How To Do An Overhead Squat Test

The Overhead Squat Test is best done with someone else watching you perform it. It could also be done if you had a video camera or standing in front of a full size mirror. You need to make sure you can see clearly your entire body movement so you can pinpoint what your imbalances are.

How to Perform the Test

1. Stand with the feet shoulder-width apart and pointed straight ahead. Make sure the foot and ankle are in a neutral position. It is also recommended to perform this test without shoes so you can get a better view of the foot and ankle.

2. Raise arms overhead with the elbow fully straightened. The upper arms should line up with the ears.

The Movement

3. Squat to about the height of a chair seat and return to the starting position.

4. Repeat this pattern for 5 repetitions observing from the front and side views.

Basically, you are doing a Squat with your arms and hands over your head.

What to Look For

5. Watch the feet, ankles and knees from the front. The feet should remain straight with the knees tracking in line with the foot (second and third toe).

6. Watch the hips and pelvis, shoulder and neck from the side. The shin should remain in line with the torso while the arms stay in line with the torso.

Imbalances: Front View

7. Feet: Do the feet flatten and/ or turn out?

8. Knees: Do the knees move inward? The knees should be lined up with ankle and toe.

Imbalances: Side View


a. Does the low back arch? (Back should stay straight)

b. Does the torso lean excessively? (You should not be leaning to far forward)

10. Shoulder: Do the arms fall forward? (Arms should stay up by the ears throughout movement)

Checkpoints for the Overhead Squat

View Side

Checkpoint Pelvis and hips

Compensation Excessive forward lean

Probable Overactive Muscles Soleus (Calves), Gastrocnemius ( Calves), Hip Flexors, Abdominals

Probable Underactive Muscles Anterior Tibialis (muscle in front of shin), Gluteus Maximus (butt), Erector Spinae (back)

View Side

Checkpoint Pelvis and hips

Compensation low back arches

Probable Overactive Muscles Hip flexors, Erector spinae (muscles running along the length of the spine), Latissimus Dorsi (muscles on each side of back also know as wings)

Probable Underactive Muscles Gluteus Maximus (butt), Hamstrings (back of thigh), Core

View Side

Checkpoint Upper body

Compensation Arms fall forward

Probable Overactive Muscles Lats (back), teres major (back), pectoralis major/minor (chest)

Probable Underactive Muscles Mid/lower trapezius (back muscles), Rhomboids, Rotator cuff

View Front

Checkpoint Feet

Compensation Feet turn out

Probable Overactive Muscles Hamstrings (back of thighs), calves

Probable Underactive Muscles Calves, Hamstrings, Hip Flexors

View Front

Checkpoint Knees

Compensation Knees move inward

Probable Overactive Muscles Adductor Complex (muscles that make leg move toward body, Hamstrings, Quadriceps

Probable Underactive Muscles Glutes (butt), Quadriceps

When you perform the test, make sure to write down your results. Refer to the checkpoints for the Overhead Squat to determine overactive and underactive muscles. Improve your imbalances by using corrective stretches and strengthening techniques. By eliminating your imbalances you will be at a lower risk of injury, increase your range of motion and your overall performance will improve.

If you find that your muscles are overactive it is best to stop working those muscles and concentrate on the muscles that are underactive. Do these until your imbalances improve then you can go back to strengthening the muscles that were overactive as well. Let’s look at one example: You perform the Overhead Squat Test and you find that your arms are falling forward instead of staying by your ears. After consulting the checkpoints, you realize that your lats are overactive, and your traps, rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles are underactive. You think about what exercises you have been doing for your back and you realize you have been doing a lot of pull-ups and lat pulls. These exercises mainly target the lats. Knowing this information you can now look at exercises to improve this imbalance. Since the traps, rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles are underactive some good exercises to do would be prone cobras, high rows, bird dog, scarecrows, superman’s, and any other exercises that will strengthen the underactive muscles.

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