Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Since we're on the topic of squat, let's continue on up and chat about the Overhead variety.
The Overhead Squat is a supremely challenging squat variation. Beyond being a ton of fun for your coaches to witness (especially the inevitable bail-outs), there is a lot of fantastic adaptation to be gained from this movement. Let's start with the obvious: Mobility.
Performing a well-executed overhead squat demands excellent mobility about the shoulder, thoracic spine, hip, knee and ankle joints. The recruitment patterns that one develops when all of these joints are working together is truly useful flexibility. This will carry over to many other activities. Think snatching, kipping pullups, jerks (especially deeper power jerks), handstand pushups etc. If any of the above mentioned systems are not up to task (especially those from the hip up), the legs will not effectively be able to transfer power up in to the object being lifted. I think we all know the result of that...
Moving past mobility, let's talk stability and I'm not talking about that goofy stand-on-one-leg-on-a-bosu business. You should all be aware by now that we are after a nice rigid midline. This is to keep the spine stable and safe. Kelly's hotdog-with-a-toothpick-in-the-middle analogy will serve us nicely here (the toothpick is your spine, the meat is, well, your meat). We need the meat to be fully engaged around that toothpick to keep it from bending (or worse, snapping in half).
Let's stand that hotdog up on end in our minds for a minute. Now place a tiny, imaginary dot roughly in the middle of the 'dog and a tiny imaginary load on the top of the 'dog. This is where your center of gravity is and where the weight would rest in a front squat position, respectively. The dot is also roughly where the pelvis meets the spine. Now connect the dot to the load. Let's call this line X. As your dog comes forward while squatting (inevitably in any squat variation you will have some forward inclination of your torso, there is nothing wrong with this, although more upright can typically be deemed 'more-mature' in the front and overhead variations), the load will create some potential torque about the dot. It is the meat's job to negate that torque by contracting and keeping the toothpick from bending.
Now, if we move the load a few inches above the dog and connect the dot to the new, higher load we get a longer line. Let's call this Y. As our dog comes forward there will be more potential torque on the dot due to the longer line of action between the load and the dot. This demands more contraction from the meat to keep that toothpick from snapping.
Here's a recap. Assume the loads are identical in the examples. Demands on midline stability are represented by the size of the letters:
Squat with line X creates potential torque. Meat contracts to save the day.
Squat with longer line Y creates potential TORQUE. Meat contacts harder to save the day.
Now, let's take a big 'ol bite out of that hotdog, right in the middle, right down to the toothpick. This simulates inactivity or weakness during an overhead squat. Let's start the experiment again...squat begins, load creates potential torque as the squat continues...no meat on one side of the toothpick....what happens? The toothpick fails (or rather your brain alerts you that the toothpick will fail and shuts your ass down demanding that you get out of the way) and the lift is no good.
Talk about a stability builder!!
If you can get past the mobility and stability demands, the balance of having a load overhead travelling through a large range of motion is another challenge all together...
In the examples posted, look how the toothpicks stay rigid and straight while the meat stabilizes. The torso drifts forward, but the relationship between meat and toothpick remains consistent.
MMmm Hot dogs,
at 8:34 AM