Let’s chat about overhead squat mobility. Having good squat depth and a good overhead lockout is da bomb. It’s almost as cool as doing muscle-ups.
No matter what people say, overhead squat mobility is not just about the shoulders and hips, there is so much more to it. For a good overhead squat you need:
- Good ankle mobility
- Strong upper legs
- Solid knees and mobility
- Good hip mobility
- Strong back
- Good thoracic mobility
- Strong triceps
- Good scapulae mobility
- Core strength
- Good mind muscle connection
…and there are probably an umpteen million other things I forgot to mention.
Let’s have a look at a good overhead squat mobility drill, how to perform it, and what it does for you.
Really, step one, before digging deeper should be you being able to squat deep and coming back up without problems. This means ass-to-grass while knees don’t buckle in, shoulders high, hips low, feet flat on the ground for one. Assuming you have this, let’s dig deeper and talk about the video that comes paired with this article.
If you look at the video you’ll see me perform a drill which can drastically help improve your overhead squat mobility. Let’s analyze:
- stand in front of a wall
- find a distance between you and the wall that works for you at this stage
- bring one arm overhead
- create thoracic extension (see below)
- break at the knees and hips at the same time
- pull the knees outwards
- push the hips back and down
- come into a deep squat
- try and refrain from touching the wall
- come back up
- switch arms and repeat
Thoracic extension is like pushing your chest out, it’s the opposite of thoracic flexion (think crunching). There is not a lot of extension that can be achieved, especially if your thoracic is not very mobile, but 2% of flexion could mean a 6 to 8 percent or more overhead range. You can actually get the hand further back through thoracic extension, getting the hand back and directly above the shoulder is what you want to aim for. Having the hand not directly above the shoulder means that whatever weight you’re holding is not resting but pulling forward.
You should increase your mobility step-by-step, even warming up into this drill is done step-by-step, first quarter squat, then half, and eventually a full deep squat. Also start using pulses, i.e. at the bottom of your imaginary squat depth, pulse further, but never to the extent of pushing past limits.
Once you’re warmed up and feel you can go deeper, do so, your aim is to touch the ground with the hanging hand while keeping the shoulders high and bringing the hips low.
Once you’ve mastered the one arm drill move into the two arm drill. You can hold both hands together by interlacing the fingers and pointing up, pull your biceps to your ears, push your chest out, create thoracic extension, and keep your pelvis properly aligned so there is no pressure on the lower back.
Internal pressure is great for a tight core, but try not to hold your breath while doing this, you will run the risk of fainting. Try shorter breaths out while maintaining internal pressure.
This drill/movement/exercise should never hurt anywhere. If it hurts, you’re not following the progressions properly, you’re rushing something that takes ages to develop.
What does this drill do for you?
Performing this drill in front of a wall provides you with the following:
- a clear point of reference for progression
- help stop the arms/shoulders/torso coming forward
- knowing where you’re at in your journey of achieving overhead ass-to-grass
- adjust the distance from the wall to increase the difficulty
Some more pointers:
- keep looking ahead
- keep pushing up with the arms
- pull down with the lats
- lockout with the triceps
- pull in with the pecs
- pull the scapula down and in
- try to keep the shoulders in line with the ankles
- prevent the pelvis from tilting forward and creating lower back/lumbar pain
- pull the knees outwards for proper balance
- let the quads take the load
- understand that your erector spinae needs to extend your back throughout the move
- don’t cheat with high heeled lifting shoes
- dorsiflexion is a huge part of squatting properly
- go barefoot for maximum benefits
I could go on, but enough for today. If anything, anything at all was of help to you, please do us all a favor and like + share.