Written by Jack Boardman
The overhead squat is a challenging lift that may, at first feel more difficult without some practice and the right advice. Worry not, Crossfit athletes, Laura Faulkner and Kara Halliwell have got you covered.
Overhead squats help to increase your strength, mobility and stability. For many people, it’s important to note that, as this is an advanced move, it is something you should work towards a step at a time. As with a lot of lifts, the combination of force and weight can result in a serious injury if you don’t follow the right advice, learn your technique before you increase the volume you lift and advance at your own pace.
Here is a step by step guide to how your overhead squat should look:
#1 Hold the bar in a wide grip over your head with straightened arms.
#2 Push your hips back and drive to the bottom of the squat so that you’re deep below parallel.
#3 Stand it back up.
Common issues with this lift often derive from a weak core, inflexible hips, ankles or knees, a stiff back and a tight chest that pull the shoulders and upper back forwards.
As with most lifts, one exercise benefits another just as your targeted muscles are strengthened by supporting muscles you weren’t as conscious of. To perform an effective overhead squat, your core, glutes and hips need to be equally strong, along with your hamstrings, calfs and adductors to ensure strong mobility. This is not a lift that you will progress with before addressing stiff muscles and rigid mobility in your posterior chain. Vice versa, while certain similar lifts will contribute to the strength and dexterity of muscles used in an overhead lift, an improved overhead lift will help you to the deepest point of your deadlift, squat and front squat.
Here are a few extra tips to keep in mind:
Keep pressing up through the bar. As with other leg muscle workouts, explosive power is key. This means mustering the force to push up as opposed to simply going through the motions.
Keep your core tight. So much of the overhead squat is about the balance that you need to keep your core engaged from a pre-working state to the end of the lift. This will help to avoid back injuries and ensure your posture is as it should be once you bear the weight.
Keep your shoulders active throughout the movement. The same applies to your delts and upper back as it does for your core. By keeping your shoulders active you prepare yourself to take the weight so that your shoulders are poised correctly to better assist with the lift. Disengaged shoulders could make all the difference between doing it right and having a rounded back or losing balance.
Don’t rush. Before trying the overhead squat with any weight, try it using a PVC pipe first. The technique is everything and this is not a lift where you want to find out about an injury midway through. Take it a step at a time so that when you’re ready to go for a new max volume your technique is on point.