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Shoulder Stabilization For Overhead Squats


I've been having trouble getting into Overhead Squats for real. My shoulder stabilization seems to be really poor. Once I work up to 95lbs. I can go for a rep or two before i just completely lose the bar forward. Can anyone suggest any good methods that would allow me to strengthen my shoulders to be able to do overhead squats?

As of right now all I have come up with is static holds overhead with a snatch-grip and behind the neck snatch-grip push presses. Thank you in advance.


You might try to make your shoulder girdle more "flexible" so that with your back arch the bar remains in a "groove" over or actually "behind" your arched spine, keeping the bar over the COG of the bar/body system. When you do your "static" overhead holds, try to "elevate bar slightly" with each hold. Progressively overload the holds by adding more weight, or, by even carefully stepping backwards and forwards while weight is fixed overhead. Maybe video your form and post for further critque. For more ideas from those with way more experience, knowledge and expertise, than I, post on GOHEAVY.COM Olympic WeightLifting Forum. Good Luck & HAPPY HOLIDAYS!


If you are losing the bar forward you may be tight in the chest/shoulders and that is preventing you from letting the bar path go behind your head as you get deep into the OHS.

Practice descending into a deep squat with the bar on your upper back with a snatch grip. When you get as low as you can, shoulder press the weight up, then OHS the weight up.

You can also do a similar thing where while you are standing with the bar on your upper back with the snatch grip, at the same time as you are squatting under the bar, shoulder press the weight. You will be at a deep squat with the bar OHS at this point. Then OHS the weight up.

Start with the bar on these movements. If the first movement is too stressful on your shoulders, stick to the second one.


Oh yeah, if you have tight hamstrings that will make it difficult to maintain a good arch in your back as you get deep into a squat. Once you lose your arch, you will lose the bar forward.


I do not think it's tight hamstrings because I can get into a deep back/front squat with no trouble.

Thank you for the input guys, I will have to start trying some of these ideas.



dumbell and barbell waiter's carry solved the same isue in my lifting - good luck.


Chad Waterbury recommended holding dbs locked out over head and then walking in figure 8s. this is originally done to strengthen the shoulder complex and rotator cuff muscles in a variety of directions. OH squats is a far more 'specialized' (can't believe i'm calling OH squats that) compared to the overhead walking with heavy dumbells, but it should help getting your body stronger and holding weights above the body for long periods of time. I'm getting killed by snatch grip OH shrugs right now, so i know the feeling.


I have the same problem and I think it boils down to shoulder flexability/stability. I can over head press about 175 and back squat 300+ but if I try to OH squat much more than an empty bar I fall forward. I think we need to develop that olympic style lockout that puts the bar farther back. I'll also try some of the suggestions posted here to get the shoulders in shape.


You don't want the bar "farther back".
From the side, the bar should be directly above your ears and a straight line should exist from the bar to the bow in your shoe laces.
It doesn't sound like a "strength" isuue, but more like a flexibility issue (ROM) in the thoracic spine.
In layman's talk that is shitty posture. When you're down in the hole, keep the chest up, flair the lats (here it's acceptable) and stretch the bar. Above all, swallow some pride, reduce the weight and focus on perfect form for the next 3000 reps. Good luck.



Why would you want to do overhead squats unless you're an olympic lifter. Not all people can perform these various lifts with safety. If you cannot fix the flexibility issues and do this, you might want to look into different exercises.


This is exactly the reason to continue to perform this movement. OH squatting is a great indicator of overall functionality IMO. Giving up on an exercise because it is technically difficult or requires some persistance is definately taking the easy way out. Sounds like sour grapes to me.

As far as safety goes, at the very least the lift can be performed with DB's and eventually progress to a bar. There should be almost no reason that a normally healthy lifter shouldn't be able to perform OH squats or (overhead lifts in general) safely.


If there is anything missing, the OHS will find it. Weakness, tightness, balance,etc. As an indicator of having everything "all together" and connected for athletic performance or life in general, you can't beat the OHS. I start everyone with the OHS, move to the front squat and last but not least the back squat. It's too easy to use crap technique on the back squat and still get the weight up. It gives a false sense of accomplishment.

