The Overhead Squat

By Lisa Ray

In Coaching, Exercises, Videos

October 16, 2009

Video Article

In Part 2 of an overhead-squat series shot at Rainier CrossFit, Lisa Ray of CrossFit Flagstaff coaches Stephanie Aardal through a set of heavy reps.

Working up in weight, Aardal uses a split jerk to get the bar overhead, then sets up for her squats. Ray cues Aardal to be aggressive on the jerk, then keep her shoulders active, midsection tight and knees out during her reps.

Ray’s best cue might be the simplest: “Just have fun with it now. Don’t overthink it.”

With 125 lb. on the bar, Aardal puts it all together and bangs out three strong reps on her way to a new PR.

11min 47sec

Additional reading: The Overhead Squat by Greg Glassman, published Aug. 1, 2005.



14 Comments on “The Overhead Squat”


Adam Kayce wrote …

Nice job, Stephanie. PR's are always sweet! (Curious what you're up to now...)

Question for Lisa: Why the "hup!" right when she goes into her push jerk? Seems to me like that's the moment when supreme inner focus is needed, and having a strong external cue at that point could shake her concentration...

That's my thinking, at least, but I'd be open to hearing from folks who have a different experience.

Solid coaching, though; this is going to help my OHS, for sure.


wrote …

Nice! I'm confused I thought you needed a wider grip and wider stance. Isn't the bar have to be about 6 inches or less above your head, thus a wider grip. or does this all depend on the individuals flexibility?


replied to comment from William Valdez

The grip width is variable depending on a number of factors. There is a lot more information here

The main advantage of a narrow snatch grip is much less pressure on the wrists. Most folks don't have the shoulder and hip flexibility to OHS with such a narrow grip.

In the snatch, a wider grip is advantageous because the bar doesn't have to travel as high. There is also a bit more stability since the bar is closer to the athlete's center of gravity. This does put additional strain on the wrists, though.

For most athletes who are typical CrossFitters (ie seeking broad, inclusive fitness for life, not necessarily a specific competition), I'd have them train as narrow a grip as they could reasonably maintain. This is what Lisa did with Stephanie, but only a small minority of athletes have the flexibility to go this narrow. Most of the time, additional flexibility work is required just to be able to be able to maintain the "typical" snatch grip width.

If an athlete like Stephanie develops a particular love for heavy work, I would then do specific experiments with wider grips to see if better results could be had. But if not, I'd stay narrow to protect the wrist and benefit from the increased core stability requirements from a higher bar.


replied to comment from Tony Budding

Oh, crap, you had to go and give a logical explanation for the desirability of a narrow OHS grip, and you used the magic "core stability requirements", phrase (which I'm currently really struggling with regaining).
Now I'm going to have to go see how narrow I can go and still do them.

Thanks Tony, very useful bit of info.


Erin Davidson wrote …

Agreed on the "hup" part. I've been tempted to do the same for clients because it's what I say when I oly lift. :) I know it's disturbed a couple people a bit when I've done it for them and so don't do it anymore. Just my 2 cents.


wrote …

Very informative video. Just curious if the last 2 reps of the 3 rep max were legit, as the hips appeared to meet, but not break parallel to the knees. Great pr.


wrote …

Good vid, but I think she should've corrected the athletes front rack catching, she was catching it with her arms on her upper chest, not the upper delts. Doing so like that with a very heavy jerk would be dangerous (then again, a very heavy jerk should probably end up on the floor).


replied to comment from Tony Budding

Tony, the link you provided sounds very interesting, but unfortunately it doesn't work...


wrote …

A few comments...

1) First, i agree with Graeme in that the way Aardal was catching the bar was improper and shows potential for injury. She was pushing her hips forward, hyper extending her back as she lowered and caught the bar. This places significant pressure on the lumbar spine and with a heavier load, as mentioned, is dangerous.

2) Somewhat disappointed in the technical aspect of the video. I only heard one mention of shoulder activation, no mention of internal rotation, no call for a hold/pause at the bottom at any point. I was just hoping for a more in depth piece i suppose.

3) Tony, on the snatch, I am assuming the crossfitter using "as narrow a grip as one can reasonably maintain" is also under the notion that the increased distance is beneficial to improving work capacity? At the same time, a wider, more typical grip reduces the distance traveled and makes the movement more efficient by default. So would an athlete with ample flexibility, such as Aardal, still be better served with a wider grip on a snatch WOD given that their wrist flexibility is on par with the pelvic/pectoral girdle flexibility?


replied to comment from Casey Mathias

The link should work, but it doesn't. Hmm. I just opened it separately and copied the link. Here it is again.

If that still doesn't work, it is the third article down in December, 2006, which can be accessed via chronology or here

Yes, for the snatch, I would probably recommend the standard wider grip if there were no wrist issues. But, I would allow the narrower grip for a standard CrossFitter if they were not highly competitive and preferred the narrower grip for any reason. It does make the snatch a little harder, but the slight increase wouldn't be noticeable unless the athlete were truly pushing the limits of their ability.


wrote …

Split Jerk is awesome.

I struggled with the split jerk at the OLY Cert. My feet never wanted to seem to get into the right spot.


wrote …

Great vid, Thank you.

Just wanted to say that I am a fan of Lisa's anterior tilt ;)


Richard Meurk wrote …

Wasn't much talking about the overhead squat. More about getting in posiion for it(push jerk and push presh)


wrote …

These videos are great - I feel I learn something new everytime I download one from the crossfit journal. I'm trying to improve my OHS, but I find myself limited by shoulders and tris. My elbows do not straighten or lock - I get about 170 degrees open instead of 180. Any advice for modification of grip width or stance to accomodate my non-locking arms?

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