4 Simple Overhead Squat Technique Tips to Improve Your Skills

The overhead squat requires technique, stability and flexibility, these four tips should help you improve.

Try these four important overhead squat technique tips to improve your skills in this exercise.

The overhead squat is a compound exercise performed lifting a weight overhead and squatting with it. It is most commonly practiced with a barbell, but there are many dumbbell and kettlebell variations.

It works the muscles in your core, lower back, upper body (lats, triceps, deltoids) and lower body (amstrings, adductors, quadriceps)

The overhead squat helps train other weightlifting exercises such as the Snatch.

How to do an overhead squat?

Overhead Squat Technique Tips

The following tips are not exhaustive (the overhead squat is a complex and complicated movement to master) but are simple and effective. They should give you a good overview and highlights on what to focus on to get started and begin improving.

1 – Grip

  • Wrap your pinkies around the bar

The best way to grip the bar for an overhead squat is a wide grip. This means gripping the bar at around your snatch grip or a little wider.

“You’re going to want to play with that and see what fits your shoulder and your upper body best,” says Tricia Moore, a CrossFit Level 3 trainer at Invictus CrossFit.

You’ll also want to wrap your pinkies around the barbell and drive them into the bar. This provides stability.

2 – Shoulder position

  • Maintain active shoulders pressing up into the bar

When you first receive the bar overhead, be aware of your shoulder positioning.

Pressing into the bar with active shoulder drives support from the lats and upper back muscles. Be aware of shrugging and over-activating the shoulders though, as this will tax the trapezium and doesn’t provide the same support and stability.

Keep your arms straight and drive into the bar.

3 – Squat positioning

  • Actively pull the weight behind you as you descend

As you squat, bringing your hips down, pull the weight behind you and retain a very active upper body position.

During the overhead squat you should pull the weight behind you while maintaining a lumbar curve and integrity through the spine. This requires midline strength and flexibility, but is absolutely essential.

Squatting bellow parallel helps you train your body and muscles into the positions they’ll be when receiving loads in Olympic Weightlifting.

4 – How much weight

  • We’re all build differently and have distinct training backgrounds, so there’s no one set number determining how heavy your overhead squat should be.

The weight you’ll lift during your overhead squat will be based in part off your back squat and front squat. Generally, the back squat is the lift where the most weight can be lifted, followed by the front squat at around 85% of the back squat weight, and the overhead squat, where athletes are usually able to lift around 85% of their front squat weight.

As mentioned, this isn’t a strict rule, but the guideline should help you determine whether there are areas of improvement in any lift.

AGOQ Event 2Source: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Additional overhead squat tips

The primary limiters of overhead squats are:

  • Midline stability: which leads to the inability to pull the weight behind you while maintaining a lumbar curve and integrity through the spine.
  • Mobility: wither its shoulder mobility or ankle and hip mobility are an issue, all have to be addressed.

Work on both areas if you want to improve your overhead squat skills.

Watch the overhead squat technique tips in action

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