T Nation

The Power of Overhead Squats

On August 4th I hurt my back doing Romanian deadlifts. It was a laying on the floor afraid to move hurt. I heard a crunching noise come from the left side of my back toward my hip. I immediately and quite gingerly left the gym, went home, took 800mg ibuprofen, 2 Soma(muscle relaxers)put a back of ice on my back and called my ART doctor for an appointment.

After treatment the next 2 days and continued icing and ibuprofen for the next few days I ventured back to the gym. I did some light GM and RDL with just the bar as my back was still very sore and unstable. The next workout 2 days later my back was still sore and unstable and I was afraid to do any back squats so I decided to do Overhead Squats for a while. A while turned out to 7 weeks of doing nothing but OHS, GM and RDL in my modified Waterbury Method workouts.

My most recent max raw squat was 495 last October before I had rotator cuff surgery. That day I was planning on trying a max so I did nothing but singles until I got to 495. Today I get to the gym and decide to do back squats for a 5x5. I warm up with double and triples up to 315. Load the bar to 425 and get an easy 5, got to 440 and get another easy 5, go to 460 for another 5,
475 for 4 and then finally 495 for a triple.

I had not felt this strong on squats since 1989 when I was powerlifting and “slightly” less than natural. Were all my reps parallel? They felt pretty close on most and a few were below, I didn’t have a spotter so I was a bit scared. The third rep at 495 would definitely been 3 red lights as the weight stopped going up at about 3/4 of the way up but I kept pushing for what felt like an eternity and finally got it done.

I can only attribute this increase in my back squat to OHS as my torso or core(gag) felt extremely tight throughout the lifts. It felt like my body was ONE solid piece and not a collection of parts trying to work together.

GOD Bless Danny John!!! I mean that with the utmost sincerity.

what kind of poundages did you achieve in OHS?

[quote]wufwugy wrote:
what kind of poundages did you achieve in OHS?[/quote]

185 5x5 60 secs rest- push pressed the weight up from behind the neck and returned the weight back to my upper back by dropping it down with a slight dip in the legs to absorb the shock.

Damn I love your avatar.

The Blessing worked…

Thank you.

[quote]sully’s wrote:
wufwugy wrote:
what kind of poundages did you achieve in OHS?

185 5x5 60 secs rest- push pressed the weight up from behind the neck and returned the weight back to my upper back by dropping it down with a slight dip in the legs to absorb the shock.

Damn I love your avatar.[/quote]

I havent posted in ages but your story made me do a happy dance for you.

I have also found more “one piece” strength from my OH squats and strongman medleys than when I did powerlifting.

Well done Sully.

Ally

FWIW. I just realized that I had started on 5mg/day of HRT about 2 weeks after I hurt my back. The increased Test in my system could be a factor for increased strength. Just another variable to consider or it could have been the Maroon 5 music playing in the background.

[quote]sully’s wrote:
FWIW. I just realized that I had started on 5mg/day of HRT about 2 weeks after I hurt my back. The increased Test in my system could be a factor for increased strength. Just another variable to consider or it could have been the Maroon 5 music playing in the background.[/quote]

i vote former over latter … and OHSs

Bastard

[quote]sully’s wrote:
wufwugy wrote:
what kind of poundages did you achieve in OHS?

185 5x5 60 secs rest- push pressed the weight up from behind the neck and returned the weight back to my upper back by dropping it down with a slight dip in the legs to absorb the shock.

Damn I love your avatar.[/quote]

how wide was your grip?

i also love my avie.

About 6 inches from the inside of the collars. I train at 24 Hour Fatness and they have the suckiest bars ever. No Knurling on them so my hands slide all over the place. I have tried using liquid chalk but it does not help much. As one would expect from a sucky gym like this, they have no bumper plates and frown upon dumping the weights to the floor so I have to try and catch it before it hits the floor.

I asked Dan John today about what to do about my problem with my elbows “breaking” when doing OHS and he said to try and concentrate on stretching the bar more and that I may be weak on mjy “whatever strength”.

six inches from the cuffs? i always hurt my wrist from doing that. but i guess OLers use that kinda grip.

what’s ‘stretching the weight’? more pec flexibilty so the weight is farther behind your head?

what’s ‘whatever strength’?

