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Add a new force angle to your overhead squats to really challenge mobility.

We’re all after some good “functional” strength and athleticism, but sometimes the starting point for many exercises is simply too demanding. If that’s not the problem, then it’s also easy to “graduate” from several mobility drills, resulting in going through the motions without any form of progression – of course, this hardly serves the body after some time.

It often doesn’t take much to make a movement humbling, and instead of joining the masses by endlessly searching for ways to increase the load in a given skill, it’s worthwhile to think of things differently, and examine the physics.  The classic overhead squat is a perfect exercise to explore these differences.

A classic overhead squat demands mobility at virtually every load bearing joint, while simultaneously applying the correct amount of tension into the bar. The second your thoracic spine isn’t properly extending, the bar goes down. The same result will happen if there’s hip immobility, ankle immobility, or shoulder immobility. It’s definitely among the front runners for gauging joint integrity.

Mentioned above, this isn’t easy – not even with the empty bar. With that said, a simple change to the force angle of the load can simultaneously make things possible (for beginners) but also much more challenging (for skilled lifters) once attempted.

Enter the Band Resisted Overhead Squat

This isn’t your typical overhead squat, replaced with a vertical band resistance instead.

The difference here is the fact that the bands are positioned in front of the lifter. Not below. Just like my resisted scapular slide, this keeps the postural muscles forced to work since you’re constantly bracing against it, and not below it.  Now your posterior chain has to work that much harder to keep the hands in the same place in space. There’s also nothing to pull apart on to create tension, so that responsibility is all left on your back and core to handle.  To create mobility, we can’t only think of drills that “open you up” by way of stretch based moves. We need to think about making opposing muscles stronger to create more available range at the joint. This can help with that. Especially in the case of immobile shoulders.

This is a movement that will be very telling for muscular imbalances or movement inconsistencies, and a smart tool to add to your mobility toolbox.

Band Resisted Overhead Squat: Coaching Cues

  • Attach a light band to a post, making sure it’s lower than knee level. Hold each handle of the band in whatever way you find comfortable
  • Assume an overhead squat start position. The arms should be wider than shoulder width, with the elbows locked right out. The bands should be pulling your hands forward; don’t let them.
  • Maintaining the same overhead position with the hands, slowly squat down. Do your best to keep a vertical orientation, resisting the bands’ forces through your ROM.
  • Reach the bottom of the squat, and slowly begin your ascent “hands first”. This will help emphasize the arms staying straight.
  • Focus on sets of anywhere from 6 – 12 reps, depending on your ability and skill.
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