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The Best Exercise You’re Not Doing

Why you need the overhead squat.

The overhead squat is not a parlor trick for the incredibly fit. Squatting with the bar overhead and your arms fully extended is much more difficult than a standard back squat, or even a front squat, and requires a lot of core strength and stability. You’re probably not very good at it, and that’s kind of the point: The exercises you’re the worst at highlight the areas you need to work on the most. The overhead squat is definitely worth doing. Just check your ego, lighten the load, and do it right, following these steps.

1) Start from the bottom. This means using an empty bar or no bar at all. You can start by simply squatting with your hands overhead, elbows fully extended. Brace your core. You don’t have to hold your breath, but your abs should be very tight.

2) Squat low to the ground. Initiate the move from your hips. Stick your butt out and hinge at the hips before bending your knees.

3) Keep your chest up as you descend. Holding the weight overhead will make you want to bow forward and look at the floor. Keep your core tight and resist the urge to fall forward.

4) Drive through your heels, activating your glutes, to return to the start. In this top position you can breathe before going on to the next rep. Don’t relax or breathe when you’re at the bottom of the move.

Over time, as you build proficiency with this move, you’ll develop a stronger core and healthier spine, particularly your lower back. You’ll likely feel some aches in your lower back at the start and if they become too much, back off the overhead squatting for a bit. But if you stay committed, you’re going to address the problems that are causing those very same aches and pains.

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