The Overhead Squat for Injury Prevention and Movement Analysis : Part 1

So you’ve decided to start exercising. Or you maybe have thrown down the gauntlet and you are already underway creating the body you want.

More power to you!

But what if I told you there was one simple movement you could use to assess your body and find out what areas you need to address to minimise your chances of injury and to optimise your performance.

It will take only minutes, but could save you days of pain and suffering while injured and unable to train.

Enter, the Over Head Squat.

This isn't aimed at Olympic lifters or Crossfitters who have already mastered the movement and are hoisting kilo’s over their heads in competition.

We are going to use this movement to pick out some typical areas of tightness or weakness that you can easily correct with some simple exercises. To improve your biomechanics, so you can work smarter, as well harder.

So many Men start training with fantastic desire, only to be dashed by injury and let it fall by the wayside. 

Don’t think that if you are not lifting heavy objects that you are somehow immune to injury. Injury rates for endurance sports, especially running, are higher than those seen in strength training endeavors.

The Over Head Squat features in Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Analysis system for good reason. It gives a wealth of information to the informed observer.

Lets dig in…

You’ll need a bar of some form. A broom handle, a length of pipe, even a golf brolly will suffice!

Get someone to video you doing this on a smart phone, or video yourself.

Stand feet apart, arms held directly overhead grasping the bar. And squat!

Try to keep your arms directly overhead and go as low as you can go.

Video front and side views of yourself doing the motion.

Below are video's of me doing this at The Way of Alpha’s exclusive, state of the art training facility! It has taken a lot of stretching to get under that bar...


There is a myriad of points we could pick out here. Increased curve in the low back (lumbar lordosis) with bar overhead. The forward head posture on descent (cervical protraction), the ‘butt wink’ or the tucking under of my hips (posterior pelvic tilt) at the bottom of the movement. The need for more thoracic spine extension or the slight rotation through the spine as the bar lowers.


But lets highlight a few of the most common problems, and your quick fix to getting them sorted out.

Problem: You can’t keep the bar overhead whilst squatting.

Likely causes: Reduced shoulder mobility and a stiff thoracic spine. Potentially weak shoulder blades muscles (scapular retractors)

Quick fix: Stretch the front (anterior) shoulder musculature, especially the pectorals and gain better extension through the mid part of your spine. Strengthen your upper back.

Suggested Exercises: Arching over a gym ball, arching over a foam roller, Spinal rotation on hands and knees. All pec stretches! Rowing type exercises that bring the shoulder blades together.


Problem: Your heels come off the ground

Likely Cause: Tight calf muscles (especially Soleus), potentially stiff ankle joint

Quick Fix: Weighted ‘heel drop’ stretches off the edge of a step with a bent knee, yoga style ‘down dog’


Problem: When viewed from the front, your knees or a single knee, drift inwards.

Likely cause: Weak external hip rotators, or tight groin (adductors). Potentially stiff ankles.

Quick fix: Deep squat groin stretch, single knee bends in correct alignment, resisted hip abduction.


In Part 2, we’ll show videos of the best exercises for these common faults so you can get started on fixing yourself before you break! 

Underestimate the importance of your movement patterns and biomechanics at your peril.

Even if you just want to run a few times a week to get leaner, consider what poor and stiff spinal posture does to your breathing mechanics.

Or maybe you just want to pump some iron and slap 10lbs of muscle to your frame. Well, if you are so tight and stiff you can’t properly pull back those shoulder blades, that upper back will struggle to develop any real mass.

These problems are most often caused by the occupational hazard of sitting. Most of us sit at a desk, drive and then sit on a couch at home. Over time, this can take its toll on even the most active individuals.

Time to get on it and squat!

Check back for Part 2 where we will demonstrate some of the most effective corrective exercises outlined above.