The Overhead Squat for American Football

olympic lifting, snatch

The overhead squat is an important exercise for American Football players. It can build mobility, stability and strength in the upper and lower body.

You may be put off performing this exercise because it looks difficult. Well, it certainly isn’t easy but once you have the nack, it looks impressive but most importantly is very beneficial to you as an athlete.

The overhead squat is a key mobility exercise that transfers skills over to many other exercises, such as the snatch, back squat, front squat and overhead press.

It’s important to note that you can never ‘go really heavy’ with this exercise. So don’t use this as a stand-alone squat exercise to train legs as you won’t get the results you’re looking for.

Instead, this exercise trains strength and stability in the upper back and trunk. It is also a great way to obtain greater mobility in the thoracic spine as well as the shoulders, hips and ankles. This will allow you a greater range of movement in the squat, front squat and snatch position.

So how does the over head squat translate to American Football?

  • Greater overall mobility will allow the athlete to achieve better starting positions such as a O-Lineman 3-point stance or allow a receiver to be more settled in their 2-point stance. This is helped by learning to find your centre of gravity. If, during the overhead squat you have the bar placed too far back, you risk loosing the bar behind you. The same can be said for having the bar placed too far forward.
  • Increased upper body mobility to allow increased over-head range of movement enables receivers to be un-restricted in catches above the head, with little distortion of the trunk. Therefore, this should hopefully lead to more catches and touchdowns!
  • Increased shoulder strength through a mobile range will allow healthy tissue and prevent injuries occurring through im-mobile tissue or fatigue.
  • Combined with training the snatch, the athlete will increase their power output. This will produce better results on the field such as faster acceleration.
  • Increased trunk strength will enable the football player to stay in better control of their body through changes in direction or when blocking, thus increasing performance and decreasing injury rates.

How to perform the overhead squat

The overhead squat is a very technical exercise. Therefore it is advisable that you concentrate on your technique rather than upping the weights.

I would suggest that you begin with a piece of dowling wood before moving to an unloaded barbell, and then on from there.

This exercise is great to include in your warm up pre-squats.

  1. With the bar in a rack at a normal squat height, step under the bar.
  2. Hold the bar in a ‘snatch grip’ and step back out of the rack.
  3. Stand with feet flat on the floor, approximately shoulder width apart with toes in a 10 to 2 position.
  4. Press the bar above the head, arms locked at the elbow, with biceps facing the sky.The bar should stay above the crown of the head through the whole movement.
  5. Slowly bend the knees, hips and ankles to lower your body into a squat with thighs parallel to the floor.
  6. Keep your chin and eyes up.
  7. Maintain a strong trunk throughout.
  8. Pause for a second at the bottom before returning to the starting position.


It’s never too late to practice this technique, so get to it and start to feel the benefit!

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