[quote]sully’s wrote:
About 6 inches from the inside of the collars. I train at 24 Hour Fatness and they have the suckiest bars ever. No Knurling on them so my hands slide all over the place. I have tried using liquid chalk but it does not help much. As one would expect from a sucky gym like this, they have no bumper plates and frown upon dumping the weights to the floor so I have to try and catch it before it hits the floor.

I asked Dan John today about what to do about my problem with my elbows “breaking” when doing OHS and he said to try and concentrate on stretching the bar more and that I may be weak on mjy “whatever strength”.[/quote]

Not sure if this will help, but if you position the bar behind the head you can bear the weight on your torso rather than the shoulders.

kroll,

whaddaya mean? there’s nothing you can do to take the weight off the shoulders other than dropping the bar to the shoulders or floor. im sure i just dont understand your terminology.

[quote]wufwugy wrote:
kroll,

whaddaya mean? there’s nothing you can do to take the weight off the shoulders other than dropping the bar to the shoulders or floor. im sure i just dont understand your terminology.[/quote]

ahah sorry, now i realize how that sounds. If you have adequate flexibility in your chest/shoulders, as you descent into the deep squat the bar will not be above your head, but rather behind it. In this position, I have never felt like i couldn’t keep my elbows straight and also never felt like i would drop the bar on the back of my neck. If i am going to drop the weight it is because of loosing the groove and having the bar drift either to the front or the back.

Here is a vid of me drop snatching and OHS 165lbs.

I certainly don’t have the most developed/strongest upper arms around, but have no difficulty keeping the arms straight even on max snatches. If someone is having trouble keeping the elbows straight, they either aren’t putting the bar behind the head correctly, or have too wide a snatch grip.

http://s37.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=1L7G5KKRUZ6S7271JEKDR644XS

I find after a heavy workout of overhead squats, my triceps are a bit sore the next day. Is that supposed to happen? I always focus on locking my arms out real tight on every rep.

[quote]Psnatch wrote:
I find after a heavy workout of overhead squats, my triceps are a bit sore the next day. Is that supposed to happen? I always focus on locking my arms out real tight on every rep.[/quote]

I haven’t done OHS in a while, next time I do them i’ll pay attention. It depends on what you mean my a bit sore too.

Well, after hearing so much about OHS, and having read some of Dan John’s website info on them, I finally decided to try them out today, as it was leg day.

I had completed 5x5 squats, and 5x5 deadlifts, so I wasn’t looking to get a world record on the overhead; I just wanted to test drive it.

So, I lift the bar up (no plates) over my head, start to go down slowly…bang! I’m on my arse and the bar’s on my lap. I couldn’t help laughing at myself :slight_smile:

My second attempt was better and I managed quite a few reps, so I added some weight (just 15kg, don’t get excited). Some reps were good, others not so much. On the last set I attempted I made it down, but when I started going up the bar fell forward. I called it quits after that.

I now know exactly what Dan John meant when he said “you can’t fake an overhead squat.” No kidding!!! :slight_smile:

I’d like to keep them in my routine, so here are some questions for you experienced guys:

  • How wide should I be gripping the bar?

  • What should I do with my shoulders? I found myself shrugging the weight up; should I just let them sag down?

  • What is the ideal foot separation?

  • How fast/slow should I be moving?

Thanks for the help!

[quote]wufwugy wrote:
six inches from the cuffs? i always hurt my wrist from doing that. but i guess OLers use that kinda grip.

what’s ‘stretching the weight’? more pec flexibilty so the weight is farther behind your head?

what’s ‘whatever strength’?[/quote]

Sorry the term should have been stretching the bar and that means to try to pull the bar apart lengthwise with you hands when overhead. This is what will help the elbows from bending.

“Whatever strength” is whatever else I may be lacking strengthwise when doing OHS.

[quote]Miserere wrote:

  • How wide should I be gripping the bar?

  • What should I do with my shoulders? I found myself shrugging the weight up; should I just let them sag down?

  • What is the ideal foot separation?

  • How fast/slow should I be moving?

Thanks for the help![/quote]

Grip: Probably wider than you think. You’ve got to be able to snatch with this grip.

Put your shoulders in your ears! When you drop your shoulders, the weight drops. Check out the pic of the guy below.

Start with the same width as your ass-to-grass back squat and play around with it to see if you want to move your feet out.

Don’t worry about tempo if you’re working for strength; just pull yourself down into the hole, pop out, and drive as hard as you can for the top. If you’re working for flexibility, pausing in the hole is a good idea.