Who said you have to squat on two legs?

Who said you have to squat on two legs?

Barbell Overhead Squat

Just like the front squat, the overhead squat has its roots in Olympic lifting. Although you will not be able to lift a particularly heavy weight with this movement, it will help increase your balance, shoulder and hip mobility which will carry over to your other squat movements.

Disclaimer: The barbell overhead squat is an advanced squat variation requiring a good level of balance and mobility. If it is a new movement for you, seek professional guidance before trying.

  1. To perform the overhead squat you will want to use a squat rack for safety purposes.
  2. To begin, set up the safety bars just beneath your maximum squat depth (this will need to be much higher due to the nature of the lift). Once this is done, you should set up the barbell at about the height of your upper chest and load it with the appropriate amount of weight.
  3. To un-rack the bar, adopt a squat stance beneath the bar. Taking the bar in a wide grip (1 and a half times shoulder width) in front of your head, take 2-3 steps back and set your feet shoulder width apart with the toes turned out to about 30 degrees. Now you will need to press/jerk the weight overhead.
  4. To begin the lift, take a deep breath in and hold it. Begin to lower your body by simultaneously bending the knees and hips, sitting your hips back over your heels and pushing your knees out in line with your feet. Keep lowering, until you break parallel (hips beneath your knees) - this will ensure full hamstring and glute activation. Ensure you hold the bar overhead with straight arms throughout the movement.
  5. Once you have reached your maximum depth, you should reverse the motion and drive up out of the bottom of the squat. Hips and knees should rise at the same rate until you are standing upright again. At this point you want to release your held breath and squeeze your glutes at the top.


Top Tips:

  • Make sure you take a deep breath before you start and do not exhale until you have completed the repetition. This will give you additional stability and power.
  • Keep your arms straight throughout the movement. Your arms and shoulders should stay nice and stable throughout.
  • Perform this exercise with a light weight and work on form before trying to go heavier.
  • Think of the overhead squat as more of an assistance exercise to help with mobility and movement patterns to improve your other squatting movements.


Single Legged Squat (Pistols)

The single legged squat is a big test of strength, stability and balance. Mastery of the movement will require a high level of skill, control and strength.

Disclaimer: The single legged squat is an advanced squat variation requiring a superb level of strength, balance and control. If it is a new movement for you, seek professional guidance before trying. It is also recommended that you work up to the full movement in several stages over an extended period of time.

  1. To perform the single legged squat you should begin by doing the movement onto a bench or high box.
  2. Work up to the 3 sets of 10 reps at parallel and then gradually lower the height of the box each time you reach 3 sets of 10 reps at the new height.
  3. Focus on lowering yourself slowly to touch the box and then driving up with power back to the start position.
  4. Approach this as a long-term project and be patient. It takes time but you will get there.


Top Tips:

  • Some people find holding a small weight in front of them with straight arms helps to balance them.
  • Performing negatives (starting at the bottom of the squat and rising up) can be beneficial for building strength through the range of motion.
  • Repetitions can be performed holding onto a pole located directly in front of you to help with balance if needed.

Do you want to receive more articles like this directly in your inbox? Sign up to our Newsletter.

ymca | 8 February 2016