The Overhead Squat is an exercise that has numerous benefits if done correctly. The problem is, that it takes time to learn the exercise.
The Overhead Squat is very confronting, it gives you immediate feedback how you are doing and is therefore not very popular amongst athletes. What that means, if you perform the exercise incorrectly there is no way you can compensate or cheat and will result in an unsuccessful lift.
The Overhead Squat is the Ultimate Corrective Exercise
Corrective exercises has been a buzzword in the last years and decade and usually came down to exercises that are very isolated, low in intensity and the athlete lying on the ground. The focus with these exercises is to perform a very isolated movement slowly and correctly. By the way, there is nothing wrong with doing exercises correctly, actually it’s the first premise! Anyway, it remains questionable, if low intensity, isolated exercises lead to the desired results?
The Overhead Squat however is an exercise that trains a complete muscle chain or multiple muscle chain, as opposed to train one muscle group in isolation. It will allow the muscle groups to be trained the way they are used in a sequenced and synchronized manner.
Having a heavy load overhead, will work the shoulder integrity in a unique way, as the shoulder girdle has to stabilize the weight overhead while moving the body up and down.
The same is true, that it trains the trunk in a unique way. The trunk is the link or connector between the lower body and upper body. During an Overhead Squat the trunk has to make sure, the lower body and upper body have to work .
The Overhead Squat helps you Back Squat and Front Squat heavier
I have written how to
- Back Squat heavier in the article How to get a stronger Back Squat in 7 steps
- Front Squat heavier in the article How to Front Squat Heavy
And the cornerstone of squatting heavier is the proper squatting technique!
This is very the Overhead Squat technique adds value, it teaches proper squatting mechanics in a unique way. As I have outlined above, the Overhead Squat puts you on the spot you either squat with proper Overhead Squat form or you will lose the bar, resulting in an unsuccessful lift.
This brings me to the next point.
The Overhead Squat teaches you to focus
Have you ever seen an athlete doing a heavy Overhead Squat? By heavy I mean using an external load equal to body weight or higher.
I think it’s amazing, once the weight is over their head and they are about to initiate the movement / the descend, you can see how their focus changes. From one second to the next you can realize how they exclusively focus fully on the task at hand. Sometimes I believe, there could be a fire around and the athlete wouldn’t realize it.
The Overhead Squat improves posture
With a heavy weight overhead, all muscles responsible to work against gravity have to work hard to keep the whole body in extension.
What we generally see, people sitting at a desk or on a computer, they tend to hunch forward and over time end up with this hunched forward flexed posture.
This is especially true for athletes, since most of the times when they are not training, they sit hunched over their mobile phones. Have a look at this article from Amy Cuddy, explaining how the hunched over the phone position not only ruins your posture Your iPhone Is Ruining Your Posture — and Your Mood , but also your mood – which is definitely a topic for an entire article in itself. She actually coined the term ‘i-Hunch’, which I think is pretty cool.
So, back to the topic, the Overhead Squat actually strengthens the muscle groups that tend to be weak and result in the forward hunch.
The Overhead Squat improves your Snatch or Power Snatch
The Overhead Squat can improve the catch phase and recovery phase of your Snatch or Power Snatch. I have written in more detail about that in the article What Muscles do Overhead Squats work
If you are unsure of the different phases in the Snatch or Power Snatch have a look at a detailed explanation in the articles
In a nutshell, some Olympic weightlifters believe, if you are able to Overhead Squat more than 105% of your Snatch max, the catch and recovery phase shouldn’t be a problem from a strength perspective. So, as a practical example, if your Snatch max is 100 kg and you can Overhead Squat 110 kg, you are strong enough to catch the Snatch weight and recover (stand up) with this weight. If you can’t, you know there is a technical flaw, that you need to work on and getting stronger will not necessarily help. Conversely, if you can Snatch 100 kg and you can’t Overhead Squat 105 kg, getting stronger in the Overhead Squat will help you most likely result in an increase of your Snatch max.
Concluding What Overhead Squats work
The Overhead Squat has numerous benefits, as improving your Back Squat, Front Squat, and Snatch or Power Snatch.
The Overhead Squat is one of the best corrective exercises, as it trains multiple muscle groups in a synchronized manner, strengthens the core or trunk and improves shoulder stability.
And last, but not least the Overhead Squat improves posture and teaches focus.
More information on Overhead Squats
More Overhead Squat impressions in the Overhead Squat video library