Squatting is a fundamental movement skill and the Overhead Squat in particular teaches this fundamental movement skill in a unique way.
The Overhead Squat is technically very demanding to learn and execute.
Because it strongly focuses on proper alignment of the lower body and upper body and therefore the Overhead Squat is often used as an assessment tool.
This video and article discuss the questions:
- What are the benefits of the Overhead Squat
- Why the overhead squat is made its way in therapy and rehabilitation
- One not so common advantage of Overhead Squat
What is the Overhead Squat good for? It trains Movement Skills
There are seven agreed movement skills, some call it primal movements
- Bending or hinging
To be honest, whether they are really agreed or not, I don’t really know. But what the categorization into this primal movements allows is to break down and deconstruct each complex movement into a series of primal movements.
Just have a look at the image below form, it shows how primal movements, here they call it fundamental movements form the foundation for complex movements.
As a quick side note, here they have combined the Squat and Lunge into Lift, which then can be performed bilateral and unilateral, same thing different name.
Consequently, Squatting is a primal movement skill or fundamental movement skill, that forms the basis for many different activities.
The Overhead Squat is one of the best exercises to teach that primal movement skill of squatting. For more details have a look at the articles
What is the Overhead Squat good for? It trains proper alignment
The Overhead Squat is technically very challenging, in order to do a correct Overhead Squat you not only need to focus on proper alignment, you are forced to maintain proper alignment (all segments of the movement have to be aligned perfectly otherwise the movement can’t be executed).
At least under conditions where you train with external loads. If at any point of the movement, the bar moves an inch to the front, the bar will drop right in front of you, if the bar moves to the back, you will lose behind you.
This is why I like the Overhead Squat as a corrective exercise to improve Back Squat form and Front Squat form.
This is also the reason, why the Overhead Squat has made its’ way into therapy and rehabilitation because it allows the therapist to observe one movement (this time under unloaded conditions) and see immediately where the weak links in the entire movement chain are. Whether it is the shoulder girdle, thoracic spine, lower back, hip, knee or ankle.
What is the Overhead Squat good for? It teaches Focus and Precision
This is one of the not so common benefits and in my opinion often overlooked. The Overhead Squat teaches you to work what I call ‘precisely’. As explained above an inch can make the difference between succeeding and not succeeding in the lift. Actually, it is even less than an inch that can make the difference…
Especially if the athlete progresses and becomes stronger and stronger in the Overhead Squat you can see how much they need to focus during the Overhead Squat. For once they need to focus to succeed in the lift itself, on the other hand, they have a heavy load right over their head and the only thing between the bar and the ground is their body that is resisting gravity, so there is an additional motivation to succeed in the Overhead Squat.
What is the Overhead Squat good for? It helps the Front Squat and Back Squat
If you are interested in getting stronger and / or want to gain muscle mass, you have probably realized, that the Overhead Squat doesn’t allow you to overload the lower body sufficiently in order to achieve that goal. The simple reason is, that upper body strength, especially in the shoulder girdle is the limiting factor.
However, the Overhead Squat still adds value by enforcing proper squatting form.
Whether you are working on the acquisition or consolidation of the squatting form, the Overhead Squat is great to help you.
If you are starting out and you are in the process of acquiring the squatting form, I would advise you to make the Overhead Squat one of the core exercises and pillars of your strength training program.
If you are an advanced athlete or lifter, I would advise you to keep the Overhead Squat in your strength training program and you can use them in your warm-up on days when you have some of the Olympic lifts, Back Squat or Front Squat in your program.
Concluding What is the Overhead Squat good for
The Overhead Squat teaches the fundamental movement skill of squatting, which is the basis for many other movements. If executed correctly, the Overhead Squat focusses on proper alignment of the lower body and upper body and has therefore become a valuable tool in therapy and rehabilitation as well.
The Overhead Squat teaches you to work precisely and focus and is a great exercise to support the Back Squat and Front Squat.
More information on Overhead Squats
More Overhead Squat impressions in the Overhead Squat video library