Overhead Squats

Originally Posted on Sunday, September 25, 2011 8:55 PM
A buddy of mine, who is an okay Olympic lifter, posted a video of his friend overhead squatting.  That video is why I'm writing this post; I hope you read this guys. 
 In order to avoid many basic questions about the overhead squat and why it rocks, please read this article before reading todays blog post:


I always- always- evaluate beginners with the overhead squat.  It tells me about people and what they can do.  Sometimes, though, people need more remediation before even putting a broomstick overhead; in these cases, I know that when they can do an OHSQ competently, program difficulty can increase significantly.

So, how do I want you to do an Overhead Squat?  First of all, you need to get the bar overhead.  A few years of coaching revealed to me that I do need to tell people how to put a bar overhead.  There are two ways you can put a heavy bar overhead:  Snatch it, or take it out of a squat rack.

Here's rule #1:  In order to do an overhead squat out of a squat rack, take the bar out as if you will back squat it.  Then slide your hands out to your snatch grip with the bar behind your neck.  Push Jerk or Push press the bar into overhead position.  Do your squats, put the bar back behind your neck, or put it on the ground.  Please, people, do not lower the bar in front of your face to your shoulders while you still have the snatch grip.  It's foolish and idiotic.

Once you have the bar overhead, squeeze the heck out of it and try to pull it apart.  Don't bend it; the bar will only fall forward.  You can practice this movement with a band- the old Jumpstretch ones are fine, or some of the new ones from Elitefts or Iron Woody.  When you overhead squat the band, you pull the band apart, otherwise you can't overhead squat.  Do the same thing to the bar.

When the bar is overhead, I want your shoulder blades retracted, your traps shrugged up holding your neck, and your humerus fully rotated.  The bigest controversy I see in teaching the overhead squat is what to do with your elbows, specifically your antecubital region, or the inside part of your elbow.  Try to point this part straight up.   Therefore, try to point your elbows straight down.  You may or may not be able to do this, but intentionally turning your elbows out will lead to you dropping weights and/ or hurting your shoulders.  If your humerus is rotated and your shoulders up, your elbows may turn.  If this happens, that's okay.  If you try to turn them, bad things can happen, like a twinkie the size of Manhattan bad.  Jennifer "Rabid Wombat" recently learned about this fancy technique also known as "not intentionally dropping heavy snatches" and really likes it.  


This is Leo Totten doing this correctly before many of you were born.  I was 8.  


Lance Frye is also doing this correctly in this photo. 


Robin Byrd does it perfectly here (there is also a discussion of the overhead squat on that page).

This is wrong:

That abomination brings up my next point:  The bar should be over your ears, or as close there as possible.  What you really want to do is to make sure your elbows are in line with your ears with (have you heard this somewhere else?) your humerus fully rotated.  If you can fully rotate your humerus, you will greatly reduce the risk of shoulder injuries or dropping the bar. I see many people overhead squat who cannot turn their upper arm without engaging the torso like they're incline benching. If this situation describes you, stop squatting deep. You will hurt yourself. Go as deep as you can, stretch, and keep the bar in good position.  You will get better quickly enough. The weight you squat, the rate you can do squats, or your ability to show off by overhead squatting is meaningless. What has meaning is your quest for strength and health.Often, when people lack shoulder flexibility, they stick their butt out and reach way behind their head and pretend they got deep.  Nope. You must keep your good position when you squat and be honest with yourself.  Put your hips back, knees over your toes, and squeeze the bar and your body DOWN. 

Okay, we're now at the feet.  I should have started here, but the last shall be first and the first shall be last. Your feet should be slightly wider than your hips.  Point your toes out slightly.  Keep them on the ground and squeeze them into the ground.  Keep your knees over toes.  Bring your hips down between your legs.   Keep your torso as erect as possible.  And once you hit the bottom, come back up.      

Your torso shouldn't bend too much when you OHSQ.  Depending on your proportions, you should be anywhere from slightly forward to completely straight.  Some folks will be more bent over than others (Christine and Krastev http://mysite.verizon.net/vze8gnq0/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/Krastev_216_edge_preserve.jpg). You will do the torso straightness as best you can.  It will get better.  If your HUMERUS IS ROTATED you will be okay. 

So, there you have the longest post yet from me.  I'll finish it with this story I heard on a website somewhere about Mario Martinez, the US Super from the 80s and 90s.  When Mario heard that Antonio Krastev Snatched 216 kilos, Mario wanted to see what that felt like.  So he went to The Sports Palace and loaded a bar to 200 and did an overhead squat.  I'm sure he warmed up, but next time you think that 95 pounds is heavy, check your ego and squat right. 

Michael McKennaComment