does for your quads. Review your quad soreness over the next couple of days. If you are recovered and ready to go 3 to 4 days later, add a third set or try to increase your reps.

If you just barely recovered before your next leg training session, stick with 2 sets again and try to increase your reps.

Personally, I love to do these as my second quad exercise of the day, for higher reps in the 20 to 30 range.

Perform all reps with a slow, controlled eccentric (dropping into the squat) of about 3 seconds. Pause at the bottom of the squat for a full second before athletically returning to the standing position. Do not stop at the top of the squat! Once you’ve reached full lockout, drop immediately back to the bottom of the squat.

Cool-Down Stretches

Post-workout, it’s beneficial to perform cool-down stretches to aid in recovery. This includes a combination of static stretches targeting the lower body:

  • Hamstring stretch: holding for 20-30 seconds per leg.
  • Quad stretch: each leg held behind the body for 20-30 seconds.

These stretches help reduce muscle tightness and improve flexibility after the slant board squats.

Is Squatting On A Slant Board Cheating?

No. You’re simply using a tool to modify the standard squat exercise. This modification can be beneficial for several reasons.

  • Ankle Mobility: Slant boards can improve ankle mobility which may be limited in some individuals. Enhanced ankle mobility allows for a deeper squat.
  • Muscle Targeting: Squatting on an inclined surface may alter muscle recruitment patterns, potentially targeting the quad muscles more.
  • Knee Health: The slanted angle can reduce stress on the knees, aiding those with knee issues to squat more comfortably.

However, it’s crucial to note:

  • Not a Replacement: A slant board doesn’t replace conventional squats, but supplements them to address specific needs or limitations.
  • Proper Use: Users need to ensure they’re using correct form to avoid injury and receive the intended benefits.
  • Not Easier: Using a slant board can change the mechanics of the squat and may even make the exercise more challenging for certain individuals.

Safety Considerations and Injury Prevention

Implementing safety measures and adopting preventative techniques are vital for reducing the risk of injury during slant board squats.

Proper Technique

You must maintain a neutral spine and even weight distribution across the feet. Research suggests adopting a neutral, lordotic lumbar position to be a safe and optimal squat strategy.

Common Mistakes

Common errors include lifting the heels off the board, allowing the knees to cave in, and overextending the back. Such mistakes can increase injury risks and should be corrected promptly.

Choosing a Slant Board

Slant Board Guy slant board

When selecting a slant board, it’s important to consider its adjustability and stability.

Adjustable slant boards offer versatility with varying levels of difficulty. I prefer non-adjustable, however, simply because I feel they are more sturdy if I want to add weight.

Also, make sure the board you choose is constructed with a non-slip surface and is capable of handling at least your body weight.

The slant board I own and recommend is from The Slant Board Guy. It can hold up to 450 pounds, has an extremely grippy surface, and is built with a great angle. Even when I’m not doing slant board squats as part of my training, I still use this almost every day as part of my warm-up routine.

Alternative Equipment

For individuals without access to a slant board, other equipment like wedge mats or angled calf blocks can be used. Those seeking to mimic the effects of a slant board squat may also use a sturdy, inclined surface such as a ramp, or elevate your heel by standing on a 5 or 10-pound weight plate.

Progression and Intensity Modifications

There are many ways to progress with slant board squats. You can incrementally adjust the incline, increase the amount of weight you are using or continuously increase the number of reps you perform, and eventually even challenge yourself with single-leg variations.

These modifications not only enhance muscle engagement but also contribute to overall lower body strength development.

Adjusting the Incline

The incline of a slant board can be slowly increased to up the challenge, requiring greater muscle activation to maintain form. Start with a low incline, focusing on depth and stability before moving to steeper angles which require more strength and balance.

Increasing Weights

Incorporating additional weights adds to the resistance, forcing the muscles to work harder. Begin with your own body weight, then gradually introduce dumbbells or kettlebells to boost intensity. Consistent increases over time will lead to noticeable strength and size gains.

Advancing to Single-Leg Squats

Progressing to single-leg squats on a slant board presents a formidable balance and strength challenge. This should be approached only when one has mastered the double-leg slant board squat with good form.

Measuring Progress and Performance

Tracking Strength Gains

Strength gains are often the best way to measure your progress. Keep a training journal that records the weight lifted, sets completed, and repetitions achieved in each session.

