T Nation

Overhead Squats?

Dear Dan John (and other interested parties),

I have read your very interesting articles (both on your website and on dragondoor.com) about the Overhead Squat.

It is clear that you highly recommend the Overhead Squat for most (all?) lifters, especially those who strive for improved athletic performance.

My question is: do you sincerely feel that the Overhead Squat can ‘do it all’? Can the Overhead Squat, even if it is the only exercise you perform, develop incredible strength, balance, coordination, etc, etc, so long as you work hard on it and do it ‘properly’?

In other words, does it really build ‘Dad Strength’ as you harkened to in your website article? The kind of strength that will allow me to pick up and carry around a car engine?

I have been doing overhead squats for a short while and have worked up to 7 sets of 5 reps with 105 pounds (it was easy to get up to 105 pounds, but I can tell it’ll be a lot harder to keep adding weight on this exercise from here on).

I don’t doubt that it will greatly develop my flexibility, balance, and so on. The exercise simply can’t be done properly without those attributes. My primary question relates to ‘strength’, as in, raw, untrammelled strength (as in, car-engine-carrying strength).

In other words, can the Overhead Squat alone make me incredibly strong if I work really hard on it and progress up to bodyweight for 15 or so reps, as you suggest? Is the Overhead Squat really that revolutionary? As Chris Hatch in your article suggested, will it make me an ‘animal’? (Animal - preferably along the lines of a grizzly bear in terms of size and strength. Or even a gorilla).

I will certainly continue working hard on Overhead Squats (at the moment I’m not doing much else apart from them - I’m just doing some one- or two-dumbbell clean and presses as well). I am just curious about whether you sincerely believe that the Overhead Squat will ‘do it all’ and give those who master it incredible strength (as in, STRONG) in addition to flexibility and balance and so on.

To summarise my curiosity:

  1. Is the Overhead Squat alone enough to develop a MONSTER in terms of sheer absolute terrifying raw untramelled animal-like strength? How about in conjunction with some dumbbell clean-and-presses (one-hand or two-hand)?

  2. In your experience, what would be some good long-term goals to aim for with the Overhead Squat? Apart from your famous 15 reps with bodyweight suggestion. As a pinnacle of proficiency, would 15 reps with 1.5 * bodyweight be realistic?

  3. Any suggestions you have… I would be extremely grateful to hear them.

I am going to focus exclusively on Overhead Squats and dumbbell Clean-and-Presses from now on.

Thank you very much for your time and assistance.

Sincere regards.

To answer your questions: Yes.

However, I wouldn’t rely on ONE exercise as the cornerstone of your training even if it does have all of these wonderful benefits. I would use it as one of the Focus Lifts and then use other Focus Lifts and supplemental/accessory lifts to enhance your strength, hypertrophy, flexibility, balance, power, speed, etc.

Like you said, you can’t really progress without flexibility and balance.

Fortunatly just like everything you will learn them by doing it.

It will probably take you about 3 months and over to really master the movement to be able to keep adding weight to the bar.

Second thing… 105 is nothing. If you want to keep progressing in this and you don’t want to go through the learning of a full snatch, try to find someone to show you how to do the power-snatch (everything except the actual overhead squat mid-movement).

This will certainly help you to raise your OH squat.

As an example… when i could do over 80kg in the snatch (1 rep), i could also do about 2 reps at 80kg on the OH squat.

And if you are wondering how you will get the bar up there to start the movement, try a “snatch jerk”.

You start with the bar behind your head just like a squat then you put your hands at the right distance (use chalk) then you use your leg to jerk it. When it’s stable, its time to go down.

Good luck on progressing.

Everything works for a while. Nothing works forever. Determine what your weakness is in the OHS and then attack that area. Change it up.

TNT

Thank you for your replies.

I know 105 is not much, but I’m still a relative novice to this exercise.

What would be a good weight to work up towards (a weight that would signify that I’m starting to become proficient with Overhead Squats)? 200ish for 5?

I was wondering what Dan John’s thoughts are? Though I can imagine he is constantly bombarded with questions about Overhead Squats.

I was also wondering:

How many people here can do 15 reps with bodyweight in the Overhead Squat?

What do these people think of the exercise upon having achieved this accomplishment? Did they have car-carrying ‘Dad Strength’?

I understand that it takes time to develop true strength and proficiency in anything, especially Overhead Squats. The more I do Overhead Squats, the better I’ll become with them. I’m not expecting to become a monster overnight. It’ll take a little while.

