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Flexibility for Front and Overhead Squats

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Front and OH squats were a huge sticking point for me for the longest time. I just couldn’t do them. At first I blamed my inability to perform either on arm or back size. Then after watching videos of athletes who were much larger and more muscular accomplishing the same lifts, my theories were proven wrong.

 I wasn’t as large as I thought.

I just sucked.

Why try and do these lifts at all?

Honestly because I couldn’t. Sure I didn’t have to do them, but I love a challenge. Plus if I wanted to learn OLY lifts in the future (The Clean and Jerk or the Snatch) I had no choice.

Since my size theories were wrong, I was back to square one, so an Internet search began.

As usual, my initial searches came up with some pretty lame advice.

My favorites from the lame advice category were.


  1. If you can’t do a front squat properly, cross your arms in front to hold the bar, because you’re probably too big up top to do them that way.So basically give up and cheat so you don’t have to learn how to do them correctly. That was the message here.

  2. Front squats are useless. - Ah! The old you can’t do them, so they must be useless response. When you can’t do something, please by all means ignore the problem and it will go away.

  3. Overhead Squats are a waste of time.Once again, another argument against an exercise because someone couldn’t perform it. Hmmm, I guess if this writer can’t do them, they must be a waste of time.

Luckily I was able to weed through the crap and found the answer I had been looking for.

I lacked flexibility. 

With this information in hand, I set out on a quest to overcome these lifts.

Fast forward a year and I have improved drastically. Sure I still have some flexibility problems, but they are going away slowly. The great news is that I can now perform both lifts properly, and am steadily moving up in weight.

So what were my issues?

Well for the front squat I had a multitude of flexibility problems. As much as I wanted to blame my massive arm size on the problem it went deeper than that (Oh and they aren’t so massive).

Wrist flexibility, tricep flexibility, back flexibility and shoulder flexibility were the leading causes. To overcome these issues I began doing daily stretches before and after each workout and throughout the day, which targeted specific areas.

For the OH squats it was shoulder and upper back flexibility, not back size. I guess the problem developed over years of heavy lifting and zero stretching.  Neglecting to work on flexibility during those years led to some pretty stiff muscles, which wouldn’t allow me to OH squat with anything more than a broom stick.

Here is what I did and continue to do.

  1. I make sure to do an overall body stretch each morning. This stretch starts up top and works all the way down. I leave nothing out, fingers to feet. This overall stretch takes around a half hour. If I’m running short on time I break up the stretches throughout the day. This has been a huge factor in improving my overall mobility.

  2. I stretch completely before a workout. I was amazed to learn that stretching does more than just help to prevent injuries. Stretching also allows your body to perform exercises better than when you just start cold. For example, to this day I can’t put my hands or arms in the proper position for a front squat unless I stretch my wrists and triceps first.

  3. I follow up each workout with an overall stretch. This is pretty relaxing and also allows me to give my muscles a deeper stretch because they are already warmed up.

If you want some information on all kinds of cool stretching exercises and mobility tips check out MobilityWod.com . This guy has all sorts of mobility videos that will get you where you want to be. Plus he’s much more knowledgeable on the subject than me.

*If you’re into working out purely for vanity sake, I doubt these lifts are going to be in your arsenal, but that’s a whole other subject. But if you want to look great AND be functional, the OH and Front Squat will help point out numerous flaws, which I guarantee have been hiding from you. From torso strength to flexibility issues, these lifts hide nothing.

Just remember, who cares if you look good if you can’t do anything with it.

See you in the hills



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