Human overhead squats take all the demanding core and shoulder elements of traditional barbell overhead squats, but trade predictable metal for a squirming, uneven, hard-to-stabilize human.
If you thought barbell overhead squats were hard, wait till you do one with another person. You’ll find your one rep max doesn’t carry over to a wobbly weight of living flesh, and you’ll have to adapt on the fly to your partner’s movements.
The Benefits Of Human Overhead Squats
Overhead squats of any kind are an amazing way to develop functional flexibility, improve your squat, and point out weaknesses in your midline control and joint stability.
It was a combination of handstands and overhead squats that developed the musculature of my shoulders enough to keep them from popping out of their sockets – a longstanding problem for me before I started strength training.
Overhead squats are so effective because they obviously and immediately punish faults in squat posture, movement, and stability. If you can hold the weight directly overhead in complete stillness – a nearly impossible feat, even with a bar – the weight isn’t so hard to bear. But if you move too fast, or wiggle and wobble, the whole weight can come crashing down.
You need great control to do an overhead squat and make it look clean.
With a human partner instead of a barbell, the job only gets harder, because unlike metal, you partner moves around a lot, and is unevenly distributed.
Because you can hurt your partner if you drop her, I highly suggest you master barbell overhead squats before you try it with a human.
What The Move Looks Like
Check out the video below for a full overview of the human overhead squat and the entries into it.
There are numerous ways to get your partner positioned properly on your shoulders so you can begin the exercise.
I mention two of them in the video above.
The easiest, by far, is simply to squat down and have your partner lay across your shoulders.
She’ll likely be mostly on one shoulder, with her groin area directly behind your head.
Secure her with one arm, and then stand up.
The Hand And Arm Position
Getting your hand positioning right is key if you want to avoid dropping your partner.
One hand is going to be be pressing into your partner’s lower armpit. The other will be behind the highest knee and up slightly, so that your arm is pressing into the side of the thigh rather than the joint.
You want to be actively pressing into your partner and kind of stretching her outward, so the hand on the leg is pushing toward her feet and the one under her armpit is pushing toward her head.
Once you’ve positioned your hands, push press her overhead. This means that you bend slightly at the knees and hips, and then thrust her upward as you straighten your legs.
You can alternatively strict press her overhead if you have the strength.
What Your Partner Is Doing
In the pictures above, my girlfriend, Brittany, seems like she’s just hanging out and relaxing. But the move actually requires that her muscles stay extremely engaged.
Essentially, your partner is doing a side plank with one leg off the ground, as Brittany demonstrates in the picture below.
If she lets her hips drop of shift to the side, they’ll hit your head and the movement will throw you off balance.
Your partner should also make sure her body stays on one plane to minimize the amount of movement her body is doing as you go through the squat.
The Human Overhead Squat
With your partner overhead, you’re going to go through a full-depth squat and then come back up again.
Inevitably, your partner will move around while you do this, and you’ll have to compensate.
Remember to keep your elbows straight, keep “stretching out,” your partner, keep your partners weight directly over your ankles, and press through your heels and mid foot.
When you rise back up, squeeze your glutes (butt).
- If you can already do human overhead squats, you might want to check out some of the other strength and fitness feats on this site.
- Intimidated by the idea? Consider building up a base of safer, but still challenging bodyweight exercises, and then coming back to this move later.