Overhead Squat: How to Perform, Benefits & Expert Tips 

a vector image of a man doing a Box Squat on a grey background - it is the main image to the article "spanish squat"

The overhead squat is somewhat of a hidden gem in the fitness world. 

This exercise has more than a few surprising benefits, and once you know how to perform it correctly, it could transform the way you train.  

Let’s dive right into it and take a look at how to perform the overhead squat, the benefits that come with this exercise, and some expert tips to speed up your progress.  

How to Do an Overhead Squat 

Step 1 — Establish Your Setup  

To begin the overhead squat, set up with your feet shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. Keep your toes pointed slightly outward to allow for proper alignment and movement. Engage your core and maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise. 

Step 2 — Locate Your Overhead Position  

Next, raise the barbell or weight overhead, with your arms fully extended. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, or use a snatch grip for a more challenging variation. Ensure your wrists are in line with your forearms to maintain a stable overhead position. 

Step 3 — Initiate Your Descent  

Start the squat by hinging at the hips and pushing them back as you bend your knees. Lower yourself down into a deep squat position, aiming to have your thighs parallel to the ground or below. Keep your chest lifted and your gaze forward throughout the movement. 

Step 4 — Climb Out of The Hole 

To complete the squat, push through your heels and engage your glutes and quadriceps to stand back up. Maintain control and stability throughout the ascent, keeping the barbell or weight overhead. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement for the desired number of repetitions. 

Benefits of the Overhead Squat 

Mobility, Stability, and Strength  

The overhead squat is a challenging exercise that requires mobility, stability, and strength throughout your entire body. It helps improve your overall functional fitness, coordination, and body awareness. 

Extension Training  

Performing overhead squats promotes extension through the hips, knees, and ankles. This extension training can be beneficial for athletes who require explosive movements and power in their sport. 

Hip And Ankle Mobility  

The overhead squat targets the hips and ankles, improving their mobility and flexibility. By regularly incorporating this exercise into your routine, you can enhance your range of motion and prevent stiffness in these areas. 

Core Strength Training  

Maintaining an upright posture during the overhead squat requires significant core strength and stability. This exercise engages your abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles, promoting a strong and resilient core. 

Shoulder Stability Training  

The overhead position in the squat challenges your shoulder stability and strength. It helps develop the muscles around your shoulder girdle, enhancing stability and reducing the risk of shoulder injuries. 

Balancing Act 

The overhead squat demands balance and coordination as you stabilize the weight overhead while performing the squatting motion. This exercise trains your ability to control your body’s position in space, improving overall balance and proprioception. 

Other Variations of the Overhead Squat 

Single-Arm Overhead Squat 

Instead of using a barbell, you hold a dumbbell or kettlebell overhead with one arm while performing the squat. This variation adds an element of unilateral training and further challenges your stability. 

Overhead Plate Squat 

Hold a weight plate overhead instead of a barbell. This variation allows for a different grip and challenges your shoulder stability and core control. 

Overhead Dumbbell Squat 

Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your arms extended overhead, while performing the squat. This variation provides an additional challenge to your shoulder stability and core engagement. 

Common Mistakes 

Leaning Too Far Forward 

Avoid leaning excessively forward during the squat. Keep your chest lifted and your torso upright to maintain proper form and prevent unnecessary strain on your lower back. 

Allowing the Knees to Cave Inward 

Be mindful of your knee alignment throughout the movement. Keep your knees tracking in line with your toes and prevent them from collapsing inward. 

Skipping the PVC Pipe  

Using a PVC pipe or broomstick can help you practice the overhead position and improve shoulder mobility. Don’t skip this valuable tool for developing the necessary range of motion. 

Lack of Shoulder Range of Motion  

If you lack sufficient shoulder mobility, it may be challenging to perform the overhead squat properly. Incorporate shoulder mobility exercises and stretches into your warm-up routine to improve your range of motion over time. 

Insufficient Thoracic Extension  

Thoracic extension, or the ability to extend your upper back, is crucial for maintaining a stable overhead position. If you struggle with thoracic mobility, work on exercises that target this area to enhance your overhead squat form. 

Stiff Ankles 

Limited ankle mobility can hinder your squat depth and stability. Incorporate ankle mobility exercises and stretches to improve the flexibility of your ankle joint. 

Safety and Precautions 

As with any exercise, it’s important to prioritize safety and use proper form. If you have existing shoulder, back, or knee issues, it’s advisable to consult with a qualified fitness professional or healthcare provider before attempting the overhead squat. 

