T Nation

Overhead Squat Questions


I have been doing OHS for about 4 months and have gone up quite a bit in weight on them. Now that I am going heavier,at least for me, 185 5x5 my traps are getting sore. Would this be an indication that I am pushing up(shrugging the bar)and not pulling it apart? Should the shoulder be relaxed in the down position or shrugged up?

I ask these questions because it is my shoulders that give out way before my legs do in OHS.


Sully I don?t mean to high jack your thread, but I can not over head squat with any amount of weight. I think I am leaning to far forward. Maybe our problems are similar .I would also appreciate any help


I don't knwo much about OHS. I have read you should keep your shoulders up in your ears at crossfit. Also I would assume the shoulders would give out before the legs, think about it, compare how much you squat with how much you military press.


Damn Sully that's great man...

I myself am stuck at 155-185 lbs and that's when I'm fresh :(... I do about 3 x 10 or 3 x 6-8 if it gets heavy.

My goal is to get up to 225 for reps :slight_smile:

Work on static holds overhead as well as walking overhead farmer's walks with DBs or a BB (watch the ceiling & other lifters LOL) This should build up your endurance and train your traps to shoulder (pun intended) the load.
I do this near to gym closing to make sure there are no gawkers or morons to literally run into with the barbell.

IMO the shoulders should be tight and retracted back ala powerlifter overhead snatch style... also focus on tilting your hips; this helps in staying upright to prevent the "leaning tower of Pisa" effect of toppling forward. Ugly.
Keep the weight centred in your heels and squat wide... works for me so far.

I love this exercise as a overall conditioning exercise along w/the DL; ends up working basically every body part. To make it even harder I am flirting with using DBs every other session. Much harder.

Definitely no one does it at my gym but people do tend to stare LOL

In closing (apologies for the longass post) it's also good to hit up Coach Davies who does this exercise a lot through his Renegade Training website.
He would be great to ask on how to improve at this exercise.



Great suggestions about the static holds and the DB OHS. I will give them both a try. I too am a bit leary of the DB OHS.

As I am not a paying member of Coach Davies site, I would feel awkward in asking him for any help. Maybe the next time he is on T-Nation.



Sully, are you gripping the bar in a snatch grip, or a military press grip?


In my experience, your traps will most likely give out before your legs. especially after a couple sets or so. Like the others have said, you should keep your ears in your shoulders and pull the bar apart at the same time. It might take a while to get used to, but I have found once i started keeping my ears in my shoulders, that the weight just keeps getting easier.
Good luck


I am using a snatch grip with my hands about 6 inches from the edges of the bar.


I honestly dont know the answer to yuor ?.

But maybe you should consider backing off from heavy lifts and use linear periodization, going from lights OHS working your way back to heavy OHS. And when doing this when you go back to light, realy over emphasize proper technique and form. I would think if your traps were shrugged they would give out faster because of the work load. If you can train your traps not to shrug I would think the loading would be increased.


Also, upper body should go 1st. My wrists are the ones to give out 1st.


Try a narrower grip--not sure if you have the shoulder flexability to try that, if not you could try elevating the heals to keep you more upright. Lemme know how that works.


Even if you're not actively pushing the bar upwards, your traps are going to have to do work to keep your shoulders stable. Since you're using 185 for 5 sets of 5, my guess is they're just the weak link in the chain. Try heavy overhead supports for time (say, 20 seconds, or appx how long it takes to complete a set of five plus a few seconds). If you can hold a lot more than you can OHS for that time, it's probably a form issue then (leaning too far forward, keeping the bar slightly off your center of gravity, something like that).

Just as a side note, bottom-up OHS are fun. If it fits in your scheme, they're a cool variation.



You're not hijacking. it's the same exercise, but maybe a slightly different issue.

Try standing with your heels on plates - at least 1.5 inches up to start with. Your problem is possibly one of flexibility (or lack thereof). I had the same thing, and still have to some degree (but I'm using thinner plates now!).




Hey man, I don't overhead squat a whole lot of weight either, but I'm working on that. If it's an issue of being unballenced at ANY weight, it may be your choice of footwear. Seriously think about trying Chuck Taylors. They have a flat bottom and are outstanding for any squat or deadlift movement. Hope that helps a little. Oh, and use a wide stance.



