In very simple words, an Overhead Squat is a squat variation, where you hold an implement over your head. Most common is the Barbell Overhead Squat, where you hold the barbell right over your head, compared to the Back Squat, where the barbell position is on your back or the Front Squat where the barbell position is on the front of your shoulders.
Take away message
The Overhead refers to the position of the barbell or implements you are using and doesn’t refer to squatting depth or type of squat. I have outlined the differences between different squat depths in the article
The Overhead Squat does not necessarily have to be performed bilateral (on both legs), it can also be performed unilateral (on one leg)
Check out the bilateral Overhead Squat from Steffie van der Peet
And the single-legged variation of Steffie van der Peet
Overhead Squat variations
There are different variations of the Overhead Squat, some common variations and some not so common variations, like this one Overhead Squat with aquabags on a Bosu (instability from the top and instability from the bottom).
But let’s check out some of the more common Overhead Squat variations.
Overhead Squat Dumbbell
The Dumbbell Overhead Squat can be performed with 1 dumbbell or 2 dumbbells and allows for more freedom of movement in the shoulder, as compared to a barbell Overhead Squat.
Check out the Single Arme Dumbell Overhead Squat from BMX rider Tino Popma
Overhead Squat Kettlebell
The Kettlebell Overhead Squat uses either 1 or 2 kettlebells as the implement for Overhead Squatting.
Especially the bottom-up variation with 1 kettlebell challenges the movement pattern of the squat and requires the athlete to work with a high focus or how I call it ‘work precisely’.
Check out the bottom-up Kettlebell Overhead Squat from Kevin van den Groenendaal
Overhead Squat Bands
There are also other variations of the Overhead Squat, where you can use bands, like resistance bands.
Basically, you have 2 options, you can have the bands stretched out right over your head and when you descend / squat down the band tension reduces and when you ascend the band tension increases. For the use of bands and the benefits of variable resistance, check out the article Accommodating Resistance Training – Bands and Chains
The second variation uses band resistance applied from the front. The purpose of this Overhead Squat variation is to work on proper alignment in the Overhead Squat, as well as challenging and training the stabilisers of the shoulder girdle and is mainly used as a corrective exercise or in rehab.
What are the benefits of the Overhead Squat?
The Overhead Squat has numerous benefits. Amongst those Overhead Squat benefits are
- Increased mobility and flexibility
- An improved squatting pattern through better balance
- Better focus
For a detailed outline of the Overhead Squat benefits, check out
How do we use the Overhead Squat?
We use the Overhead Squat with our young athletes to teach them proper squatting mechanics. The Overhead Squat is an ideal exercise for that, as the athlete gets the feedback immediately if the bar position is not correct, the athlete will lose the bar to the front or to the back.
It is fair to say, that the Overhead Squat is the ultimate corrective exercise for squatting.
With our more advanced athletes, we use the Overhead Squat in the warm up, to reinforce proper squatting movement patterns.
Check out the article
Where I have outlined the advantages and disadvantages of Back Squats, Front Squats and Overhead Squats and how we use each squat variation for a specific purpose.
Concluding What is an Overhead Squat?
Together with the Back Squat and Front Squat, the Overhead Squat is a fundamental squatting exercise, where you hold an implement over your head. The most common variation is the Barbell Overhead Squat, but there are different variations using dumbbells, kettlebells or bands.
The Overhead Squat offers unique benefits, therefore we use Overhead Squat to teach proper squatting movement patterns with our young athletes and to enforce the correct squatting movement pattern with our advanced athletes.
More information on Overhead Squats
9 Benefits of the Overhead Squat and counting…
2 Facts On What The Overhead Squat Works
How to improve the Overhead Squat?
What Is The Overhead Squat Good For
What do Overhead Squats work?
What Muscles Do Overhead Squats Work?
How much should I Overhead Squat?
More Overhead Squat impressions in the Overhead Squat video library