T Nation

overhead & front squats

How many of you guys do these?

I just did some today, and discovered how much harder they were than back squats.

Especially that overhead deal, omg was that an embarrassment when I only had 95 pounds on the bar and still couldn’t go below parallel…lol Never thought balancing could be so hard.

Front squat really didn’t seem a ton different in terms of muscles, but I did find it quite tough to comfortably place the bar. Holding it with that crossarmed style wasn’t all that fun, sorta rests weird on my collarbones. And holding it using the clean & jerk type folded over hands was very harsh on the wrists, especially with weights near back squat level.

Should regular joe’s be doing those overhead squats? I read about them in the paper mag I think in the current or the last issue, so I decided to try them. They seem to work back more than anything.
BTW, did a search on this stuff and i’m getting the feeling that overheads aren’t for normal peeps.

And with fronts, do you guys have some tricks on bar placement?

For front squats, I do the cross-armed style, and it sits just fine and dandy on my shoulders. It’s a little odd and you can’t do as much weight. It definitely hits the quads a lot better as I can always feel it the next day. As far as grip, you might try holding the bar like you would do a push press and just make sure to balance it ok. It might work

Depends on what you want to get out of them, but OH squats have very little to contribute to a bodybuilder.

Antiliberal, overhead squats take at the very least a few months to learn flexibility wise. If you aren’t doing them for athletics or OL or whatever, your energy might be better spent elsewhere.

If you want to use a clean grip and front squat, there are usually flexibility problems there for most people at first. However, in the long run, learning this grip can allow you to use more weight. Just depends on what your goals are and what program you are using…

Agreed, unless you are interested in athletic development and an integration of flexibility, strength, balance and proprioception then overhead squats really aren’t necessary.

As far as front squats go, they are very similar to their back squat cousins in that they aren’t always comfortable! If you are doing any Olympic lifting I would suggest sticking with the Olympic style grip. Otherwise, you can use the BB style or look into buying a sting ray device.

Hope this helps
Mike Robertson, MS, CSCS
Director, Athletic Performance Center

started doing overheads and fronts a bit ago. actually where i work, we use the overhead as an assessment tool for guaging flexibility, posture and pelvic tilt, ankle stability, etc.

started out doing front squats with my arms straight out in front, balancing a bar across the elbows. go down nice and balanced and the bar wont shift around. a good way to make sure you can get into proper form before you start adding weight to it.

but as mikerob said, we deal with it at work because we are pretty keen on integrated-whatever-the-hell-the buzzwords-are-now types of training.


Overhead squats helped my discus throw tremendously. I went from 120s to a best of 153. It was definitely due to the increase of balance from them, even though I only used 155 for five reps. I’m still doing them, hoping I can start squat snatching.

I think that’s the biggest use for them.


If you’re doing a BB grip for the front squats and the bar is resting on your collar bone then your delts may not be strong enough to hold the bar in the right spot. I can’t comment about bar position for the oly grip, it hurts too much when I do it.

Also, put two 10lb plates on the ground and put your heals on them when you squat. It feels nice.

Improvement in overhead squatting is not highly correlated to performance in the discus.

Sully = Correct (as usual)

Now, increases in power snatch…

First, why would it take months to learn how to properly overhead squat.

Second, overhead squats will not help with discus throwing. Try powersnatching, sprinting and benching.

The overhead squat is an excellent functional exercise, one of the best. It is widely used as a functional movement screen for athletes to address strength imbalances prior to training camp/pre-season. An interesting fact, a strength coach I know(who works with a professional team in my area) says over half the athletes couldn’t perform the overhead squat fully (to the ground) at the start of camp(using just the bar). Also, more than you would think couldn’t even take it to parallel.

I’m not an athlete, but I use many functional movements in my training. Yeah, I train for hypertrophy, but that only constitutes half my training. I’m just not very fond of pain/injury so I do my best to prevent it. I try to address imbalances and increase stabilization. Hell, it seems like one of my friends is dropping over every weekend because of something stupid they did and weren’t prepared for.

I think some of you guys would be surprised by how much better you feel after a month or two of overhead squats. Just start off with a the bar (or a broomstick).


Doesn’t the fact that most of the pro-athletes your friend works with couldn’t overhead squat the bar imply that the movement has nothing to do will athleticism? After all, those guys were already pros without being able to do it.

It has to do with IMPROVED athleticism. Just because you can perform a task with great results, doesn’t mean you’re doing it correctly and that it can’t be improved. Like I said, it is administered right after the offseason. These guys have mainly been sitting around playing PS2 (nothing wrong with that btw) and not exactly working on functional strength. The test is given to see what strength areas have suffered and assists in the development of program type the strength coach has to formulate to get that athlete ready to play (at the highest poss level).

Take home message: these guys didn’t do shit in the offseason and had alot to work on prior to the season’s start. Yeah, I certainly see the point you’re making. These guys are already great, but improving their biomechanics, power, functional strength, etc. will make them even better at that elite level of play.

I agree, the overhead squat can be useful as a good evaluation of all of the muscular chains.

But then what?

You can’t build appreciable leg strength with it, and it can tear your shoulders up something fierce.

Doogie, nice point.

To the original question, I do front squats a lot of the time, but not OH squats, for the reasons given above. However, if you want to work them into your routine, I’ve found it’s best to start with an extremely wide grip and try to work your arms in from there. This will help you to gradually improve your shoulder flexibility, which is generally the real issue in not being able to do the movement.

Oh, I guess I imagined that large jump in distance, huh?

Oh, and let me guess, balance doesn’t have anything to do with throwing, either? It’s funny how I was able to spin so fast after doing overheat squats a lot…but I must have imagined that.

What does shoulders have to do so much with the overhead?

I mean they were used when I would press the bar up, but after that they only seemed to be there for stabilization, and only part of that. The other stabilizer (main part IMO) was the mid back region.

Especially when I got down to parallel. Then it was truly hard on the back since I was trying to continue down, the back had to stay arched but not fall over, and it just became hard as hell to maintain. I did 5 sets of 5 with a whopping 95 pounds and felt whipped after, although my legs really werent tired at all.
Couldn’t make it below parallel, at not least without falling over. It was very hard to stay flat footed at that point.

I held my hands about as far apart as the squat rack would allow and still let me not pinch fingers when placing bar onto the supports again.

Hey All,
The learning curve on OH squats is pretty quick, I was taught how to relax and breath my shoulders back and wider and sternum up in about 5 minutes.
The bigger issue for me was strength in the spinal erectors, rhomboids etc, in the upper back, and flexibility of the hips and calves(right now, esp. the calves).
Yeah power snatches probably help for over all/generalized power improvement. But overhead squat WILL help in sports where a more erect/upright torso in a partial/semi-squat is needed. If the upper back/ shoulders come forward the increases the distance of the arc, meaning a faster spin is needed to produce the power to cover the same distance. A tighter spin, means all else being equal, a longer through will ensue.
AS for “bodybuilding”, the closer you get to your max, does your back round slightly? Overhead squats may not add to your max but they may keep your back in better alignment, thus decreasing the chance of injury.
Just some thoughts and experiences.