6 Tips to Develop the Overhead Squat
The Overhead Squat: A Basic Movement for Building Muscle Mass and Strength
Overhead squats are one of the most basic movements that any athlete or trainee can perform. They are a great way to build muscle mass and strength, but they do require some practice before you’re able to master them completely.
If you’ve ever tried to learn a new skill like playing an instrument, learning how to play an instrument takes time and practice. You need to get comfortable with it first before you can really start practicing. Similarly, if you want to become proficient at overhead squats, you’ll have to spend time perfecting your technique and getting used to performing them correctly.
If you don’t feel confident enough yet in your ability to perform overhead squats properly, then I recommend that you work on improving your overall squatting mechanics until you are fully competent with them. Once you feel comfortable with them, you can move onto increasing your range of motion.
In order to increase your overhead squat range of motion, you will need to use a weight that allows for greater ROM (range of motion). This means that while doing overhead squats, you should not only keep your back flat against the ground when performing them; but also try to push yourself out further than what would normally be possible with just straight legs.
Congratulations on increasing your range of motion, but remember that with this new range of motion you will also need to work on increasing your strength, otherwise you might find yourself struggling to hold the bar. Remember to keep your back flat against the ground and don’t bend your knees – lock them straight and push yourself up.
For those who are already quite strong in the overhead squat (i.e.
can perform them with proper form and good range of motion) you may want to try a technique known as bottoms-up overhead squats.
This is done by inverting the bar so that when you hold it, the weight of it is not resting on your hands, but rather on your shoulders. It will feel odd at first, but this is a perfectly safe exercise and really forces you to focus on keeping your back straight and locking your legs straight when performing the movement.
This technique is really only for those who have mastered the regular overhead squat, and even then should only really be performed with light weights until you get used to this style of squatting.
Another challenge to try once you’ve gotten real good at overhead squats is to perform them while wearing a weight vest. This will increase the amount of weight you’re lifting in the movement, which will force you to work even harder to complete the movement – especially as you get stronger.
It’s important to note that as with any new exercise you try, you should always start out slowly and gradually increase the intensity as your body gets used to it.
The Overhead Squat: FAQ
What muscles do overhead squats target?
A. It targets your whole body, but more specifically it targets your whole leg region (quads, glutes and hamstrings) and core (lower back and ab region).
How much weight can I expect to lift overhead?
A. Like any other squat, it depends on your bodyweight and how heavy you’re trying to go. Females may not be able to reach as much weight as males due to naturally lower strength levels. That said, you shouldn’t let that discourage you because it’s always possible to improve with consistent effort!
How many sets and reps should I be doing?
A. Since the overhead squat is a weight bearing exercise, you want to shoot for 5 sets of 5 reps each. If you’re struggling with this then lower the amount of repetitions you’re doing and if you’re finding it too easy then increase the repetitions.
Q. I can’t keep my back completely flat when performing the overhead squat!
What should I do?
A. This is a common issue for many people, especially those who are just getting started with this squat. If you’re having an issue keeping your back flat then there are a few things you can do to fix this:
Practice the squat without any weight until you’ve gotten used to maintaining a flat back position while doing the movement. Once you feel comfortable with this, start adding weight (while maintaining good form of course).
Sources & references used in this article:
- Sex differences during an overhead squat assessment (TC Mauntel, EG Post, DA Padua… – Journal of applied …, 2015 – journals.humankinetics.com)
- Electromyographic and kinetic comparison of the back squat and overhead squat (RR Aspe, PA Swinton – The Journal of Strength & …, 2014 – cdn.journals.lww.com)
- … ‘re measuring? An evaluation of static and functional knee calibration methods for application in gait and clinical screening tests of the overhead squat and hurdle step (F Philp, F Leboeuf, A Pandyan, C Stewart – Gait & posture, 2019 – Elsevier)