T Nation

Let's Discuss Overhead Squats


Can you overhead squat? Simple question, but some more points for discussion as well:

-do you have experience training Olympic lifts?
-can you do more than the barbell?
-can you do it without a raised heel?
-do you normally high bar or low bar squat? Both? How about fronts?

I started awhile back putting a lot more emphasis on mobility and in effect, technique, which I feel has helped me enormously. Even so I still can't really overhead squat!

This being a powerlifting forum, the first important question is "does This benefit my squat numbers?" As someone who exclusively squats high bar, I get the feeling that they can be beneficial for me. At the very least, even without emphasizing OH squats too much, possessing the mobility to do light overhead squats will probably have carry over.

What do you guys think? Is there anyone here who has experience using overhead squats or that benefitted from them?


I compete with a pretty low bar postion but use high bar and fronts in training. I've done overhead squats to warm-up before, but never went much beyond 225.

I don't think they're much use for improving your squat for powerlifting and I've never seen them in any big time squatter's routine. Any energy your directing to them is probably better off being put into more back squats


it requires much more hip flexibility and ankle mobility. I think the only benefit of doing overhead squat to powerlifting is the shoulder stability. it does improve shoulder stability


hey man, great question.

I dabble in weightlifting, and I've done overhead squats in all kinds of shoes.

The thing about it tho, is that if you can't stand up with a snatch you're laughed out of most weightlifting gyms, it's not a strength movement, it's a mobility movement for the powerlifts.

I use the overhead squat as a transition from front squats to back squats when i'm teaching a beginner, because of the position the overhead squat will train your back squat position very well.

That's about it, not the greatest movement of all time IMO for powerlifting. But, still a great movement.


I only use it for warming up and mobility at only around 10-15% of my max normal squat including bar weight.

I can do them flat soled, but I have to do only the tiniest initial break at the hips to the point where it looks like my knees and hips break at the same time on video because I don't have the shoulder mobility to push my hips back any more.

Typically, If I'm short on time I just do some OH squats and light stiffed legged deadlifts with some shoulder dislocates for my warmup. I'll start with dislocates so I can get into the proper OH position.


Yes to all your questions and i squat both low and high bar.

gree with above poster, i dont think they will carry your squat nu,bers higher.

HOWEVER, they are really fantastic for mobility, shoulder stability, back strength (upper), balance, and they basically do all of these things at the same time. So i don't think that they help your squat numbers, but they help a lot of things that will keep you squatting longer and healthier. That in itself is worth a little time. Besides they help your shoulders get strong AND stable, which is useful for benching.

The basic rule of thumb is, if you can squat overhead with a med/narrow stance, it tells you that ALL of the joints are functioning optimally--t-spine extension is good, shoulders good, hips/knees/ankles good. And it maintains flexibility and mobility without a million prehab and/or mobility exercises after foam rolling....and i hate doing that so i use it frequently as part of my warm-up to get everything going faster. And my upper back warmed.

In that context i think they are very valuable as they do the job of several different exercises in one.


Thanks guys. So I guess the consensus is that building max strength on the OHS won't transition to building max strength on the back squat? Makes sense, and even very strong folks won't be able to do OHS heavy enough to stimulate muscle growth probably. I was mostly only thinking of training them after squats and light.

I like how Aragorn put it, if you can do them it will keep you squatting longer and healthier. I also kind of think of it like the guy who finds some flaw in his bench form and when he tries to fix it the bench might even be more difficult at first, but continuing training with the proper form eventually enables gains.

Anyway, no choice but to do it and see how it pans out!

BTW fletch, try doing some very light (empty barbell) snatch grip high pulls (check CTs forum) and see if they do anything for your back/shoulders as a warm up. I played around with these and found them very effective. Shoulder dislocates have always been difficult / done shit for me, so I was very pleased to find these relax my shoulders.


I competed in weightlifting before I got involved with PL and my coach used to make fun of the lifters who trained OH squats. He didn't even let us front squat, saying we got all we needed of that movement while cleaning. We occasionally tested our FS maxes and occasionally did OH squats during warm-up drills, but never actually trained either lift. We all figured if you couldn't stand up with it, you had no business trying to snatch it. If any of us got pinned under a snatch, we were berated mercilessly and more or less told to fuck off until our legs were stronger.

I don't think it carries over well to anything, even snatching. I put it in the same category as bosu ball training. It's one of those lifts that will get better if you train it but it doesn't really move your other numbers. The force produced is just too low to elicit an improvement in strength. BUT it is a good test of shoulder and thoracic mobility and I use it as a tester for new trainees that I work with and a teaching movement for learning the snatch.