Like Dan John says, "You can't wiggle your way up on an OHS".



I don't think many if anybody can do an overhead squat the first time out. It takes time to learn which is why you start with a broom and eventually tons of reps with the bar. It is a great total body exercise, you should give it a go sometime.


It's also a way to damage your shoulder if you have any underlying problems.
Not everyone is built for every exercise. The insistence on having to perform something that you're not ready for or built poorly for is a recipe for disaster.

People with shoulder issues can mess theirselves up with OH squats. For many it is little reward for great risk.

There seems to be some cult about overhead squats, a movement I have never seen performed outside of an olympic weightlifting gym. In my opinion they're unnecessary for many. You cvan get the same results from other exercises that are easiser on your shoulders.


This is why it's a stupid idea to insist on an exercise blindly for everyone.

I have a torn right labrum. It would be a stupid idea to try this exercise for me. As of now, I'm almost ready to try a regular bar squat. For five months I've been restricted to safety bar squats.

Not all full body exercises are great for everyone. Some will benefit, some won't.

Currently I can squat over 500 lbs with the safety squat bar off a below parallel box. The weight necessary for me to make any kind of gains would tear the hell out of my shoulder.


no one here is insisting on performing an exercise "blindly" or insisting on exercises being performed by those not ready. SFT is already doing OHS and has worked up to 95lbs. He wanted to know how to get stronger. YOU have a torn labrum...obviously someone I wouldn't have performing an OHS, OH press, back squat, bench press, etc...

You are someone who is injured, and the fact that you have an injury is holding you back. However, I maintain that an OHS is one of the qualifying moves for an athlete. Just seeing someone perform with a broomstick will allow me to analyze immediately where their weakness might lie and thus lay out a format to bring up any imbalances. Let me ask you something...if/when you get surgery to repair your shoulder, would you consider doing OHS to improve your shoulder flexibility and strength? Or will you continue to let your bad shoulders be an excuse not to perform such an athletic movement?

If you had bad knees would you continue to squat and lunge or would you relegate yourself to the leg press (only to 90 degrees though!) and the calf raise. Don't do step ups or jumping movements...plyos are out too. I believe that weakness/pain/injury can be the perfect excuse to perform athletic full body movements to allow myself the opportunity to become stronger and more resistant to injury.


The reason I am so interested in them is because I suck at the them, if that makes any sense. Sure, I could just go do all the exercises that are easier for me and that I can handle more weight in. But generally if you cannot do a lift well, there must be a weakness somewhere there, assuming there is no injury involved in your case. Why let the weakness continue and resurface later on? Could be a potential injury waiting to happen.


I have a torn right labrum. It would be a stupid idea to try this exercise for me. As of now, I'm almost ready to try a regular bar squat. For five months I've been restricted to safety bar squats.

Looked "labrum" up in the dictionary - the right side of your Volvo is torn - I just don't see the relevance. Take good care of it and I'm sure you'll get better. Good luck


No one is saying to go heavy with OHS.
As a matter of fact the beauty is in starting with a broomstick. And I'm sure no one is saying OHS INSTEAD of back squats. In most cases working OHS will improve a person's form on back squats.



A few tips that I'm surprised that no one has delivered yet:

  • Put your shoulders in the ears! At the top of the squat, shrug your shoulders as high as you can. Then push them just a little higher. Then hold that position through the whole lift. There is a HUGE strength difference between the passive and the active shoulder. You should feel it in the traps with a lot of time under tension, just like a handstand.

  • Make a point of driving your weight through your heels as you descend and come up, and minimize time spent at the bottom of the squat.

  • Snatch-grip push-presses behind the neck have helped me to greatly increase my raw support strength in the overhead squat position. Be careful with the volume on these guys as you eas into them; returning the bar to the shoulders does put a not inconsiderable strain on the shoulders.

I'm definitely no great overhead squatter, but these points have helped me get much better.