5 Tips to Improve Your Overhead Squat

April 22, 2015 9 Comments

There are some lifts and movements that tell a story about your body. The overhead squat is one of them.

The overhead squat (or OHS for short) can reveal so much about you; limitations that may be affecting your joints or muscles and causing you pain, the level of stability in your hip and core, particular muscle imbalances, and more. If you're anything like me, then chances are your OHS has made you supremely aware of how poor your overall body balance is.

The overhead squat is a great way to teach balance, coordination, kinesthetic awareness and core control like almost no other exercise. Even some of the most athletic and freakishly flexible athletes struggle with this movement.

It wouldn't be far fetched to say that the overhead squat is quite possibly one of the best core strength exercises in existence. It demands flexibility, strength, balance, and is an essential component of the snatch. It also happens to be an excellent measure of your core stability and control, and ultimately, your ability to generate effective and efficient athletic power.

While fairly simple  in theory, this movement is universally frustrating for beginners and they tend to experience three common obstacles:

  1. The lack of skilled instruction - usually only trainers with Olympic lifting background have the most reliable instruction
  2. A weak squat - you need a really good squat to perform a good overhead squat
  3. Starting with too much weight - it's best to start with a plastic PVC pipe or even a broom stick if you're practicing from home

To help you overcome these obstacles and improve your overhead squat, here are 5 instruction tips.

Start by focusing on your set up. Grip the bar so that when it is placed overhead it is approximately 6-8 inches above the top of your head.

Second, get active with your shoulders. Push your shoulders and the bar up as high as you can. The bar should be perfectly aligned with your heels during this time.

Third, activate your core. During this entire movement movement you are going to want to maintain as tight a core as possible.

Now that your bar is over head it's time to squat, which brings us to tip number 4; pull your hips back and down while placing your weight on your heels. If the bar remains directly over your heels as you lower into the squat then you are doing great. Do Not let the bar move forward of or behind your heels at any point of the movement.

It's important to note that your ability to drop a squat plays a critical role here. If you have poor hip mobility then this will affect your overall squat. Good news, you can get hip mobility tips here!

Our final tips is to ensure your hips reach that point below the tops of your knees, which we refer to as hitting "below parallel." To exit below parallel, push your weight into your heels and stand to full extension .

The biggest takeaways here are to maintain a tight core, the bar in line with your heels at all time and to place your weight in your heels. If you can remember these points then you are going to absolutely dominate your next overhead squat.

Tell me; what has been your biggest challenge with the overhead squat and how did you overcome it? Share in the comment section below!





9 Responses

Katlyn
Katlyn

November 10, 2015

Great article! I definitely think the overhead squat is a valuable exercise and everyone should use it, not just crossfitters. It’s one of my weakness so I try to program it in regularly. I love having my clients do it, it’s something different than the plain back squat.
http://www.katlynharris.com

Jose
Jose

November 02, 2015

For me it has been the lack of information. Once I read your article I followed your instructions and I did my first overhead squat at 95lbs. Turns out I wasn’t tightening my core and the bar was not straight with my heals. I have been working on my flexibility for the past 6 months so that wasn’t the issue. I appreciate the information. Thanks

Sandra parkes
Sandra parkes

October 30, 2015

what are dome exercises to do to build strength in arms and back for OHS

Team WOD Nation
Team WOD Nation

May 27, 2015

Hey Megan – try really engaging your core and focus putting your weight in your heels. This should help prevent you from tipping. It may take some time to build up the strength to add more weight, but you’ll be building the right muscles and less likely to injury yourself from tipping over. Keep up the awesome work!

Megan
Megan

May 21, 2015

I tend to tip forward also when doing squats with weights! :(

Team WOD Nation
Team WOD Nation

May 11, 2015

Yes, shoulder flexibility is incredibly important. We took your feedback and created a whole new post on how to improve your shoulder flexibility! Please check it out here: http://wodnationgear.com/blogs/the-whiteboard/18518212-4-exercises-to-improve-shoulder-flexibility-to-better-your-lifts-and-squats

Kati
Kati

April 29, 2015

This squat does not feel right to me. I think it’s definitely a case of improving shoulder flexibility. The bar always wants to come forward when squatting.

Juan
Juan

April 24, 2015

Just as Kim… shoulder problem… Suggestions?

Kim
Kim

April 23, 2015

You barely mentioned shoulder flexibility. I can do a decent squat but with my arms directly overhead my arms fall forward. Even with a pvc! I need to prove shoulder flexibility so some tips on that would help. Thanks.

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