How To Do An Overhead Squat
Improve Overhead Mobility and OH Strength With The Overhead Squat.
The overhead squat (OHS) is the most underrated movement in the strength and conditioning world. Not only does it look impressive when it is done well but also forms a foundation for the catching position of a snatch and it is the most advanced core exercise that we can think of. The overhead squat is a big test of full body mobility, stability, strength and balance all packaged within one movement. No other movement engages the entire body as effective as the overhead squat. For an athlete it trains the ability to transfer force with the legs and arms whilst maintaining a braced trunk, an essential skill for developing speed, power and strength. This is why 90% of our athletes have overhead squats in their programme or they are at least working towards being able to do them. In this article, we will talk about how to do an overhead squat and improve overhead mobility and OHS strength.
Many coaches will tell you that your squat needs to be absolutely solid before progressing onto the overhead squat because it is the most advanced variation. We believe that when an athlete starts doing overhead squats, a turning point is created, shifting an average squat pattern into a great one. As soon as an athlete can get a PVC pipe above their head without restriction, we start them overhead squatting. Here is why:
When the bar is overhead, the arms are locked out and the shoulders are contracted pressing up into the bar. To keep the bar in a balanced position it needs to sit directly above the crown of the head breaking your midline and stacked over your ankles. To maintain this balance effectively whilst performing the squat, the torso needs to be in a strong upright position. This position engages the glutes and quads simultaneously in equal measures. The overhead squat forces your trunk into a correct position for squatting. If you have too much forward lean or flex at the midline the balance is lost and you will dump the bar.
In a back squat, because of the nature of the movement, there is a large margin for error. If you are strong in the hips and back, you can get away with an aggressive forward lean, being off balance and still perform a squat to a reasonable load. Likewise, with the lower body, the back squat can still be performed relatively well sitting the hips backwards. If these movements are adopted during the OHS, this is a certain way to drop the lift. The OHS forces you to sit straight down with the bodymass balanced over the mid foot, flexing at the hips and knees at the same time. This is a much better squatting pattern for an athlete than breaking at the hips early.
THE VIDEO: How to Do An Overhead Squat | Improve Overhead Mobility and OHS Strength
The overhead squat is one of the simplest movements but it can also hinder the most advanced athletes. For this reason, we are going to show you the progressions we typically use starting with the basics, progressing on towards the full weighted overhead squat.
The overhead position
The overhead squat assumes the same grip on the bar as a snatch. To find this position, place the bar across the fleshy part of the front of the hips. To test if you have it right, you can bend from the hips and the bar should meet you in the crease between your lower body and stomach. When you have found the correct point, keep it there and straighten your arms. Keep your shoulders back and down. Your hands will grip the bar in a wide position. Use the rings on the bar to gage the position each time. From there, put the bar over the crown of your head with your arms locked out. Try and keep the arm pits facing forward and your arms externally rotated. Keep the bar on top of the wrists, facing your knuckles to the roof.
Sit and stand
Once you have found your overhead position, it is time to initiate the squat. Here we are using the simple task of sitting and standing to cue the correct positions. Hold the bar overhead and put your heels up against the box or bench. Start at around 45 cm and work your way down. Keep the torso as upright as possible whilst, sitting down not back. Your balance should remain in the middle of the foot maintaining a strong curve in the spine and the bar overhead. Sit to the box but maintain the tension in your legs, core and upper body. If you relax, you will become unstable. Ensure that you are balanced before standing up to complete the squat.
Touch and go
Once you can perform the sit and stand with the pipe or dowel overhead, it is time to increase the speed but keeping the control we had previously. This time, we are not sitting on the box or bench but maintaining our tension and only touching the box as a cue to gage our depth and position. Again, maintain your positions and keep the bar balanced overhead.
Once you are comfortable with the touch and go exercise with the bar overhead to a depth that is below parallel, it is time to attempt the overhead squat without the aid of a box or bench. Make sure you have control of the movement and don’t lose your back position at the bottom of the squat.
When you are comfortable, move on to a technique bar which, is between 5-10 kg heavy. With the relatively heavier bar you will receive some feedback. If you are slightly out of position or the bar is not stacked over the body you will become unbalanced. Your centre of mass is also raised because you are holding a weight above your head which, can create even more instability. If you have the bar locked overhead and you can hit the correct positions in each of these progressions of the overhead squat, the limiting factor is strength. Be progressive with the overhead squat. Improvements of 1 or 2 kilograms is still an improvement.
When you are training with the overhead squat, we recommend keeping the reps low. This way you can ensure that the reps are of high quality and you are less likely to injure yourself. If you have never done overhead squats before, use these progressions and be patient to guarantee success. If you are currently performing overhead squats in your programme, have a go at some of these progressions in your warm up to cue the correct positions and improve your technique.