Overhead Squats: Adding to a program
Overhead squats! Here I am, the self proclaimed ambassador of overhead squats, willing to go anywhere on the globe to preach the message, and I nearly forgot them!
OS build lower back strength as well as anything. They really build your spinal erectors in an odd way: sort of like an isometric but a “movement isometric.”
Just do ’em. You will notice the difference. Also, I haven’t encountered injuries with OS either. Your mileage may vary, but the physical needs of this lift tend to make the bar lighter and the athlete more aware of self, reducing injuries.
I’m a big fan of overheads, but you need to be sure you know why you are going to add them. Seriously, they will help with any goal I can think of, but if you are going to start doing them, there is going to be a learning curve. Six months from now, they will pay off with better flexibility, better “support” structure (I know some people don’t believe in support muscles, but I do), and great thigh, hip and lower back strength. If you are doing them for sports, I think you will find an immediate carryover.
So, how to add? One idea is based on what Pavel Tsatsouline recommends: do them EVERY day for two sets of five for two weeks. First set heavy, second set is a back off.
Another is to simply make one day a week “overhead squat” day. Or, take a couple of weeks out and just do overheads three days a week. The few weeks of specialization will not retard your overall progress. Some guys act like a week or two of specialized work will kill them. That is bodybuilder thinking, “Oh no, I’m a quarter inch off my left biceps.”
Another idea is just to toss them in and do them. It would be a great complement to your front squats. I often do overheads and front squats together. They really do seem to be a nice blend.
I usually teach athletes the overhead squat fairly early. Trust me, a kid who overheads with 95 pounds will find the back squat a fairly easy thing to learn. It is an odd thing about my coaching style: I don’t teach discus throwers how to hold or release the discus. I use handled medicine balls and they do countless full turns and drills with throwing into walls or onto fields. So, they master advanced drills like “float-float-stings,” three turns and a throw. One day, with nice weather, we go out to throw the disc. On the way down the hill, the new kid asks another, “how do you hold this thing?” Experienced kid takes two or three minutes to show how to hold and release the disc. Young kid goes to ring with a mastery of the big picture that will make the implement go far. Doing it the other way, like most coaches, the athlete spends the whole first year doing standing throws trying to make the discus fly right. No carryover at all to big throws.
If you teach a kid to overhead squat, the back squat and the front squat are a breeze. You don’t even coach it, they pick it up by simply watching the kid before them. Teach an athlete to snatch, they usually pick up the clean. Show them the clean and jerk and they rarely need a great explanation of the bench.
I think we need to raise the bar high for new athletes and really demand a lot. I think the same about teaching, too.
So, dive in, so to speak, and just start doing them.