As a coach, I'd rather you learn the snatch and do that instead, but learning the OH squat is a start.

TLDR: it sucks for strength training and has no carry-over to anything, but being capable of performing the movement is good for you.


I'm sorry but i think that is the dumbest thing ever, it's like saying "i don't need to be stronger"


It's not unheard of for weighltifters to only do the classic lifts, clean and snatch pulls, and back squats. Some of the best weightlifters in history train this way. You don't have to do a thousand variations of a lift to be strong, that's new-age mumbo-jumbo that coaches use to cover the fact that their clients aren't improving. Do you feel that back squats don't make you stronger?

As an example, I remember the first time I tested my front squat after a year of PL training. I made a 50 pound PR without having done a front squat in a year. That's because I was stronger.


Not a fan of the OHS, mainly because I suck at them. I struggle with the bar. I don't understand why crossfitters are big on the OHS. I guess that's my beef with crossfit. They claim all their movements are functional. I don't see a OHS to be functional at all. Definitely not more functional than a back or front squat. Same with kipping pull ups and hand-stand push ups.


Yes because you did some other type of strength work. I am aware that there were olympians that did only the classical lifts but remember that these guys (Krastev etc) all squatted 300+kg when they decided to focus on the classical lifts, strength wasn't an issue. For someone who just started there is no way they can get their lifts up if they don't have the strength.


I've found overhead squatting to be very beneficial for throwing discus and hammer, and I think Dan John would agree.


Lol. Go to a WL gym. It would likely be an eye-opening experience for you. Not trying to be a dick here, but they would laugh at you for suggesting that they need variety to get strong. Not Olympians, but novice and intermediate lifters as well. Consistent heavy lifting makes you strong, not variety. If your squat goes up and you are improving your snatch and clean technique as well, your clean and snatch will go up. Period. Beginning lifters can and do get stronger just snatching, cleaning, jerking, and squatting, although I agree that some pressing is eventually needed to strengthen the shoulders adequately for jerks and receiving the snatch. Many coaches, myself included, would also agree that heavy clean and snatch pulls are also good to add once a lifter reaches an intermediate level to provide more specific overload. This isn't a novel idea, it's literally the standard approach. 6-10 exercises, total. In the view of WL coaches variety is effort wasted. You could be spending that time improving your skill in the classic lifts and getting stronger on basic moves like the squat. This will ALWAYS provide a better result than having a lifter do a bunch of partial and developmental lifts. That's the way they train. They aren't CrossFitters, they're athletes focusing on a specific set of skills.


I fine the OH squat my greatest trouble shooting tool for many reasons.

I do them a few times a week- usually light sometimes I work up to heavy triples
Or singles

First they tell me right away what kind of mobility my ankles and hips have that day
And whether I need more work there before I can load any other kind of squat

They let me know how my knees are tracking if my hips are tight- how my arch is and what further mobility or other work
I need to do,
When I do heavier overheads - I find if I can arch, dip , and or drive , right away
And how stable and mobile my shoulder and thoracic are

If a heavier set feels stable and speedy I know I can load for a decent squat session

I have a myriad of joint issues- and OH squats help me find what is possible that day

Typically I will do some light sets barefoot - and do them pairs with hanging leg rais- feet to bar
Then I'll move on to heavier sets of OH squat and then squat


i use to do some o lifting. we never did ohs but we did do drop snatch fairly often. i'm doing pl now and i use them to warm up along with jumps. after sitting down all day some ohs really just make everything feel right again.


Hey man, try not to forget your point of view is only one point of view, russians and chinese both do a great deal of bodybuilder training.


I don't think they necessarily help squat numbers as a strength movement, but if someone has mobility issues that keep their numbers from going up, then they could be beneficial.

Another good point that has already been made is that they aid upper back strength/size tremendously. I had never taken them seriously until recently, when I worked my way up to 205x3 (I know this is not very impressive, but for a 165lb guy it's decent) and my upper back grew a lot from that alone.

Another aspect about OHS training that I found beneficial is that is teaches one to brace the mid-section. One cannot OHS efficiently without being very tight around the core, I find. I believe this could actually make one's regular squat go up if one is not bracing effectively, now that I think about it.


Good post. My mobility isn't that great in hips and ankles. This sounds like a great way to work on that while also warming up for the squat. How heavy would you go on these as a general squat warmup?


+1 I use them as a warm-up/mobility work and sometimes as a finishing set when I squat/OHP in the same workout...but I never went over 95 lbs., because it's just not a core goal of mine.