3 Exercises To Quickly Improve Your Overhead Squat Mobility

3 Exercises To Quickly Improve Your Overhead Squat Mobility

November 03, 2022

3 Exercises To Quickly Improve Your Overhead Squat Mobility

If you see overhead squats in a workout and think to yourself “nope, I’m going to skip this workout, overhead squats are the WORST,” you are not alone. Many lifters and Crossfit athletes dread this movement, and workouts that contain overhead squats, because they are so difficult to master.

Not only do overhead squats require a large amount of full-body flexibility and mobility, they also require a lot of skill and stability as well. Because of this, overhead squats are often lifters’ least favorite movements to perform, and therefore, one of their weakest lifts.

However, if you’re a Crossfit athlete who is looking to improve their overall performance, then improving your overhead squat is a must! Not only are overhead squats in many different Crossfit workouts themselves, but they’re a key component of power snatches and snatches as well.

Most Crossfit athletes that struggle with the overhead squat do so because they don’t have enough flexibility or mobility to achieve a good overhead squat position. On top of this, the sheer number of areas that need to be flexible and mobile enough to perform a good overhead squat can lead many athletes to wondering what they even need to focus on to improve their overhead squat mobility. Areas that require adequate flexibility and mobility include:

  • Ankles
  • Knees
  • Hips
  • Thoracic spine
  • Shoulders

We at Barbell Physical Therapy and Performance have worked with many different lifters and Crossfit athletes who were struggling with their overhead squat mobility, and today we are going to show you three of our favorite exercises to quickly improve your overhead squat mobility!

Exercise #1 – Foot Elevated Bench Stretch

This is a favorite overhead squat mobility exercise of ours because it tackles ankle, knee, and hip mobility all at the same time! In fact, issues with lower body mobility are the most common cause of limited overhead squat mobility (even if you think it’s your shoulders). If you want to learn more about why, click here.

Here’s how to perform this drill:
  • Grab a bench and place the foot of the leg you want to mobilize on top of it
  • Grab the sides of the bench with each of your hands
  • Keep your foot flat on the bench, and use your body to push your knee as far forwards and down as possible, fully stretching your ankle, knee, and hip
  • Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, and perform 3 sets of 5 reps

Exercise #2 – Supine PVC Lowering With Foam Roller

This is one of our go-to upper body drills to improve overhead squat mobility as it addresses limitations in shoulder AND thoracic spine mobility/flexibility at the same time. In many cases, limitations in lower body mobility will cause you to lean forward excessively in the bottom of the overhead squat, which can make it SEEM like your upper body mobility is the limiting factor, even when it isn’t. However, some people do have actual upper body mobility limitations which impact their overhead squat position, in which case this drill can be very beneficial to use.

Here’s how to perform this drill:
  • Grab a PVC pipe and a foam roller
  • Lie on the floor with your feet on the wall and the foam roller against your back, just underneath your shoulder blades
  • Grab the PVC pipe with your snatch grip
    Simultaneously reach the PVC pipe as far back as you can, while extending your upper back over the foam roller
  • Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, and perform 3 sets of 5 reps

Exercise #3 – Paused Overhead Squat With Elevated Heels

If you have followed our content for any period of time, you probably have realized that our favorite way to improve positions and mobility for most lifts is to modify those lifts and spend more time in the positions we want to improve, and the overhead squat is no different. Because of that, this is probably our favorite drill that we use with our clients to transform their overhead squat mobility.

Here’s how to perform this drill:
  • Place an empty barbell on your back and elevate your heels on small plates
  • Press the bar into position overhead
  • Slowly squat down into the bottom of the overhead squat, and hold this position
  • Perform 3 sets 5 reps with a 5 second descent and 5 second pause in the bottom
  • As your overhead squat mobility improves, move to smaller and smaller plates over time, until you’re performing the full movement without any heel elevation

Overhead squats are a notoriously hard movement to master, but these are three of our favorite drills that we use with our clients to quickly improve their overhead squat depth.

Adding in these drills into your own routine can greatly help with your overhead squat mobility, but if you want to get results even faster and avoid the frustrations of trying to tackle this problem by yourself, click one of the buttons below to talk with a member of our expert team of sports physical therapists to see if we can help you out!

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