Overhead Series 1 of 4: Palms Up Overhead Squat

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One of the first things I look at when I’m coaching the overhead squat is whether or not an athlete can maintain their shoulders in an externally rotated position throughout the range of motion of the movement. The easiest way to tell is to look at the athlete’s armpits. Are they facing forward? Another way to look at this is to observe the elbow pits. Are they facing up and in? By externally rotating the shoulders, we are able to recruit more musculature to stabilize a load overhead. If you have the tendency to lose your overhead squats out in front of you, chances are, you are not maintaining external rotation. Here let’s learn about palms up overhead squat.


Over the next 4 weeks we will be giving you a few simple drills to help improve your position in the palms up overhead squat.


The Palms Up Overhead Squat is a simple drill that you can use to familiarize yourself with proper shoulder positioning in the overhead squat. It is also a diagnostic test to see if an athlete’s ability to maintain shoulder external rotation in the squat is dependent completely on their shoulder mobility (or lack thereof). Sometimes, tight forearms or immobility of the wrist can also be a contributing factor in inhibiting an athlete from achieving and/or maintaining good position.


If you are an athlete that struggles with maintaining external rotation, try adding this drill into your warmup whenever you are doing palms up overhead squat or snatches. 3 sets of 10 with a PVC pipe supersetted with 10 shoulder dislocates will be a good way to prep your shoulders. Once you become more proficient, you can do the warmup with a barbell.


For coaches, the Palms Up Overhead Squat can be a great scaling tool that you can use in a workout for athletes who are unable to maintain good position. There’s no sense in letting them further ingrain bad mechanics just for the sake of intensity. Scaling the weight way down and having an athlete squat this way will help them to squat closer to full depth as well as teach the body where the shoulders need to be in the movement. This is a temporary measure, however. For many athletes, maintaining position (after addressing mobility issues) is an issue of motor control. When speed is not part of the workout, allow the athlete to overhead squat normally and continue to relentlessly cue them to “show me your armpits!” or “elbow pits up”.