They can provide guidance tailored to your individual needs and ensure you perform the exercise safely. 

Overhead Squat Sets and Reps 

The number of sets and reps for overhead squats can vary depending on your training goals and fitness level. As a general guideline, aim for 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions to develop strength, stability, and mobility.  

Adjust the weight accordingly to challenge yourself while maintaining proper form throughout the exercise. 

Overhead Squat Variations 

Single-Arm Dumbbell Overhead Squat 

Hold a dumbbell overhead with one hand while performing the squat. This variation adds an extra challenge to your stability and engages your core and shoulder muscles. 

Anderson Overhead Squat 

Set up with the barbell on a rack at shoulder height. Position yourself underneath the bar and perform the squat from a static start, challenging your strength and stability in the bottom position. 

Pause Overhead Squat 

Pause for a few seconds at the bottom of the squat, maintaining tension and control. This variation improves strength and stability throughout the entire range of motion. 

Overhead Squat Alternatives 

Single-Arm Bottom-Up Kettlebell Press 

Hold a kettlebell upside down with the handle pointing upward, and press it overhead. This exercise develops shoulder stability and engages the core muscles. 

Dumbbell or Barbell Thruster 

Start with the weight at shoulder height, perform a front squat, and then drive the weight overhead in one continuous movement. This compound exercise targets multiple muscle groups and enhances full-body strength and power. 

Muscles Worked by the Overhead Squat 

Shoulders 

The deltoids and trapezius muscles are engaged to stabilize and control the weight overhead. 

Back 

The muscles of the upper and lower back, including the erector spinae and latissimus dorsi, assist in maintaining an upright torso. 

Abdominals 

The core muscles, including the rectus abdominis and obliques, contract to stabilize the spine and maintain proper posture throughout the movement. 

Quadriceps 

The quadriceps muscles at the front of the thighs are the primary movers during the squatting motion. 

Who Should Do the Overhead Squat 

Weightlifters 

The overhead squat is a foundational exercise in weightlifting training. It helps improve technique, stability, and strength for movements like the snatch and clean and jerk. 

CrossFitters 

CrossFit athletes often incorporate overhead squats to enhance their overall fitness, mobility, and strength. This exercise is frequently used in CrossFit workouts and competitions. 

General Population 

The overhead squat, which you may have found from searching “squats with weights name” offers numerous benefits for individuals looking to improve their overall fitness, functional movement, and body composition. It can be modified to suit different fitness levels and goals. 

Try It Out 

Incorporate the overhead squat into your training routine to reap its benefits. Start with an empty barbell or a light weight to focus on proper form and technique. Gradually increase the weight as you become more comfortable and confident with the movement.  

Remember to prioritize safety and listen to your body throughout the process. Enjoy the challenge and the rewards that the overhead squat can bring to your fitness journey. 

Overhead Squat – FAQs 


What Is Overhead Squat Good For? 

The overhead squat is good for building full-body muscle and strength and for improving other lifts, like the clean and jerk.  

Why Is Overhead Squat So Hard? 

The overhead squat is so hard because it uses almost every muscle in the body. 

This means that you have to exert a ton of overall force in order to perform an overhead squat.  

How Often Should I Do Overhead Squat? 

You should perform the overhead squat at least twice a week, leaving at least 48 hours of rest time between sessions for optimal results.   

Is An Overhead Squat Functional? 

Yes, the overhead squat is functional.  

It utilises a ton of muscle groups, and it has a lot of crossover when it comes to carrying heavy objects.  

Why Is The Overhead Squat So Challenging?  

The overhead squat is so challenging because it incorporates almost every muscle group in the body. 

This makes the overhead squat extremely taxing.  

Do I Have To Do The Overhead Squat?  

No, you do not have to do the overhead squat.  

There is a whole list of barbell complexes that can replace the overhead squat if you do not want to do this exercise.  

What’s The Best Way To Get Started Doing Overhead Squats? 

The best way to get started doing overhead squats is to start with light weights and build up slowly over time. 

You could also use a head squat machine if your gym has one.  

Why Are Overhead Squats So Hard? 

Overhead squats are so hard because they use a ton of different muscle groups. 

In fact, overhead squats use more muscle groups than practically any other exercise out there.  

We hope this article will be able to help you! 

If you follow all of our advice and actually include the overhead squat in your routine, we can almost guarantee that you won’t regret it. 

For more fitness content, feel free to stop at MovingForwards

See you next time!