The Overhead Squat is a Myth.


This is what I have been asked very often and I have given the same reply constantly. "How much do you use the overhead squat and how much do you need to overhead squat to be able to snatch more?"

Before I answer that, let's look at the movement of the overhead squat. It's basically a squat with your arms fully extended and a weight held above your head. You then perform an eccentric movement to drop into the bottom position with your torso upright and the weight still overhead. It is important that through the eccentric (downward) movement, the weight is still within the base of support created by the feet. This should be the same for the concentric movement (coming up and performing the squat).

Now let us look at what the movement pattern of the snatch is. After the second pull and during the turnover phase, technically the weightlifter is bringing his or her body back down into the squat position. This eccentric movement, however, is not loaded as much as in an overhead squat as the weight is not moving in the same direction as the lifter for a very brief moment of time. What is more important in the snatch is the sudden acceptance of the weight of the barbell once the weightlifter reaches the bottom position. This is almost isometric to ensure that the weight is stabilised. Once stable, the concentric portion of the overhead squat can be performed.

rybakou_wrSee how the bar still moves up while he is moving down. Photo by Rob Macklem.

So what can you say about the difference in both of the movements I just described? Both have eccentric and concentric portions to the movement. However, in the overhead squat itself, the eccentric portion is often loaded whereas in the snatch, the eccentric portion is not loaded, happens so quickly and an isometric stabilisation in the bottom position is required. And it is because of this difference that I believe the overhead squat has little transference to significantly improving the snatch.

I say little as well because the overhead squat has still some purpose in improving the snatch. The use of the overhead squat should be one to improve the position at the bottom of the snatch. Being able to sit and remaining vertical in the hole of an overhead squat is what the overhead squat should be used for. So my conclusion is that even if you have a massive overhead squat, it has little to no significance to improving the snatch tremendously. There are other exercises like the drop snatch (snatch balance) to better mimic the requirements of the snatch and for better transference to the performance of the snatch. More importantly, if you wanna get better at something, keep doing that something as a start.

Stay Strong and Keep Snatching,

The Training Geek