The overhead squat is the bane of existence for many individuals at the gym. Exercisers must have prerequisite mobility, flexibility and strength across multiple joints; specifically the ankles, hips, trunk, shoulders and wrists. Without adequate movement and stability across the aforementioned joints, the overhead squat (OHS) becomes increasingly difficult and often unsafe. If you struggle with the OHS, you need to change something. If you do not struggle with OHS, read this article anyway and see if you can make your body perform even better on the ultimate of isometric strength blended with movement efficiency.
1. Address your body from the ground up – Start with your ankles; can they go to full range? As you assess each part of your body, continue to move up from the ankles, to your thighs (tight IT band / surrounding fascial area) and on to the hip capsule, hip flexors, trunk musculature, scapular function, shoulder stability and mobility and wrist flexibility.
2. Hip capsule or hip flexors? If you are unable to sit your pelvis down to your heels, or your knees cave in, you possibly could have issues regarding the musculature surrounding your acetabulum and the femoral head. In this case, joint mobility drills such as internal and external rotation drills with joint distraction may be applicable to your situation. For more on working out these kinks, check out: Starrett and the hip capsule.
3. But what if it is my hip flexors (and potentially rectus abdominis)? If your torso comes forward when you overhead squat, it potentially can be caused by tight hip flexors and/or tight rectus abdominis. You can easily increase functional range-of-motion through this portion of your anterior kinetic chain by performing a reverse lunge while reaching up with a medicine ball in the bottom position.
4. My shoulders are tight! Do your humeri internally rotate as you descend? Or perhaps your scapulas wing out whenever you attempt to hold a load overhead. The primary issue with the gleno-humeral joint is the sacrifice of stability for range-of-motion. To allow large and multi-vector ROM, many muscles act on the shoulder. The downside to this is that any one of them can be tight and thus affecting your overhead squat. Common perpetrators that often need to go through flexibility training include:
• Latissimus dorsi
• Pectoralis major
• Anterior Deltoid
• Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Subscapularis
• Upper Trapezius (overactive)
If you can get with an experienced and qualified coach/trainer to do an overhead squat assessment with you, it will greatly expedite the transformation process. However, depending on your experience with biomechanics and the overhead squat, this list should greatly improve your ability to diagnose and fix anything wrong with your overhead squat. Still having problems? Comment below and we might do a follow up post with your answer!