It's not a question of balance or flexibility but one of overhead strength and yes I do wear Chucks.

Today I did:
OHS 5x5@185 with 60 seconds between sets
GM 5x5@285 60 seconds rest
Close grip floor press 10x3@230 yeah-weak tri's 60 secs
Supinated pull ups 5x5 w/1 miniband 60 secs
Dips 5x5@85 60 secs
Overhead DB holds(pronated grip) 45lb 4@20 secs.

I liked the overhead DB holds as the load was unstable and required more effort to control.

Like someone else mentioned I have never seen anyone else to OHS at 24 Hour Fatness and for that matter- full squats, good mornings, RDLs, any band work, floor presses. The list could go on forever.

Thanks for all the suggestions.


I also wanted to say, 185 is damn impressivE! Congrats on the work!

I remember last yr when I had 45 on each side for the 1st time and did 4! Then couple weeks later had 50 .lbs on each side.
Theres no better feeln then holding a load like that over your head, and everyone @ the gym stares @ you as you grunt, breathe heavy and squat!

Needless to say I'm not a big guy, and no one else does them @ my gym.



hey man,

first off, 185 for 5 x 5 with 60 seconds rest is pretty impressive ... perhaps you have just found your weak link? look at it this way ... in what other exercise do you MAINTAIN full contraction of the [ahnold voice] "trapezius muscle"? none that i know of.

i can certainly not push that much weight with the OHS, but i did hit my summer goal of 135 for 10. i aim for a 185 single by year's end. for me, shoulder strength/stability is my weak spot. for me, my delts wear out, and sometimes my tris. that being said, i'm no expert, but a couple of thoughts:

(0) i think this one goes without saying, but read or re-read dan johns's stuff. i've read it all, but sometimes we get away from good habits over time ... maybe you are due for refresher?
(1) do overhead shrugs
(2) do overhead holds with as much weight as possible for as long as possible
(3) put your hands out as far as possible to really "spread the bar"

keep us updated?




That is some impressive weight you're lifting! I think the issue is simply that the smaller muscles are tiring first which is why you are feeling it in your shoulders.

The suggestions on doing overhead carries and holds is a good one. Try doing the DB "Figure 8" walks, where you walk around two objects a few metres apart in a figure 8 pattern. The fact that you are moving on a curved path means that your rotator cuffs and traps have to really fight to steady the weight. You could also try one of Dan John's tips when doing overhead presses. After the last rep of a set do 8 "pressouts", short 3 inch presses. These really develop the stablising muscles.

Stay patient with the OHS, I think it is just a matter of improving technique and flexibility before you will be able to go up in weight. Also, 60s rest periods are very short with that amount of weight for a 5x5, maybe bump it out to 90-120s for a while to let you do more weight due to the increased rest.




Would the figure 8 walks be done on your off days or on your workout days? I currently do 3 full body workouts a week
ala TBT or Waterbury method. I thought that 185 pounds was kind of puny, sincerely thought most other people on T-Nation were in the 250-300 pound range.


Sully, my guess, like everyone else's, is that the upper body muscles involved will give out before the legs. You should ping Dan John next time he's up for Prime Time - he is the OHS master and one of its biggest fans.


I agree that it's a flexibility issue. I'm convinced that I am the most inflexible guy on the planet; I can't touch my toes, but I can do overhead squats. Go figure. Back when I was really into training the Olympic lifts, I knew that I needed to work on flexibility.

I never developed flexibility in my wrists - that's still a work in progress - but I did get fairly flexible in the lower body. Start with the ankles - before each workout, I would get on a step, do several reps of one-legged calf raises, then stretched out the calf. I did this 2-3 times each leg. Then I would go squat. No boards or plates under my heels. Go low. After a few reps, it became easier -- the weight on the bar would push me down and provided the needed amount of stretching.

Same thing when I tried OHS. Make sure your shoulders are good and warmed up. Start with the bar and keep adding weight. I found that it's actually easier to OHS with some weight on the bar than just with the bar itself. Again, the weight will stretch you out. At least this is what worked in my case. Everyone is different. I for one hate doing stretching exercises; I get my stretching done from lifting in a full ROM, if that makes any sense.