The Achilles’ Heel of many a firebreather, the Overhead Squat often elicits a defeated groan from most of the athletes in our gym. Why is this? It’s just a squat with the barbell over your head right? Yet many of us encountering this lift for the first time rack the barbell completely befuddled. Why was that SO hard, but I didn’t even feel it in my legs??
The OHS requires a tremendous amount of midline stability and often magnifies every weakness (however minute) in our squats (not to mention shoulder and wrist inflexibility). Dan John, a well-known Strength and Conditioning coach, wrote an article about the importance of this lift.
One discus thrower told Dan in 1988 that his coach required him to do 10 bodyweight OHS’s in order to throw because it “makes you one piece.” There is no cheating, twisting, bouncing, tossing, etc. You need a balance of upper and lower body strength, which is something that is lost when most people segment their gym days by legs, back, bi’s, tri’s, and chest. It also requires an athletic flexibility that you cannot get with all the yoga in the world. Being bendy and being strong in a position that requires flexibility are two different things.
Here are some tips that may help from Mighty Mix:
1. Press against the bar: Your arms are locked out, shoulder blades together and up and you are pressing up against the bar throughout the lift. Don’t relax or the bar will dump.
2. Keep your head and chest up: But don’t attempt to stay ramrod straight (like a chair back) in the hole. The bar is supported over your traps, so to maintain this, you need to keep your head and chest up, but with a slight forward lean (see photo above).
3. Stabilize in the hole: Don’t relax at the bottom. Stay active, tight, and controlled.
4. Use your wrists and hands: Because you are constantly fine tuning the position of the barbell to stay over the center of your feet, your hands and wrists are active throughout the lift. Don’t just think of them as a platform for the bar to sit on.
Dan John says that the OHS builds what he calls, “Dad Strength.” He talks about the old days where he and his buddies lift with cement filled weights and thought of themselves as top dogs of the neighborhood, but could not compare to the dads “had that scary kind of strength that allows one to pick an engine out of a Pontiac station wagon and carry it to the lawn.”
Embrace the OHS. It makes you dad strong. It makes you one piece.
Overhead Squat 2-2-2
Complete 75 Front Squats
On the minute, complete: