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How to Perform the Overhead Squat

Updated on May 24, 2014

The Overhead Squat

The overhead squat can be described as a full body and free weights exercise that mainly focuses on the quads. To a lesser extent, it also targets the calves, glutes, hamstrings, lower back, abs, shoulders and triceps. It is one the best core exercises demanding flexibility, balance and strength. The only equipment you really need is a barbell. It is a good idea to initially practice this exercise with a wooden stick or barbell with no weight in order to get the technique right. Don’t worry if you are a bit wobbly at first; you may find it a bit challenging if you are used to the more conventional back squat where you have the weight resting on your shoulders. The overhead squat is popular in Olympic training where it is used to train athletes for the snatch event.

Overhead Squat Variations

There are some variations to step 2 above depending on your level of fitness. The ultimate aim of the overhead squat is to go down as low as possible. If you are confident your back flexibility can support a deep position, try it for the best results.

The overhead squat can also be performed using dumbbells instead of a barbell. Alternatively, you can use a flat bench for safety where you lightly tap your butt on the bench and then push back to the starting position.

Overhead Squat Technique

Step 1 – Place your feet slightly wider than your shoulder width. Bend your knees and grip the barbell. This is a wide grip though finding your ideal width is a process of trial an error. Raise the barbell to your chest, extend your arms and retract your shoulders to raise the barbell straight up. Alternatively, you can get into the starting position the same way you would when performing a back squat. Use a rack and push press the barbell straight up toward the ceiling. The barbell should be slightly behind your head.

Step 2 – While still holding the barbell over your head (hence the term overhead), bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Move your backside outwards, away from your midsection, as you go down. Be sure to inhale and press into the barbell as you go down.

Step 3 – Maintaining the bar overhead, power your lift using your heels and legs to return to the standing position. Be sure to exhale as you rise up. This completes one rep. Your head should be up while your back should remain straight throughout the exercise.

Step 4 – Repeat steps 2 and 3 several times for a complete set.

Similar Exercises

The following exercises target similar muscle groups as the overhead squat:

  • 1.5 rep squat
  • 3 way lunge
  • Agility ladder high knee crossover
  • Agility ladder in-out drill
  • Air jack

Read more health and wellness tips at my blog.


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  • DreamerMeg profile image

    DreamerMeg 4 years ago from Northern Ireland

    Interesting alternative.