In Coaching, Videos

October 08, 2009

Video Article

Setting up for the overhead squat is easy when you’re holding a piece of PVC pipe—but how do you prepare for an overhead set with some serious weight?

In this video shot at Rainier CrossFit, Lisa Ray of CrossFit Flagstaff takes Stephanie Aardal through the steps to properly getting substantial weight locked out before attempting any overhead squats.

Before you’re ready to squat, you’re going to need solid mechanics on the push jerk after taking the bar out of the rack. If the weight is heavy enough, you may even have to split jerk. Heavy weight will also require you to jerk from behind your head to better accommodate the wider grip required for the overhead squat. Technique is critical or you’ll lose the load before you even start your set.

After all the effort spent getting the weight overhead, then the real work starts.

10min 03sec

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

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15 Comments on “Setting Up for the Overhead Squat”


wrote …

Could someone explain bending that back leg on the split jerk to me? It always feels more solid if I extend my knee more and get my rear leg back.


wrote …

Question - if the OHS is an assistance exercise for the snatch (it really is...), why is this gal using a jerk arm-width when she should be using a snatch grip? She wouldn't be able to properly snatch any substantial weight with arms so close, so why is this technique she's using being praised? Great I get she has awesome shoulder flexibility, but that isn't the point of this lift.


wrote …

RE: comment 1 - alex: rear leg should be bent for a number of reasons. Your rear leg has relatively little strength from a very extended position. Think of your leg like a lever beginning at the hip and ending with the ground. By landing with your leg straight back, you are putting that load on the end of a longer lever arm. Also, it puts the quad/glute/ham complex at a weird position to do anything useful, and you end up landing with hip flexors as prime movers, when they should be stabilizing. Hope that makes sense. Think of it as a split-squat instead of a lunge. If you land with your back leg straight, the lack of assistance it provides will cause you to lean over your front leg and miss forward a lot once you get a heavier load on the bar.


wrote …

re: comment 2 george, I agree, I would have corrected her on that, she was also a little behind her shoulders sometimes, which is something I would definitely correct before it becomes too bad a habit. This is a habit I'm seeing more and more crossfitters get into in general, with their overhead position putting the bar behind their shoulders. My solution: freestanding handstand practice.


wrote …

Thanks Benjamin, makes sense.


wrote …

If your goal is to improve your Oly lifts, then the OHS is an assistance exercise. But if your goal is GPP, then the OHS does not have to be just an assistance exercise, it can also be a primary movement. If training for Oly, it would make sense to use a snatch grip. If training for GPP, it would make sense to use whatever grip allows you to handle the most weight.

Women seem capable of using a much narrower grip on the OHS than men. I watched Jenny Orr at the SE regional qualifier last spring, and her grip was almost a clean-and-jerk grip. She can do 16 reps OHS with bodyweight, so her technique must be effective.

I tried it but it messed me up. Perhaps men's shoulders are too broad and inflexible to do with a narrow grip?


replied to comment from Charles Haywood

"Women seem capable of using a much narrower grip on the OHS than men. I watched Jenny Orr at the SE regional qualifier last spring, and her grip was almost a clean-and-jerk grip. She can do 16 reps OHS with bodyweight, so her technique must be effective. "

While her technique IS effective, the real question is would she be MORE effective with a wider grip? (Eg can she do 17+ reps OHS with bodyweight at a different grip?)

I don't know if it's my shoulder flexibility, or hip?, or my squat form in general, but I cannot do nearly the same amount of weight with an narrower grip on the OHS. Doing the 'Boz OHS warmup' is good for this. (Note: I don't know if that's the name but I feel like it's been called that before....apologies if it was someone else.) Anyways, the drill is: Using broomstick/pvc, do 10 normal OHS squats. Then, do 10 normal stance, narrow-as-you-can grip OHS squats. Then, for set three, do 10 normal (wide) grip, narrow-as-you-can stand OHS squats. The ultimate goal is to be able to do an OHS squat with feet together and hands together....not easy!


wrote …

All things being perfect, a snatch-grip OHS is better. The narrower your hands are the further the load is from the fulcrum of your hip. This matters. I've got great respect for 16 BW OHS, but she's going to have to re-learn how to OHS when she starts to work on heavy snatches.


Tom Seryak wrote …

Yea the grip looked narrow; but otherwise, solid coaching.


Cody Limbaugh wrote …

So in regards to the bar being placed to far back too often:

I too correct this when coaching my athletes but it's sort of pointless. It (in my experience) is self correcting 100% of the time you begin to add a load. Even a 12 lb. practice bar corrects this. The only reason we see it so much is that we coach with PVC. Notice in the video it was not an issue after the FIRST loaded rep.

Great coaching Lisa, as usual. I would love to see this one-on-one session re-taught with someone less flexible (like 90% of the people who come into my gym).


wrote …

I've seen it too far back with load as well. The athlete tends to get the load over their center of balance (has to happen) but push the head and shoulders way out in front and the butt way behind, kinda like the gymnastics "ta da!" pose, only with weight overhead, putting lots of torque on the midline. Kinda clunky to type it out, but it sucks.. inefficient and dangerous. Just something to look out for. If you're an experienced coach I doubt this is a big problem but I've seen reasonably experienced crossfitters with this habit. I think it originated with the "let me see your ear" standard. I think it's an alright standard but under poor supervision this habit can develop quick.


wrote …

Cool, glad to see I wasn't the only one thinking this.


alvin scafidi wrote …

Awesome coaching!!! even better workout pants:)


replied to comment from Matt Solomon

Yes I did use a narrow clean/jerk grip at the SE Games. Let me be clear on the reason why. Yes I have great shoulder flexibility...but the reason I used this grip was because it was faster than cleaning, jerking, placing on the back, regripping, and jerking again. It was also more efficient than jerking and trying to change my grip. Could I have snatched it up??? Yeah but.....after the 1000 row I didnt want to have to think. 95 lbs was a very manageable weight for me to a narrow grip, so I did.
I recommend using ALL different varieties of grips. I change it up all the time. In doing so it benefited me at that moment. The heavier the weight for the OHS the wider my grip. I did not do 16 BW OHS with my jerk grip. I snatch WIDE as well. =)


wrote …

relatively new to cross fit. i searched all the overhead squat videos and articles i could find. i need something even more basic. i cant get my arms to stay in a position far enough back to allow me to balance through the movement. i can front and back squat with good form. i just cant do anything overhead. i can barely do 1 overhead with just my arms. any links to other articles or videos i am missing?


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