The overhead squat isn’t a mobility screen. It’s a test of…



Post Category: For Coaches, For Gym Owners


The overhead squat isn’t a mobility screen. It’s a test of skill that most people fail and is irrelevant to their life.

What’s the utility of using the overhead squat as a mobility screen for almost any population?


What actionable data does an overhead squat provide for a trainer?

None, unless that person has the specific goal to overhead squat and or they plan to compete in a sport like Olympic weight lifting where the athletic carryover is obvious. 

Even then, we have to return to the initial statement. “The overhead squat isn’t a mobility screen. It’s a test of skill…”

Mobility is a component of skill, but you can’t examine mobility by testing skill; there are too many variables at play, and it’s impossible to parse them out accurately.

Whenever we bring this up with coaches who use the overhead squat to screen mobility, their line of argument looks something like this.

“Well, it tells us if they have enough mobility in their________(fill in the blank joint), and because of my experience, I know what’s happening.”

The truth is that we imagine we know what’s happening, but we rarely get the whole picture. 

Is the person cantilevering forward during the overhead squat because they lack dorsiflexion or because they lack hip flexion and are compensating with their lower back?

Maybe it’s neither, maybe the movement is just new to them, and they don’t have the body awareness to piece together everything to execute an overhead squat.

That’s why the overhead squat is ineffective for screening mobility. It’s a test of skill and coordination. 

Skill and coordination are attributes at the very top of the hierarchy of needs.

To have coordination and skill, you need flexibility and mobility first, and if that's the information you want to collect, you need to collect it directly by assessing joint by joint. 

There’s no need to guess or try and follow your gut as to why they’re cantilevering forward. 

Just check the mobility at each joint.

Check ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion, hip flexion, shoulder flexion, wrist extension, and see if they’re all up to snuff. 

If they’re not, you’ve found your lowest-hanging fruit. 

If they are, then you know there isn’t a mobility problem, and you won’t waste your time trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

The other unfortunate side effect of using the overhead squat to screen for mobility is that you make the new clients feel foolish. 

Most people miserably fail at overhead squatting the first time around. 

Is the intention of the screen to make them feel utterly inadequate, or is it to collect information about their movement capacity?

Hopefully, it's the latter.

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