Mobility Minute #9: Bodyweight Overhead Squat Test

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One of my favorite tests to use in the clinic has to be the overhead squat test. I have used this test for years since learning the NASM’s Performance Enhancement Specialist system while an undergrad (I use an altered version of their test now). This test is very simple and quick, yet provides a good deal of information regarding an individual’s movement deficiencies. Add in a step down test, some hopping/landing, a trunk stability pushup, and running analysis you will have a great picture of how an athlete moves.

To perform this test, have the athlete/patient raise their arms overhead so that it is in line with their ears (if able). With a shoulder width and barefoot stance, have them squat down as low as they are able 3-5 times while observing them from the front, side, and back.

Overhead Squat

From the front and back view look at the following:

A. Knee valgus (aka medial knee displacement) – the knees moving towards each other as the athlete descends or ascends. Compare the below picture to the above.

B. Feet rotating outwards

C. Feet collapsing – often associated with knee valgus


A) Knee Valgus Collapse B) Feet Out C) Foot Collapse

Feet turning outwards may indicate a dorsiflexion limitation, tight hamstrings or TFL, and weak glutes. Knee valgus may be from dorsiflexion restrictions, adductor overactivity, and weak glutes. Foot collapse may indication overactivity of peroneals, gastrocs, TFL or under activity of the tibialis muscles or glute med.

From a side view watch for the following faults:

A) Arm Drop B) Excessive Arching C) Low Back Rounding D) Heel Rise E) Forward Head F) Excessive Forward Lean

A) Arm Drop B) Excessive Arching C) Low Back Rounding D) Heel Rise E) Forward Head F) Excessive Forward Lean

A. Arm drop may indicate tight lats or other shoulder mobility restrictions. It may also indicate a weakness in the scapular musculature.

B. Excessive arching is often the result of tightness in the erectors, hip flexors, or lats. Glute weakness and core instability often accompanies this as well.

C. Low back rounding may be due to hip joint range of motion restrictions, dorsiflexion limitations, and under activity of the core/glutes.

D. Heel rise is most likely from restrictions of dorsiflexion.

E. Forward head is likely due to a combination of cervical muscle and joint restrictions, as well as weakness/under activity of postural stabilizers.

F. Excessive forward lean is often from excessive activity of the calf muscles, hip flexors, and abdominals. Weakness of the anterior tibialis, glutes, and erector spinae may also be the cause.

  One thought on “Mobility Minute #9: Bodyweight Overhead Squat Test

  1. Colenso
    April 29, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Very useful. Thank you. For a complete perspective, however, what would make these examples even more useful for me would be to see examples of the perfect overhead squat, done by males and females, of different ages. Also, to be able to observe the effects of age. For example, at one end of the spectrum, to be able to see the typical effects of ageing on the overhead squat done by eighty-year-olds, say. At the other end of the age spectrum, how easily and commonly do toddlers, say, execute the perfect overhead squat?

    • April 29, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      Thanks for your reply.

      I tend to write for more athletic populations but you can find some great examples of overhead squats by kids online. My question for the older adults would be is the environment we currently live in a huge factor in older adults losing mobility to perform squats? Around the world many people sit in rock bottom squats instead of chairs and I bet their older adults would have better squats than US seniors who sit in chairs all day

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