I’ve started the slow process of becoming strong on Overhead Squats, and I’m just wondering what benefits in terms of raw untrammelled animal-like strength await me in that distant time when I become truly strong on Overhead Squats. Will I be a monster?

Dude, if you’re so interested about “raw untrammelled animal-like strength” go with the back squat or the deadlift.

I’ve done both the back squat and deadlift in the past, but I’m just looking for a change of pace right now, since I’m a bit tired of those two exercises (though I will be the first to say that they are great exercises).

I don’t really see the point in doing OHS for 15 reps. I prefer to use it for a strength movement, not a muscular endurance one.

Tried these the other day and can’t even do one with the bar.

I just don’t have the shoulder flexibility and the bar ends up way too far in front of me.

Any tips/links on how to develop the proper shoulder range of motion for this? Thanks.

[quote]Krollmonster wrote:
I don’t really see the point in doing OHS for 15 reps. I prefer to use it for a strength movement, not a muscular endurance one. [/quote]

It takes alot more than just muscular endurance strength to do 15x at bodyweight for OH squats… You will have gained ALOT of strength if you have progressed to that level.

[quote]Garage Dweller wrote:
How many people here can do 15 reps with bodyweight in the Overhead Squat? [/quote]

anyone, anyone … Bueller, Bueller?

[quote]futuredave wrote:
Tried these the other day and can’t even do one with the bar.

I just don’t have the shoulder flexibility and the bar ends up way too far in front of me.

Any tips/links on how to develop the proper shoulder range of motion for this? Thanks.[/quote]

dump the pink shirt

I reckon that Dan spoke the truth when he claimed that if you only ever did OHS’s you could achieve the bulk of your athletic goals. Imo there is nothing better than the overhead squat for total body strength, co-ordination, balance and flexibility.

Should you base your entire routine around it? I’d say that all depends on your specific goals but it is an awesome exercise to have to your arsenal.

[quote]BoxBabaX wrote:
Krollmonster wrote:
I don’t really see the point in doing OHS for 15 reps. I prefer to use it for a strength movement, not a muscular endurance one.

It takes alot more than just muscular endurance strength to do 15x at bodyweight for OH squats… You will have gained ALOT of strength if you have progressed to that level. [/quote]

Oh, I realize that…if I could do 15 reps of 190lbs (my Bw) I would be damn strong. But if I was at that level and continued training in that high-rep range, I would then be training muscular endurance. If I was able to do 15 reps at 190lbs, I would rather do work sets with 225-245lbs and work low rep sets with the main goal of strength in mind.

[quote]BASTARD GUY wrote:
Garage Dweller wrote:
How many people here can do 15 reps with bodyweight in the Overhead Squat?

anyone, anyone … Bueller, Bueller?[/quote]

hhaha I certainly haven’t. The most I did was 195lbs after snatching it. bw190…and it went pretty smooth. What I work on in OHS is after getting as low as possible work on seriously driving out of the hole as fast as possible for a rep or two.

[quote]futuredave wrote:
Tried these the other day and can’t even do one with the bar.

I just don’t have the shoulder flexibility and the bar ends up way too far in front of me.

Any tips/links on how to develop the proper shoulder range of motion for this? Thanks.[/quote]

i had the same inflexibility. i just did them. i think at first i was just doing negatives w/ the bar or 10kg and holding it a long as i could then dumping it. also did snatch grip behind the neck presses with the bar from the bottom squat position.

at first it sure looked ugly but i just grunted through and it didn’t take that long to get them, maybe 2-3 weeks of doing that stuff 10 minutes 4-5 times a week. once you get that nice triangle lock-out it’s a great feeling and alot easier.

[quote]futuredave wrote:
Tried these the other day and can’t even do one with the bar.

I just don’t have the shoulder flexibility and the bar ends up way too far in front of me.

Any tips/links on how to develop the proper shoulder range of motion for this? Thanks.[/quote]

Here’s what I do. Find a broom or 1 of those weighted rubberized bars that the aerobics classes use. OH squat with that so you can get the movement down. I like to do a few sets before/after every workout. Also, for shoulder flexibility, hold a broom in a snatch grip and do windmills. Where you start with the broom resting on your things and then you swing your arms up and over your head and back down till your broom touches your arse.

I can but it is my daughters bodyweight.