Why Is the Overhead Squat So Difficult?
[pullquote align=”right”]If you want a better OHS, you need to spend a lot of time overhead squatting. It is that simple.[/pullquote]The overhead squat — which will be referred to primarily as OHS for the rest of this article due to my 5 words-per-minute hunt-and-peck style of typing — is a perfect combination of mobility and stability. A 45-pound OHS can humble the strongest athletes very quickly if they do not possess the mobility. The most mobile yoga master can be squished by the same relatively light weight if they are not stable enough to support the load through the full range of motion.
I am no mobility guru, and to be honest I have had a little bit of a hard time buying into the whole mobility/Functional Movement Screening craze that seems to be sweeping the fitness nation. What I do buy into is plain and simple hard work and the few mobility exercises that have worked for me and numerous other athletes with whom I have worked. If you follow my Dynamic Athlete programming at Train Heroic, I do not necessarily include OHS into every week; however, snatches are common place, and the OHS is the foundation of that movement. If you want a better OHS, you need to spend a lot of time overhead squatting. It is that simple. If you are looking for a quick fix, I would recommend that you stop reading right now. But if you are in it for the long haul, here is a look at a few of the techniques that work.
Overhead Squat Problem #1: Ankle/Hip Mobility
When you attempt your OHS, have you noticed that your toes turn out as you get lower in the squat? If so, your ankles are not dorsiflexing enough to achieve the proper depth; as a result, your body is finding a way to accomplish what you are asking of it by spinning the toes out. Most of the time this will be at the cost of the knees caving inwards and the weight shifting towards the ball of the foot, putting excessive strain on the medial side of the knee. This will cause your performance to suffer due to instability and the inability of the posterior chain to fire in this poor position. It will put the strain primarily on the quads and can cause overuse injuries over time.
[quote]Does your low back round and butt tuck under at the bottom of your squat? This also will create a unstable position and a potentially harmful position when loaded. When the back rounds, it essentially turns off the glutes and hamstrings in the bottom of the squat. These large muscle groups need to be incorporated into the movement if large loads are the intent.[/quote] You could probably squat 45 pounds all day with your low back rounding at the bottom, but 245 pounds would be a whole different story. The bottom of your squat will be the point where your low back starts to round until you can gain the mobility in the hips and ankles and the stability in the lumbar spine to squat all the way to the bottom.
Grab hold of a rack or other solid object for balance and squat down to the bottom of your squat keeping your back flat. Now one side at a time, shift your weight forward flexing ankle as much as possible. Be sure that the heel stays down, and the knee moves forward — not in — out over the toes. Spend at least two minutes every other day working on this and you should see a noticeable improvement within two weeks or less. This can also do wonders for tight hips. While you are in the bottom, use your elbow to push the knees out, stretching out the adductors. Use the rack to pull your hips toward your ankles in the bottom. Work hard to keep your back flat.