Overhead Series 2 of 4: Pause Overhead Squat

posted in: overhead squat, shoulder, squat | 0

So you’ve learned all the banded overhead mobs, banded bully, the keg drill, and a million ways to smash your shoulders, lats, pecs, serratus, subscap, first rib, traps, rhomboids, ya da ya da ya da… You mobilize for HOURS… but your overhead squat still sucks… Have you tried overhead squatting to improve your overhead squat or even pause overhead squat? Woo! Mind blower!


I’ve been there before. I was a total MWOD nerd but my overhead squat was still severely lacking. I was seeing Dr. T once a month on a Mobility Tune Up Plan and after one of my sessions she gave me a bunch of pause overhead squat as part of my homework. I was a little disappointed, to be honest. I was hoping she’d give me some fancy new mob that I didn’t know about. I trusted her and I started with a PVC pipe and just did sets of 10 overhead squats with a 10s pause at the bottom. I did these every day, and sure enough, my positions got better and better. I became much more aware of where I was relative to the bar. My motor control and ability to activate and maintain tension and torque at the hips to balance my torso as well as in the shoulders to support the loud improved. My depth in the hole, the vertical angle of my torso, and my overall comfort in the bottom position… everything got better. My pause overhead squat got BETTER simply by spending time in the bottom of the overhead squat. Go figure!

In the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar we often get asked about ways to improve the overhead squat. Our answer there is also very simple: “overhead squat”.

Really guys, you can mobilize for hours upon hours until you go blue in the face, but if you don’t PRACTICE the movement you won’t get better. Movement is a marriage between mobility and motor control. Many athletes DO in fact have the mobility to overhead squat properly, but they don’t spend enough time making those neural connections required for the body to control itself through ranges motion. The only way to create new neuromuscular pathways is to practice.

For my athletes, I’ve taken the pause squat RX that Dr. T gave me and have taken it a bit further. It goes like this:
5 reps with snatch grip with 0:10 pause at the bottom of each squat
3 reps with clean grip with 0:10 pause at the bottom of each squat
1 rep with hands as close together as possible (ultimate goal is hands touching) with 0:10 pause at the bottom of each squat

Start with a PVC pipe, work your way up to a training bar, then move up to an empty 20kg/15kg bar. Do it as part of your warm up. I do these daily whether I’m snatching or cleaning or focusing on overhead work. It’s a great way to prep the shoulders and keep everything moving and happy.

Try it! Be patient with it. Your results may vary… It may take longer for some of you to see results. But, again, BE PATIENT. It will help if you keep at it. If you have questions or need more scaling ideas, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask. I’m happy to help!