January 5th, 2012

The overhead squat is a combination of a strength builder, a flexibility challenge and the mother of all core exercises.  We have performed this lift very recently as part of a metcon workout (workouts where we measure how much work we can get down in a set amount of time or where we measure how long it takes us to do a set amount of work), but you really only get better at this lift when you have the time to slow down and practice it with total focus on your technique. – JP

Overhead Squat 3-3-3-3-3 reps

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23 Responses

  1. Note to Ben Smith superfans:

    As you are no doubt aware, the CrossFit superbeast and 4th place finisher in the 2011 CF Games has put up much heavier loads in the overhead squat. This video of him lifting 315#s just showcased his excellent technique a little better.

  2. True Ben Smith superfans knows he came in 3rd in the 2011 CF Games. As a superfan/mom I’m a little concerned with how cluttered his garage is becoming. I don’t want him to hurt himself!!

    • Whoops! I think I just counted Rich Froning twice by accident when I tried to recall Ben’s placing.

      Ben’s workout space in his garage is pretty tight! The fridge behind him day’s are definitely numbered. I can’t believe that it has not taken a direct yet.

  3. After watching the video , I’ll still list my “girly weight” 🙂 115#, is this an issue for others to get the weight up? If I get it up, it’s not as hard to squat it. This was a 10# improvement.

    Ryan, thanks for taking the time to discuss possible “Fran” strategies…

    • You are most definitely not alone. When I got to heavy OHS I was very nervous about getting the weight “up” but once there, while not easy, I was very confident with the squat. May be more pyschological than psysiological, but the effect is the same to me on OHS.
      It’s amazing to me how much all of the movements are connected as John describes. My last realization, thanks to Jeff pointing it out, was the connection in rowing to my deadlift. (motivation to try to row perfectly to help with deadlift when I get back)

    • I’ll be rocking the Precor Elliptical both at rehab and on my own over the next month or two. It actually felt really good to get the legs moving today!

  4. 115# is not a bad weight in comparison to your bodyweight, it is actually pretty decent. And I would rank Ben Smith in the superhuman category when it comes to the overhead squat. The amount of weight that he can put overhead and then overhead squat is just insane! I think he might be from another planet.

    Part of the ‘fun’ of the overhead squat is that almost every athlete has a weak point in the OHS that leads to them failing at some point in the movement, while some or all of the rest of the OHS is still doable at that same weight. The part of the lift that gives you the most difficulty can usually be drilled down to a specific ‘weakness’ that you can work on to become better both in the OHS and other movements that we use in CrossFit.

    Some examples:
    1. Getting a challenging weight overhead is hard, but it is easy to overhead squat once you have it there.

    You may not be as proficient (yet!) in using the explosive power of your hips and dropping under the bar quickly (think push jerk, split jerk and push press) in comparison to the strength of your shoulders, core and lower body. Improve your push jerk and you improve your OHS.

    2. It is easy to get a heavy weight overhead, but you can’t balance the weight as soon as you start down into the squat.

    This is usually, in part, caused by a flexibility issue for most lifters. And it can be tight shoulders, thoracic potion of the spine (the upper back), hips, hamstrings or inflexible ankles/calves (or a combo of all of these) that are causing the lifter to be unable to keep the weight balance overhead.

    Sometimes simply warming up more thoroughly can help, but usually specific flexibility exercises will be needed in order improve. The great thing about CrossFit is that a lot of the exercises in the workouts that we do, when proper form is used, improve flexibility organically as you do them. Yay for multi-tasking!

    • Thanks for the input, you make an excellent point on striving to improve specific crossfit workout regimes also improves at first look unrelated exercises. Also in day to day activities I’ve seen improvements in my posture, overall flexability, physical toughness and reduction in stress level due to these workouts. I marvel at how I no longer bend over to pick something up w/o using better back form, or relaxing into a squat, or lift something up with a push press or jerk while minding the center line of my body forces.

      • Outstanding Mark. Love the transfer of the gym to everyday life. That is the point!

    • Amen to everything John said. That is why we call him coach! I know a good one when I see it.

  5. I had a weird lifting day today. I worked up to 135 at first and it was wobbly and super-hard. I thought to myself “that’s my max for the day”. Then I went and looked in my book and saw that my previous max was 155, so I thought “well, I guess I can do more”. So then I did 145, 155 and finally 160 (5lb PR). Each one felt better than the last. There’s probably a moral to this story somewhere…

    Lastly, I noticed that by the end the inside of my elbows were hurting quite a bit. They feel good now though.

    • Great job pushing it. Amazing how mental this stuff is. Once your book told you to do more, you did! Elbows could be a remnant of the best of a WOD the day before that seemed to leave everyone hurting. Did you do that one? I often feel like OHS feel the best by the end of the WOD. I recommend more aggressive warm up in general, more flexibility training pre-wod and then more OHS warm up specifically. Makes for a full hour! All the classes I taught today the warm up and then the mobility portion took us right to the 30 minute point of the class and then we spent the last half hour on the actual sets. We saw some great PRs in the gym today too. Very exciting!


  6. 3RM – 165lb
    Failed on the 3rd rep at 175 twice. The weight didnt necessarily feel “heavy”, I just let it drift forward on me a bit. My previous 1 rep max for the OHS was 170, so I was happy with the PR today.

  7. 3RM – 135#

  8. Worked up to 95# and then my right shoulder told me I was not allowed to do anymore.

    Switched to front squats and worked up to 205# x 3

  9. FRONT squats: 115-125-155-165-175 (failed on 3rd rep)

    2RM for front squats was 165# so feel good about matching it for a 3RM. 175# was tough enough for me to front squat, so I was pretty impressed that Dan was able to OHS that weight – well done Dan.

  10. 65,75,85,95,105,115 rep 3 was a little shallow. The OH squats felt so much better than they did in the workout on Tuesday! Thanks, John, for coaching me -even at home, in the garage, at 10:30pm. I’m so lucky! 🙂

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