In 2007, as a firefighter, I discovered an exercise regimen called CrossFit. The CrossFit methodology consists of performing constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity. This was a big draw for me because it related well to being able to perform my job.
In the beginning, I dabbled in CrossFit workouts sparingly and often there was an exercise called the overhead squat I could not properly perform. Naturally, because I struggled with it, I decided it was stupid, pointless, unsafe and not a functional exercise that I needed to perform. So I skipped it.
You may believe all the myths I once believed about overhead squats. From being too dangerous, or not an exercise you would perform in everyday life, I’ve heard and experienced it all.
Now, fast forward 14 years. The overhead squat has become one of my favorite movements and the truth is that overhead squats are the king of full body exercises and are a necessity in your fitness routine.
Below, is just a short list of the benefits you will see when you include overhead squats in your routine.
#1 – INCREASED FLEXIBILITY AND INJURY PREVENTION
I’ve heard quite frequently that performing overhead squats can be dangerous, which can be true, if done incorrectly and without a coach. However, when done in a progressive manner and with proper form and technique, the overhead squat is the BEST tool for improving flexibility and injury prevention.
During an overhead squat, we’re asking the joints to stabilize weight overhead and squat through a natural range of motion. This assists with not only building strength, but increases flexibility and improves your neurological connection.
By practicing a large range of motion, while keeping the torso upright through the squat it increases flexibility in the muscles and ligaments in the shoulders, chest, hip flexors, hamstrings, knees and ankles, making it the ultimate full body flexibility tool. I have not found an exercise in my 14 years of experience that has had more impact on my flexibility than the overhead squat.
Then, by building a neurological connection, you will be able to increase the number of muscle fibers recruited in each contraction. When paired with improved flexibility, it makes it a great tool for preventing injury and improving automated muscular activation inside and outside the gym.
#2 – IMPROVED FULL BODY STRENGTH
In an overhead squat, you’ll hold weight overhead, requiring stabilization of the shoulders and midline, and perform a squat, making it one of the best full body exercises of ALL time.
Because overhead squats utilize the whole body, you’ll gain rock hard, shoulders, quads, glutes, hamstrings, abs and back all in one lift! And on top of that, when performing overhead squats the body naturally releases hormones that increase strength and build muscle.
#3 – SIX PACK ABS
During the performance of an overhead squat, your abs and midline have to work in overdrive to stabilize the weight overhead to safely maintain an upright posture and squat through full range of motion.
In terms of building your six-pack, overhead squats are key!
#4 – IMPROVED CONDITIONING
Because overhead squats require the body to move weight a long distance (from holding weight overhead through a full squat to standing), they’re highly potent for increasing conditioning.
Moving weights a long distance is a critical piece of increasing work capacity. Being able to perform work in a short amount and having stronger legs, abs and shoulders will translate over to being able to attack hills better while running long distances, improve sprints and improve functional performance.
#5 – BURN FAT
As you improve strength, your body adds lean muscle. As a result, the body holds onto lean body mass better, increases your resting metabolic rate, burns more calories, and increases lean body composition.
Increased lean body mass is the KEY that results in an aesthetically toned body!
Overhead squats are much more than a stupid and unsafe exercise. They are a necessity for a healthier, stronger and leaner body. From strengthening your whole body, to injury prevention and improved conditioning, the health benefits are beyond comprehension, so get out there and start squatting with weight overhead!
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COACH PHIL KNIEP – Owner & CEO of Lincoln Nutrition & Fitness
Precision Nutrition L1 Coach
CrossFit Level 2 Trainer
3x CrossFit Games Qualifier