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The Overhead Squat: The Most Important Useless Exercise

by Steve Titus

I have a love/hate relationship with the overhead squat. I think it is great exercise for certain purposes.  I also think that once the movement is learned, it hardly ever should be done.  In fact, anytime someone asks me “How do I get my OH Squat stronger?” I have to do everything in my power to not answer “I have no clue, I have never wasted my time thinking of that.” But I digress.

I think the movement is GREAT for beginning lifters/athletes/crossfitters.  They teach balance, coordination, kinesthetic awareness and core control like almost no other exercise.. Even some of the most athletic and freakishly flexible athletes that I have worked with have struggled with this movement.

However, even those with the requisite flexibility struggle with this movement. Why? Because of the balance: we are trying to keep the parts of our body from the diaphragm up tight, and the rest of our body loose and fluid.  When is the last time you have consciously done that? Probably never.

For that reason, every lifter and almost every athlete I work with learns this movement, That said, once the movement is learned, I move on to more technical movements, and the OH Squat is relegated to the dustbin of history.

Why? Well because once the movement is learned, training it and improving it has damn near no relevance to improving anything other than well, the OH Squat.  I can think of no national program in the world of OLY lifting that incorporates them in the training of their athletes. None.  That says a lot to me.

In my experience, I have never seen an athlete pull in a snatch and not be able to stand up with it because it was too heavy.  I have never seen an athlete who I thought “gee, if only the OH Squat went up 10 kilos, their snatch would improve.”  In fact, I would bet that there are a decent amount of people in the world of Crossfit who can out overhead squat the lifters I coach, but could not even come close to snatching what they snatch.

This is because the snatch is very dependent on the timing and the precision that an OH Squat does not train. They are good for light days, to work muscular recovery.  They are good for WODs (mostly because they are not fun to do on their own, much less in a met-con). They are good for beginners to learn, but outside of that, they do not serve much of a purpose.  Time focused on them is time taken away from training more complex movements, strength movements with far more benefit and carry over.

As a friend of mine once eloquently said “Men (you too ladies) don’t overhead squat. They snatch”

Steve Titus, affectionately (or pejoratively depending on the strength work that day) called “Coach Steve” is the Olympic Lifting coach here at CFB, and has had a large hand in the development of the strength programs here.  He has been involved in the sport of Olympic lifting for about 13 years now, 10 of them as a coach. He has coached at National level competitions, and has had the pleasure of working with  national medalists.  Much of his experience has been with athletes of various sports using the Oly lifts to improve their performance.  His intent with writing in regards to the “O lifts” is to try to avoid in depth analysis of technique, and try to stick to topics that may actually have more of an impact on your daily training. 

 If anyone has specific questions that they would like answered, feel free to e mail him at steve@crossfitbuffalo.com.

 

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