Progressing the Overhead Squat

Arms behind head progression

Each compensation can have several causes so it is important that to try and narrow down the potential reason for the observed compensation. The coach can progress the Overhead Squat test to try and identify what may be the faulty issue in the movement pattern. If the coach doesn’t do this they may not be able to correctly target the fault when they are designing training programmes.

The first progression the coach can utilise is the arms behind the head squat. The setup for the arms behind the head squat is the same as the Overhead Squat screen except the player is no longer holding a stick and their hands are clasped behind the head. If the player can now achieve a correct squat pattern and correct squat depth with this progression as demonstrated in the video, it indicates that the fault or restriction is in the upper body. More progressions of the Overhead Squat screen to further analyse movement faults are detailed in the adult online module.

Addressing the common compensations in the Overhead Squat

A common compensation seen with the feet is that they turn outwards during the Overhead Squat screen. Externally rotated feet are sometimes linked to tight external rotator muscles of the hip. It is important to ensure that the deep lying hip rotators are stretched regularly as demonstrated in the picture below. The player sits upright and crosses one leg over the knee. They gradually press the flexed knee towards the floor. A light stretch should be felt in the muscles of the hip. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

Another possible cause of the feet turning outwards is overactive or tight calf muscles. Foam rolling the calf muscle is a good way to reduce tightness and increase mobility. The video below demonstrates the correct way to foam roll the calf muscle.

A common compensation observed at the knees is that they collapse inwards. The muscle on the outside of the hip - the gluteus medius - is often the culprit. It is important to activate and strengthen this muscle to try and address this compensation. The Clam exercise as shown in the video below can be used. The player lies on their side with the knees flexed and one leg on top of the other. They then raise the top knee away from the bottom knee whilst keeping the feet in contact with each other.

To challenge the player and progress the strengthening of this muscle the lunge exercise as shown in the video below can be used. This challenges the player’s stability while strengthening the gluteus medius and many other muscles at the same time. The player steps forwards and descends into a lunge pattern (flexing at the knee while keeping the torso upright) and then returns to a standing position by pushing up off the lead leg.

The heel lifting from the floor during the squat is a common compensation. The calf muscle (made up of the soleus and gastrocnemius muscles) is often the culprit for this compensation. Stretching and foam rolling of the calf muscle can help fix this issue. A common soleus stretch is demonstrated in the video below. The player rests against a wall whilst flexing at the knee. They hold the heel in contact with the floor. Note that the left soleus is being stretched in the video.

The common compensation associated with the hip and thigh is an inability to attain good depth. This can be due to several different reasons and is therefore difficult to pinpoint the cause. Stretching the soleus and hip rotators as discussed previously will help. Completing a variety of exercises such as counterbalance squats and step-ups will also help the player to achieve greater depth.

The medicine ball squat is a good counterbalance exercise as demonstrated in the video below. Holding a medicine ball to the chest, the player squats as deep as possible. It is helpful to emphasise the transfer of weight onto the heels during the squat. Feet can also be placed wider apart than the screen position and pointed slightly outwards to achieve greater depth.

The step-up exercise is a good progression as it is single leg and challenges the player’s stability and it is demonstrated in the video below. The player puts one foot up on a box that results in the thigh being parallel to the floor. They then drive up through this foot to stand up on the box and repeat on both legs.

The torso leaning forward outside the base of support during the movement is a common compensation that occurs during the Overhead Squat screen. Ensuring good flexibility about the thigh and hip flexors is important for maintaining a stable upright torso. Stretching the quadriceps, as demonstrated in the video below is useful to include in a programme if a player demonstrates this compensation.

Developing a strong core is also important to maintain an upright torso. If a player’s core is weak they may not be able to stabilise themselves through the Overhead Squat movement. The plank is a very good exercise for developing core stability. The player assumes the plank position as shown in the video below and then braces core and abdominal muscles for the duration of the movement.

The arms not staying above the head and coming forward during the squat movement is another common compensation observed. This can be due to poor mobility about the shoulder. Stretching the chest muscles (pectoralis) can help address this compensation (see video). The player stands and holds their hands behind their back with the arms fully extended. To stretch they depress the shoulders while holding a neutral head position.

It is also important to stretch the latissimus dorsi muscles regularly as these muscles are often tight and can lead to this compensation. The latissimus dorsi stretch is demonstrated in the video. The player stands or sits in an upright position. They raise their arm of the side to be stretched and place the opposite hand over the elbow. They gently move the elbow into an upright position. This applies a gently stretch to the latissimus dorsi muscle. All stretches should be held for at least 30 seconds.