Consistent increments, even if modest, indicate a positive strength adaptation. Reliable metrics might include the number of repetitions performed with a given weight or the increase in the one-repetition maximum (1RM) over a set period.

Recording Endurance Improvements

Endurance with slant board squats is another great indicator of improvement. Consistently trying to increase the number of reps you can perform before fatigue or a breakdown in form occurs.

Athletic Applications of Slant Board Squats

Slant board squats are increasingly incorporated into athletic training programs to enhance sports performance and aid in rehabilitation and recovery.

Enhancing Sports Performance

Athletes may add slant board squats into their training regimen to target the muscle groups we’ve discussed. The inclined surface increases the range of motion and activates the anterior chain more effectively, which can lead to improved explosive power and strength.

Knees over Toes: Promoting Functional Range of Motion discusses how slant board squats can be used to condition athletes, by potentially enhancing performance in sports that require significant knee extension and flexion, such as basketball or volleyball.

Rehabilitation and Recovery Benefits

For athletes recovering from injuries, slant board squats can be a valuable tool in the rehabilitation process.

This exercise variation reduces stress on the knee joint while still allowing for strengthening of the lower body. This can enhance recovery times and help maintain conditioning during the rehab period.

Studies like the one on the effect of knee position on hip and knee torques during the barbell squat provide insights into the modification of squat exercises to minimize injury risks, making slant board squats a useful alternative for injured athletes.

Scientific Research on Slant Board Squats

Recent studies have focused on understanding how slant board squats affect muscle activation and tendon loading. This body of research provides insights that are useful for athletes and rehabilitation professionals.

Biomechanical Studies

Biomechanical analysis of slant board squats reveals that changing the angle of the ankle joint can have a significant impact on muscle activation. Research found that performing squats on a 10-degree incline may result in different muscle activation patterns compared to squats performed at a neutral ankle position.

Specifically, it has been suggested that there is greater activation in certain thigh muscles when the ankle is inclined during a slant board squat.

Comparative Effectiveness Research

Comparing slant board squats to other forms squats demonstrates their unique impact on tendon loading. For instance, declines of 25 degrees during eccentric unilateral squats have been shown to significantly increase strain loading in the patellar tendon compared to standard squats.

This information is particularly relevant for those considering slant board squats for therapeutic purposes to potentially enhance tendon strength or rehabilitation when following specific protocols.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section tackles common queries about using a slant board during squats, the benefits it may yield in certain conditions such as patellar tendinitis, and considerations for selecting or building one.

What Exercises Can be Performed Using a Slant Board?

Slant boards are versatile tools for exercises like calf stretches and incline squats, which can enhance ankle mobility and improve lower body strength.

How Can Using a Slant Board Aid in Rehabilitation for Patellar Tendinitis?

A slant board can help in rehabilitating patellar tendinitis by reducing strain on the tendon during squatting motions, as the inclined surface allows for better alignment and a smoother kinetic flow.

Can Squatting With a Slant Board Alleviate Knee Pain?

Performing squats on a slant board may alleviate knee pain by providing a more natural angle for joint movement, which decreases stress on the knees during the exercise.

How Can a Slant Board Improve the Effectiveness of Squats?

Using a slant board during squats can lead to a deeper range of motion and targeted muscle engagement, notably in the quad muscles and glutes, thereby improving overall squat effectiveness.

What Should be Considered When Choosing the Best Slant Board?

When choosing a slant board, one should consider the board’s angle, material, sturdiness, size, and the presence of a non-slip surface to ensure safety and effectiveness during workouts.

Is it Possible to Build Your Own Slant Board?

Building a personal slant board is feasible; it typically involves measuring and cutting wood to create an angled platform and attaching a non-slip surface for secure footing during use.

I’m not a DIY guy! I would rather just research a bit, save up, and buy the real thing when I’m ready. Which is how I ended up with Slant Board Guy board I’ve talked about here. But there are a ton of videos on how to make your own slant board if that’s the direction you want you to.

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Matt has been a Certified Personal Trainer for more than 18 years. He is also a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, has a master's degree in teaching, and is a former competitive powerlifter and CrossFit athlete. His passion is helping others get in shape from mid-life and beyond.