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My next fitness goal is 15 overhead squats with a barbell that has been loaded with my own bodyweight. I just went today and tried my first set. After lots of stretching and warmups, I did three pathetic work sets - 95x5, 115x5, 95x4. This lift is a hot mess for me. I feel great right now though - my back and core are feeling sore in ways that I haven't experienced since my novice days. I am obviously using new muscles to do this exercise.

Now, despite the fact that I can easily front squat 175x15, I can't overhead squat even 175x1, so there is obviously a strength gap between me and my goal, in my back and arms. And this is what I'm hoping to train with the lift.

But I think the bigger problems are related to mobility. The thing is, besides knowing that my upper back and arms need a better ROM, I'm not sure what other parts of my body need to be more flexible right now. So, my questions are twofold:

  • How can I evaluate my OHS mobility gaps?
  • How can I stretch my deltoids, trapezius, pectoralis, biceps, and triceps, for this lift?

And any wisdom from anyone who's worked this lift is also appreciated.

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How much do you press, jerk, snatch, and most importantly, weigh and max OHS? 15 bodyweight overhead squats is a firebreather--I'm not sure it's an appropriate near-term goal. –  Dave Liepmann Jan 14 '13 at 2:37
    
press: 145 jerk: 185-195 weight: 175 max OHS: 135 snatch: I don't work this lift. It's all down to the mobility issues I've mentioned. And it's not a near-term goal. It's something I'd like to accomplish this year, perhaps. –  masonk Jan 14 '13 at 2:37
    
Oh, and I don't belong to an gym with bumper plates, so practicing the snatch is more difficult. Le sigh. –  masonk Jan 14 '13 at 2:39
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I tend to think you should just do the lift with a weight you can handle. The necessary flexibility will come with time. Have to agree with @DaveLiepmann that this goal is fairly far off with a bodyweight of 173 (per your profile) and a FS of 175. Linear progression; probably sets of 5 are optimal for now. –  Greg Jan 15 '13 at 2:21
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@masonk Ah sorry, I misread that 175 was a 15RM, not a 1RM; my bad. So maybe the goal is not quite so far away, but just do the movement and your flexibility specific to that movement will develop. Snatches are very relevant too, of course (OHS is usually used as an assistance exercise for those). –  Greg Jan 16 '13 at 19:47

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

As with all squats you need flexibility in the calves, legs, hips, pelvis, back and shoulders. Other questions have addressed flexibility needed for squats in general:

For the Overhead Squat where the arms are overhead, tight latissimuss muscles will limit proper overhead arm positioning. Also as you have mentioned, upper trap tightness will limit the scapula from rotating into position, and pectoral muscle tightness prevents proper shoulder positioning which is important to prevent shoulder injuries and impingement with overhead positioning. Stretching these muscles should help you achieve good overhead arm positioning:

  • The latissimus begins on the iliac crest and lower back and travels up the back and chest to insert into the humerus (front of the shoulder). Tightness of the lats will restrict motion of the shoulder as well as the back and pelvis, all of which are important to have full range with the OH squat. Child's Pose is a good lat stretch as it stretches the full length of the muscle. Other good lat stretches:

  • Upper Trap tightness will restrict the downward movement of your scapula or shoulder blade that is needed as your arm reaches overhead. To stretch the upper trap, stablize the shoulder in a depressed position and gently stretch your neck by tilting your head away toward the opposite armpit.

  • Pectoral muscle tightness tends to pull the shoulders forward out of neutral alignment. The doorway stretch is a good pec stretch, but this Wall Shoudler Girdle exercise stretches the pecs while contracting the opposing scapular muscles. If you can keep your back, shoulders and wrists against the wall during this exercise without difficulty, you should have sufficient shoulder mobility for the OHS.

As previously mentioned, work with a weight that you can control with good form. And remember that static stretching is not recommended before strength training as the tissue is temporarily weakened following static stetches. These exercises to gain range should be performed after you are fininshed with your workout or when your tissues are fully warmed up.

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