No one ever said it was easy, but the overhead squat is an incredible compound exercise. While it takes significant time to master, this variation of the squat can have significant effects on building strength, developing mobility and coordination.
Perhaps you’ve already got this exercise in your workout program. Maybe you’ve never heard of it! Either way, we want to remind you of some of the benefits of this difficult, but rewarding movement.
It’s a Structural Exercise
When you hear the word ‘structural,’ what does that mean to you? In this context it means that because the weight is held overhead, the entirety of your body is used to support the weight and maintain position throughout the exercise. Structural movements do not isolate one particular muscle group. Instead, they use the entire structure of the body including multiple muscle groups, joints, etc.
Why do we want to incorporate structural exercises into our routine? These types of exercises allow our bodies to move as they were designed: As a single unit. Structural movements are great for athletes or anyone who is looking to develop strength throughout their entire body.
Coordination is Your Friend
Do you consider yourself coordinated? Personally, I was never the most coordinated athlete. However, over time, I have developed a fair degree of coordination and proprioception (the ability to know where your body is in space) through exercises like the overhead squat.
Holding the barbell overhead and descending into the squat requires tremendous balance. If you put too much weight on your toes, you will lean forward and dump the barbell. If you do the opposite and place too much weight on your heels, you may be out of position and be forced to drop the barbell. Deliberate, intentional movement is key to a proper overhead squat and good movement patterns in general.
Mobile, Agile, Hostile!
Mobility comes naturally to some.. And we hate those people. Just kidding! But honestly, it takes a lot of time and effort for some of us to achieve even a slight improvement in our mobility.
I’ve always thought of mobility as one’s capacity to maintain strength in flexed (flexible) positions. In the case of the overhead squat, your hips and knees are flexed and you must maintain strength by locking out the bar overhead and successfully squatting the weight. This is a fantastic test of your mobility.
There are more ways than one to improve mobility, but I think one of the most effective methods is to control a resistance through a large, compound range of motion. The overhead squat checks all of these boxes and places an emphasis on having proper technique.
While the overhead squat isn’t for everyone, it should be for most of us. You must have some degree of mobility in order to successfully complete the full movement. However, if you lack the prerequisite flexibility, you can work the top half of the movement with an overhead partial squat.
There are many great exercises, but the overhead squat is a top challenger, indeed.
When was the last time you overhead squatted? How often do you do this movement in your exercise program? If you have any tips, we’d love to see what you’ve got in a comment below!
Until next time, stay moving!