The Overhead Squat Assessment

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The Overhead Squat (OHS) assessment is a traditional two-legged squat performed with the arms held overhead.  This exercise asseses total body structural alignment, dynamic flexibility and neuromuscular control from a bilateral standing posture. 

When I look at a client’s total body structural alignment I am looking to see how the head sits atop the shoulders, how the shoulders rest in relation to the core musculature, how the hips and spine  move in relation to the shoulders and core as well as how the lower body is affected by all of the above.  

The upper body, core musculature, hips and spine can also be affected by how the legs are aligned through the knees and ankle complex. 

When I assess a client’s dynamic flexibility I am trying to see if certain muscles seem tight while others are weak.  A common example is if the shoulders are rounded the chest is tight while the muscles of the upper back are weak.   Your flexibility or lack thereof can hinder your movment patterns or make you compensate for overly flexible muscles. 

When assessing neuromuscular control I want to see if the body shifts to one side or another or if the person has trouble keeping their balance while squatting in a controlled manner.  I also get an idea of their overall strength.   Very deconditioned people have a hard time doing more than 1 or 2 squats. 

The Overhead Squat Assessment consists of the client performing a series of 5 squats with the hands raised overhead.  Go figure!  The client squats to a depth of average chair height or as low as they can without pain.   The OHS is ovserved from 3 angles: antierior (front),  lateral (side),  and posterior (rear). 

Photo courtesy of

I use the NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist assessment form to keep track of kinetic chain compensations for each angle.  It is a very handy tool and great to compare a client’s progress from one assessment to the next! 

From the front I am looking to see how the knees, feet and ankles respond to squatting.  I am looking to see if the feet turn out or if the knees cave in toward each other or splay out away from each other. 

From the side I note whether the client has excessive forward lean (more than a 45 degree angle) and if their arms fall forward as they squat down.  I am also noting if the client’s lower back arches too much or of the lower back rounds.  

From the rear or posterior view I check to see if the heels raise off the floor or the foot flattens inward from the arch to the toes.  I also check the hips for an asymmetrical weight shift either to the left or right. 

Each compensation is related to overactive and underactive muscles.  For each muscle there is a flexibility component, a stabilizing exercise and a strength exercise which will correct the muscle imbalances over time.   My clients typically see a 70-80% improvment of their kinetic chain dysfunction in as little as 4 – 6 weeks.

Next time I will be discussing the Single Leg Sqaut assessment and in future posts I’ll show you how to assess yourself!

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21 Responses to “The Overhead Squat Assessment”

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    The Overhead Squat Assessment | Workout With Sabrina…

  2. Sandy springs Garage Door installationNo Gravatar

    keep in mind, what a great online site and informative posts, i most certainly will add backlink – bookmark this web site? Regards, Reader.

  3. ShaneNo Gravatar

    I remember working out with the football team over the summer and all the things we had to do that today would seem barbaric. I was debating on playing my senior year but when I saw my friends with knee braces and injuries I had enough sense to realize that my life after high school might last a long long time and those injuries were not worth it. I stuck with the safe stuff like Tae Kwon Do. I would have been a great kicker though, didn’t think about that.

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  4. DavidNo Gravatar

    You do a more detailed analysis then most trainers.

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  5. Dale BellNo Gravatar

    Squats are a little hard to do I need a partial knee replacement but I understand the importance of looking and evaluating my posture and what areas need strenghing.

  6. Steve ChambersNo Gravatar

    Looks like I spoke too soon on the photos. This is an interesting way to make an assessment of some one’s health and fitness level.

    Steve Chambers
    Body Language Expert

  7. Eileen O'NeillNo Gravatar


    I would never have imagined so much went into helping people care for their bodies and getting them in condition – thanks for sharing.

    However, may I ask a question: what if a person is in such bad shape that they can’t even do an OHS? Do you have to give them then, so sort of pre OHS training?

    Secrets to using audio, video, blogs in yourESL, EFL, ESOL lessons are here!

  8. Lisa McLellanNo Gravatar

    I had to give this a try after reading what you look for. I felt my arms come forward a bit as I squatted. It was not an easy controlled movement. I remember you doing the assessment on me in Vegas but I don’t remember the results. I only remember that I needed work!!!

    Lisa McLellan
    Babysitting Services, Nanny Services, and Nanny agencies

  9. Trisha ChambersNo Gravatar

    I personally hate this move with a passion, but find it very effective. So, yes, I force myself to do it!


  10. Michelle MasonNo Gravatar

    This is very helpful to understand how everything is connected.


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  11. alam ghafoorNo Gravatar

    Will try this out when I get home.
    Think I would like a full assessment of my body and to know where the imbalance and weakness is.
    very helpful thank you.

  12. Scott Sylvan BellNo Gravatar

    Sabrina, this is something that I need to do. I recently started working out again and know that I am off in so many places.
    Scott Sylvan Bell
    Now go implement!

  13. MarkNo Gravatar

    Great post! Question: How long do people hold the squat? As improvement happens how many do you target for them to do?

    Direct Selling Advice, Leveraging Relationships for Long-term Profit

  14. Mike CaseyNo Gravatar

    Having had a chance to work with top trainers and chiropractors in country this is the great assesment to find out many things about a client or an individual. You give great detail in how to do this and why it is beneficial.

    Mike Casey

  15. Jennifer BattaglinoNo Gravatar

    I think if you watched me, my whole body would cave in and your assessment would be to not take me on as a client…
    I love how detailed you are and the care you take in assessing each client.
    You give credence to working with a professional.
    Jennifer Battaglino
    The Harwood Group – Tinnitus, Chronic Illness, Fears, and Anxiety

  16. OC Boomer Dating ExpertNo Gravatar

    Hi Sabrina,

    Seeing how you assess your clients fitness from all sides with this movement, your approach to total fitness is starting to make sense to me now from your expert perspective.

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell
    Single Boomer Dating Expert

  17. Mike NorrisNo Gravatar

    As I was reading this I was wandering if it was possible to assess yourself. Of course you answered that question at the end of your article. Will be waiting for the article on the self-assessment.


  18. Michael D WalkerNo Gravatar

    I really like the level of detail & attention you give to your blog posts & imagine that translates directly to your clients as well.

    I just did the overhead squat assessment move for 10 reps (cuz I’m contrarian) and my left shoulder and lower right back are now telling me things I had not noticed before. :)

    Very interesting!

    The Success Secrets

  19. Tim Van MilliganNo Gravatar

    I really like that you have a checklist of what things you are looking for when you help people. The best coaches always have checklists. If you find one that doesn’t, then RUN away as fast you can. Their only checklist is going to be: “How fat is your wallet.”

    Tim Van Milligan, helping you Make Money Online, God’s Way!

  20. Rob NorthrupNo Gravatar


    This is such a detailed analysis of the human kinetic chain.

    I like how you start out with one part of the human body and examine it with an exercise then you look at another part. And then how you reassess from time to time.

    Because the human body is really just a complicated “machine”… and it needs some maintenance.

    Seize the Day,

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  21. Sonya LenzoNo Gravatar

    Sabrina, I would think your post on how to assess ourselves is going to be extremely useful! Very
    Sonya Lenzo