Posted On March 8, 2023

Two unusual exercises: big benefit zero popularity

Over many decades working out in gyms, I have noticed that the value of an exercise is often inversely proportional to how often people do it. The exception would be the deadlift which seems to be relatively popular these days.

Two very beneficial exercises that are almost never practiced by anyone other than Olympic style lifters are: the overhead squat and the overhead lockout.


Overhead Squat

This movement is one of those rare gems that challenges almost every muscle in the body on each rep. It also enhances balance, intermuscular coordination, flexibility, and strength in some unconventional body alignments.

It is also a lift that can bestow benefits even when performed with no weight or a very light weight. In fact it is best to begin practice of this lift with a PVC pipe or broomstick rather than trying it with a barbell.

Always warm up with a PVC pipe or broomstick. Then progress to a light lifting bar and eventually to a bar with weights on it. If you are persistent this may take a few weeks or months.

The objective for fitness trainees (and powerlifters) is to get stretching and training support muscles in unusual positions. Dont worry about doing an overhead squat with any weight you cannot power snatch into position.

The first move is to bring the weight into position overhead. Take a wide grip as shown in the photos (me some years back). Explosively bring the bar from floor to overhead in one quick movement.

Olympic lifters have a more difficult way to get the bar in position that allows them to use more weight, but is technically very difficult. Stick with the power snatch unless you have a certified Olympic lifting coach to show you how to do it otherwise.


When the bar is at arms length overhead, gradually lower yourself into the deep squat position. When you reach full depth, return to the standing position. I suggest that you do no more than two to five reps in any set.

When you have finished, bring the bar back down to the floorunder control. Allow it to fall from gravity but guide it with your hands until it is well below your waist. If you have a lifting platform and bumper plates you may drop it once the bar is past your knees.

I strongly suggest that you master this movement without weight before trying it with a barbell. The unusual position will present a major challenge of staying balanced while controlling even a modest weight overhead.


Overhead Lockout

This is most easily performed as an isometric exercise using a power rack to provide the immovable resistance.

You will be holding a barbell at arms length overhead. You should set the safety bars (or weight holders) at a position that is roughly an inch below where the bar would be if you were standing with a weight fully locked out overhead.

Assuming the power cage is secured to the floor so that you cannot move it, push the barbell against the safety bar above your head with your knees slightly bent. Lock out your arms and shoulders. Then holding the bar tightly, try to straighten your knees while staying in the lockout position.

Hold the position for 6-7 seconds. Then relax. Repeat 4-5 times with a 30-60 second break between each attempt.

You will not be able to move the bar or the cage, but you should be generating a major push on your arms, shoulders, torso and abs with this isometric push.

The position is much like doing a handstand, except you are standing on your feet. Unless you do handstands regularly, your body will not be used to handling much weight overhead. This is an easy way to do that.

There is a variation of this using the Isochain that is equally demanding.

Hope you enjoy these sweet and mildly sinister exercises. Most people in the gym will wonder what planet you are visiting from.

Lift Big!


Written by Richard

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