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Whether you’re an experienced weightlifter or a novice lifter, the overhead squat is a useful squat variation to include in your strength-training program.

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What Is an Overhead Squat?

An overhead squat is an advanced squat exercise that works muscle groups throughout your body. Perform overhead squats by lifting a weighted bar overhead while lowering into a squat position. If it’s your first time practicing overhead squats, try the movement holding an unweighted barbell or PVC pipe.

5 Benefits of Doing Overhead Squats

Consider some of the benefits of regularly performing overhead squats.

  1. Overhead squats can increase your overall strength. The overhead squat activates muscles in your upper body like your triceps and deltoids, as well as muscles in your lower body—including your hamstrings, adductors, quadriceps, and lower back muscles.
  2. Overhead squats can enhance your mobility. By hinging multiple joints in your body, overhead squats can improve your ankle mobility, hip mobility, and shoulder mobility.
  3. Overhead squats engage your core. Overhead squatting activates your core muscles as stabilizers. Keep your core engaged through the full range of motion during the exercise to unlock this benefit.
  4. Overhead squats can improve your squat form. The posture of overhead squats brings your attention to any improper squatting form. Practice overhead squats as training for other squat exercises like the front squat or goblet squat.
  5. Overhead squats are versatile. The overhead squat is a great exercise to practice at home. If you don’t have access to a barbell, consider trying this exercise while holding a kettlebell or dumbbell overhead.

How to Do Overhead Squats With Perfect Form

For overhead squats, begin by using a weight you can control for 2–3 sets of 3–8 repetitions. Choose a weight that allows you to maintain good technique throughout all sets and repetitions.

  1. Place a barbell across your back, resting the barbell on your shoulders as if you were performing a back squat. Place your hands wider than your shoulders and rotate your shoulders outward to engage your lats. Your elbows should be pointed toward the floor.
  2. Pre-tension your shoulders and hips, and engage your core. To push the barbell overhead, lower your hips toward the floor while keeping your chest high. Your knees should bend slightly.
  3. Explosively push the barbell overhead by simultaneously pushing through your legs and shoulders to push the barbell into the starting position. The barbell should rest in the center of your palms with your wrists slightly extended.
  4. Push your hands toward the ceiling to create a stable upper back position. Your arms should be long with your elbows fully extended. Your shoulders and upper back should support the barbell in the overhead position. Your chin should remain tucked throughout the movement, as if you were holding an egg under your chin.
  5. Evenly distribute your weight and grip the floor with your feet to create a stable position. All repetitions should begin from this starting position.
  6. While keeping your chest high and your elbows fully extended, begin the downward movement by bending from your hips, knees, and ankles.
  7. Lower until your legs are parallel or slightly below parallel with the floor. You should only lower as far as you can maintain a level pelvis. The barbell should remain over the middle of your feet, and your knees should remain in line with your feet. Pause at the bottom before standing up.
  8. To begin your upward movement, push your feet into the ground to initiate standing. As you begin to stand, keep your chest high and squeeze your glutes to allow your knees to straighten and your hips to travel forward. Your chest and hips should rise at the same rate as you stand tall.
  9. Continue to stand tall until your hips and knees are fully extended. At the end of the repetition, your pelvis should be in a neutral position. Imagine that your pelvis is a bucket filled with water and you’re attempting not to spill any of it.
  10. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.