05/24/2017 The Importance and Functionality of the Overhead Squat

Skill Work:

OHS (overhead squat)


with an 8 minute clock…

run 800 meters then use the remaining time to perform as many reps as possible…

OHS (95/65#)

I’m not too sure how many times in life I’d ever Overhead Squat an object, but I do know that the overhead squat is a great tool for training the strength and stability of your shoulders and core. It’s also a great tool to mobilize your thoracic spine, ankles, and hips, and will help you feel more comfortable at the very bottom of a squat, front squat, or snatch.


Most people struggle with at least one of these mobility and stability issues:

  • Tight, overlifted pecs that pull the shoulders and upper back forward.
  • A rigid thoracic spine that can’t extend.
  • A weak core.
  • Inflexible hips, knees, and ankles.

Doing overhead squats can actually help relieve these issues. It’s important, though, that you start with basic positioning. Don’t throw plates on a bar and expect your body to be able to handle it, especially if you have any of the above issues.

The overhead squat can turn you into a more limber, well-rounded athlete:


Most people sit hunched forward all day, then go into the gym and train their mirror muscles. If your torso is in constant flexion, your shoulders and scapulae are pulled forward, making it damn near impossible for your shoulders to be comfortable and strong when your arms are behind your head.

The overhead squat can help your body learn how to extend. Your thoracic spine and abdominal muscles must learn how to move backward with as much ease as they flex forward. If your thoracic spine and core can be strong and in a good position no matter what you’re doing, you’ll have better success in all of your lifts.

Although it might be painful at first, putting your upper body into an extended position can improve the health of your spine and shoulders. As anyone who lifts knows, avoiding back and shoulder injuries is paramount. If you make your upper body lithe and agile, you may feel less pain throughout the day as well.


If you struggle to do a back squat without your knees caving in or your heels coming off the ground, doing an overhead squat will make these issues even more apparent.

Most people lack the proper glute strength and hip mobility to make their posterior chain work efficiently. If you want to do an overhead squat, your calves, hamstrings, glutes, adductors, and lower back will need to pitch in to move the weight. Lean too far forward and you’ll put strain on your knees and rely too heavily on your quadriceps.


Your abdominals, obliques, and deep core muscles such as the transverse abdominis are essential to squats, pull-ups, and almost every other exercise you can name.

Although many of us train abs by doing endless crunches, the primary role of the core is antiextension and antiflexion. So, if you have a loaded barbell on your back, your core must keep you from falling forward or backward and getting crushed.

The overhead squat makes your core work overtime because the weight is over your head, making your center of gravity much higher. Also, because your torso is elongated, the tension in your deep inner-core muscles will be very intense.


If you’ve ever put something heavy over your head, you know how wobbly it can feel. When you’re lifting, the last thing you want to feel is unstable.

Including the overhead squat in your program can train your shoulders to function better. To do the exercise properly, you’ll have to be able to rotate your shoulders and retract your scapulae. That’s not an easy position to get into, much less maintain, even at a light weight.


Holding a load aloft while you squat requires balance. The weight needs to be perfectly placed above the center of gravity. If you lean too far back on your heels, you risk losing the weight behind you. If, on the other hand, you’re on the balls of your feet with your heels in the air, there’s a good chance you’ll miss the lift forward.  Learning how to balance is a really good life skill. So, even if you aren’t going to be doing an overhead squat in “real life,” having the body awareness to recognize when you’re off balance and in a compromised position will help you.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s