How to Do Overhead Squat with Barbell

Barbell overhead squat is a squat exercise performed with a barbell over your head. 

It’s the same squatting move as your classic squats except you squat down holding a barbell with your arms extended right above you. 

You often see weightlifters performing this exercise as a part of their training programs for competition. 

It is an advanced exercise and very difficult to perform for an average untrained exerciser. Though you may not have interested in becoming a weightlifter yourself, if you are a challenge seeker, this overhead squat may be your next move. 

Compared to traditional squats where your main focus is in working your lower body, this overhead squat is really a full-body workout as it requires significant amount of upper-body flexibility and strength to properly hold the bar above your head and balance it there as you perform the bending motion of the squat.

If you try it, you’ll see how this is not your typical squat! 

Because it involves a higher level of fitness, if you want to master the overhead squat exercise, you first need to develop good shoulder mobility, flexibility and strength.

If you have been training to build strength for this move, great! 

For those who are new or in need of extra strength and fitness level, here are a few exercises to start with: 

Inchworm exercise: This move helps strength your whole body including core and the stabilizing muscles required to perform the overhead squat.

Bodyweight squat: This exercise helps build strength and mobility in your lower body. 

Barbell overhead shoulder press: This exercise builds strength in your upper body, which you need to hold the bar overhead. 

Overhead Squat with a Towel: Practice the overhead squat holding a towel stretched above your head to get comfortable with the overhead squat move without overloading yourself with the external weights.

How to do it:

  1. Stand straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Using an overhand grip that’s about twice your shoulders width grasp, raise a barbell straight overhead and slightly behind your head. 
  2. Brace your core ,then slowly lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Pause for 1 seconds then slowly push yourself back to the starting position. 

Exercise Table

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As bonus this exercise is also great for sculpting your abs. When holding the barbell above your head, it challenges your core by forcing them to engage to help handle the weights.


  • As you grow more familiar with this move, you can squat deeper to further strengthen your muscles. 
  • Keep your lower back naturally arched.
  • Your arms should stay perpendicular to the floor for the entire lift.
  • Your arms should be completely straight from start to finish 
  • Keep your abs engaged through the entire lift
Misato Alexandre


After making healthy living a priority, Misato lost over 20 lbs in less than 90 days. Instead of weight loss being a dreading experience, living the lifestyle of health and fitness granted her more happiness and joy than ever before. She co-founded Fitwirr to make health and fitness simple for everyone and share her tips through writing evidence-based articles on nutrition, weight loss, and exercise.

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