You can tell a lot from your performance of the Overhead Squat—specifically the positioning of the thoracic spine, hip and ankle mobility, and how you use your posterior chain. Most often, you see knees shoot forward, heels rise off the floor, and the chest fall down.
It looks something like this:
(Learn how to perform the Overhead Squat Test.)
You can see from this picture that this is far from correct form. An abundance of issues are happening here. Many can be attributed to having a weak or non-existent posterior chain—the glutes, hamstrings and calves, as well as the spinal erectors, traps, and rear deltoids.
The lack of development of these muscles can cause a myriad of problems. We are going to look at three of those problems, and how each can be remedied.
Cause: Improper exercise form can put excessive force/stress on the quads and the patellar tendon. This stress can develop into tendonitis, creating an aching sensation whenever you squat or run. Athletes experiencing this issue generally perform these exercises with their posterior muscles virtually inactive.
Fix: Learn the movement pattern. Perform an Unloaded Squat or a Box Squat to review proper positioning. Adjust your feet and knees to proper alignment to make sure you're using the correct muscles. Squatting should prove quite difficult now that you're using your glutes and hamstrings. The focus should be on development of isometric and eccentric strength in the bottom position, forcing you to engage your posterior chain.
Cause: There's a good chance you spend most of your day in a seated position—and also hunched over if you're texting on your phone or typing on your laptop. This, coupled with the fact that you like to work on your beach muscles, creates a major imbalance between the anterior and posterior musculature of your upper body. Essentially what happens is that the constant strengthening of the anterior muscles and the lack of development of the posterior muscles severely weakens them, sometimes to the point of inhibition.
Fix: Adding exercises that focus on developing your upper-back musculature can help to realign your posture. The Wall Slide is a great option for beginners to feel what it's like to use those muscles. Simply sit with your back against the wall and perform an Overhead Press, keeping all points of contact throughout the movement. It may be nearly impossible to just sit up straight.
Not Gaining Speed
Cause: The inability to activate the posterior muscles of the lower body could stop you from generating maximum power and speed. To generate maximum power and speed from your stride, you must be able to achieve full extension at the hip, knee and ankle. If your glutes and hamstrings are inhibited, you will not be able to fully extend and maximally develop power.
Fix: Heavy Sled Pushes are a great way to learn how to reach full hip extension and engage your posterior chain. This exercise will reinforce the proper body angle during sprinting, as well as teach you to achieve extension at the hip, knee and ankle joint—which is imperative for reaching top speed.
Implementing these fixes in your program can make a big difference in performance, movement quality and injury prevention. You can accomplish a lot by adding in a few exercises that target those specific muscle groups and relearning movement patterns to increase activation.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock