Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Overhead Squat: Mike vs Amy

I know today is supposed to be science Tuesday, and I do have a good commentary to link to, but I didn't have my thoughts fully together, so we'll do a little diversion to the overhead squat.

I noticed that many of you did your bonus overhead squats in class without me needing to tell you. Yay! Last week, when Amy posted about the summer of the OHS, we actually got some comments on the facebook page - wow, actual interaction, that's great. We wanted to follow up on that with a view into how both Amy and I do the OHS.

Generally, the reaction to a programmed OHS day is either love or hate. No one is indifferent about the OHS. Those that love it are generally both flexible and strong enough to do the it, those that hate it are usually strong enough, but have some mobility issues that make the OHS so much worse than a regular squat.

Amy has the exact wrong proportions for the OHS: long femurs, short torso, bad knee with limited mobility, limited ankle flexibility.  However, she has super stable and mobile shoulders, so she can always be in a good position to support the barbell and keep it over the center of her foot for the whole lift.

I have great proportions for the OHS: short femurs, long torso, and no problem getting full depth. But my shoulders are sticky. I can't move them very well, so getting in the bottom of the OHS is pretty painful (that's why the picture is taken at an angle where you can't see me crying). You can see in the picture, how much the bar moves front and back and doesn't really stay centered over my foot, that means I'm very unbalanced, any more drift and I would drop the bar. I have spent the last two or three years working on my thoracic spine mobility, and that has helped, but I still struggle.

If you hate the overhead squat what are some things you can do to make it better?

Wider stance. I find that just about everyone does the OHS better with a wider stance than they normally squat with.

More toe-out stance. Since the weight is so far above your head, it raises your center of mass and it's more important in the OHS to get your hips down between your ankles (rather than folding like an accordion). More toe-out helps with that, as long as you don't compromise your knees.

Wider grip. if your shoulders are unhappy, a wider grip will relieve some of the pressure (I hold out at the collars)

Narrower grip. if your wrists are unhappy, a narrower grip will make them feel better.

Raise your heels. Wear weightlifting shoes (we aren't in our picture, but things do look better when we do), the raised heel helps simulate a little more ankle flexibility. If you don't have any weightlifting shoes, you should get some! But we do have some ¾" mat you can use for your heels - I just don't like it because it's not as stable as a real shoe.

Play with some variations with light weight and see if there's anything you can do to make the OHS feel better. Even though I'm pretty biased against it, it really is a good lift and great for total body stability.


push press 3x5


3 rounds with full recovery
10 OHS
10 Push-ups
10 Pull-ups

Endurance Option

accumulate 15 push press at 5RM


15 minutes below AeroMAX
10 OHS
10 Push-ups
10 Pull-ups

Let us know you're coming and get automatically notified if the schedule changes:

Like our articles? Want to always know what's going on at the gym?