Fix Your Overhead Squat - The Barbell Physio

Fix Your Overhead Squat

Fix Your Overhead Squat

Today, we’re going to talk about some of my favorite ways to fix your overhead squat for an athlete having difficulty with the overhead squat pattern itself. One of the biggest things I see as athletes perform the overhead squat is that when the barbell gets overhead, they really lose proper lumbar positioning.

As soon as we get overhead, maybe they start with a over extended spine and then they go down with squat and then round their lower back as they descend into the squat and really going into that butt wink pattern that we hear about a lot. This must be corrected to fix your overhead squat. A lot of the times that’s because as they go overhead, they don’t know how to stabilize overhead so they go to this default overextended lumbar spine pattern which puts their pelvis in a little bit of anterior pelvic tilt. It essentially closes off how much total room they have in the hip joint itself to go into deep hip flexion needed to squat down. As they get towards the bottom of the squat, their pelvis has no choice but to round backwards to open those hips back up. The back goes from an overextended position to a flex position under load which has the potential to put some unnecessary stress on the back. As well as just not having you in optimal positions for optimal performance.

The first thing we need to do is screen out if we’re dealing with some shoulder flexion limitations. If the athlete doesn’t have proper shoulder flexions then they’re going to have to compensate somewhere else downstream. The most often limitation I’ve seen with that is some lat tightness. The way we’re going to test that is by lying on the ground and have the athlete take their arms into flexion with their arm right by their ear. Compare it with their legs straight versus with their legs flexed. If the athlete has more available range of motion with their legs straight than they do with their legs flexed, then we can blame some of that shoulder limitation on latissimus dorsi, the lats being a little tight. If that’s the case, then they need to spend some time working on mobility in the lats.

If their shoulder mobility is fine, then we know that we probably need to work into some core positioning movements. Take them from a progression of exercises that get them holding their core in a more neutral position so that they don’t go into those default patterns.

We’re going to start with using 90/90 breathing as a way to get the athlete to understand a little bit more of a neutral pelvic positioning. Here’s how we’re going to do it. For 90/90 breathing I’m laying on my back. I’ve got my hips and knees flexed 90 degrees with my feet on the wall. I’m going to pull my hips about one inch off the ground. Laying down flat, I’ve got one hand on my stomach and one on my chest. I take a deep breath in through my nose and fill my belly with air before I allow my chest to rise. Then as I exhale through my mouth, I really try to take my rib cage and push my rib cage down.

Occasionally with this drill, once an athlete has that movement pattern down, I’ll take a band, attach it to a rig, go back into that position, work through that breathing, and add in pulling overhead. That little bit more of a challenge will often expose a little bit more weakness and that’s another intermediate step towards improving the overhead squat.

From there, when working to fix your overhead squat, we can go to quadruped rocking. I’m going to get the athlete positioned so that their feet are at the same stance width that they are when they squat. We’ll get on hands and knees. I’ll really have them work through finding what a neutral spine positioning is. Then they’re going to rock forwards and back really working on going deeper and deeper into that unloaded squat movement pattern while maintaining a neutral spine.

Since we’re working specifically today on improving neutral spine positioning for the overhead squat, we’re going to add in a little arm reach. As they get down here to this bottom position, we’re going to take their arm and we’re going to raise it up aiming to be towards their overhead squat or snatch grip width there. We’re going to rock back, we’re going to maintain neutral spine positioning, reach that arm up. We can repeat that on both sides. Adding that little arm movement will challenge a lot of athletes and again expose some weaknesses that you might not otherwise see. fix your overhead squat 

After they’ve worked through quadruped rocking, I really like the face pull overhead squat as a way to get them really activating those upper back muscles, holding the shoulder into elevation, and focusing on the neutral spine positioning. Here’s how we’re going to do it. I’ve got the band attached to a rig at about shoulder height, maybe a little bit lower. We’re going to pull our arms back to where my arms are in this 90/90 position where my elbows are the same height as my shoulders. Then I’m going to press overhead to my overhead squat or snatch grip. Then I’m going to squat. Really working on neutral spine positioning. Not letting my spine vary from where it’s at in space. That exercise will do a really good job of tying together some of the earlier movements we worked on into a standing squat variations. Once they’ve done well with that, we can start working back at putting the barbell overhead and doing weighted overhead squats with better technique.

Hope this series of drills help you to fix your overhead squat .


Need more squat specific assessments and corrective exercises? Check out Master The Squat!