Overhead Squat Assessment – Introduction
What is the Overhead Squat Assessment (and how will you ever memorize the muscles and compensations if you are taking the NASM CPT exam)?!
The Overhead Squat Assessment is a dynamic postural assessment that helps you identify muscle imbalances.
To perform the Overhead Squat Assessment, you or your subject will:
- stand with the feet hip-width apart, and
- feet pointing straight ahead
- both arms raised straight above your head, then
- squat to the depth level of chair height
- while maintaining the same alignment
There are common compensations that you will likely experience or see during this movement, for example:
- excessive forward lean of the upper body
- lower back arch
- arms falling forward
- feet turning outwards, or
- knees caving inward
Your Brain and the Overhead Squat Assessment
The Overhead Squat Assessment (OSA) will tell you how well your brain controls your muscles.
You are not only looking at the mechanical system of the muscles, but you are also observing how well the neuromuscular system is functioning.
Through the OSA, you can see which muscles are in an overactive state, and which are in a weakened underactive state.
Keep this fascinating idea in mind, and you will have a much better understanding of the OHS assessment.
An accurate Overhead Squat Assessment will reveal how you can make your muscles work better through mechanical principles, to get stronger and function more efficiently.
- Overactive (tight) muscles work too much, and
- Underactive (weak) muscles work too little.
Classic Hip Flexor Imbalance
For example, a classic imbalance of excessive forward lean arises from excessive sitting. Try it out yourself. Do a few repetitions of an overhead bodyweight squat as described above.
There is a good chance that you might experience an excessive forward lean. In this compensation, your hip flexors are one of the overactive muscle groups as the hip flexors are comprised of your rectus femoris (quadriceps), psoas, and TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae).
And if your hip flexors are tight and overactive, you know that your glutes are underactive because you sit too many hours in the day. When you sit, your hips are in a flexed position which causes overactivation of your hip flexors and a corresponding underactivation of your glutes.
The solution will be to stretch and relax your overactive hip flexors and strengthen your underactive glutes and thereby improve your functional fitness and ability to squat.
Whether you are a personal trainer or not, the overhead squat assessment will help you understand how you can help yourself or a client improve functional fitness.
For this reason, the Overhead Squat Assessment (OHS) plays a pivotal role in passing your NASM certification exam.
The NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) exam for certification as a personal trainer devotes up to 20 percent of the test questions on the Overhead Squat Assessment.
How Do You Remember the Overhead Squat Assessment Solutions Table?
But, a big challenge is, though, how can you ever remember the overhead squat solutions table which includes:
- Two views, lateral and anterior
- Four kinetic chain checkpoints
- LPHC – lumbar pelvic hip complex
- Upper body
- Five compensations
- Excessive forward lean
- Lower back arch
- Arms fall forward
- Feet turn out
- Knees move inward
- plus 34 overactive and underactive muscles
- and the corrective strategies to relax the overactive muscles and strengthen the underactive muscles
That is a lot of information to remember, but if you do, not only do you have a better chance of passing the NASM exam but in addition, you will remember valuable information that helps yourself and others immediately.
Overhead Squat Assessment Mnemonic Device
If you are facing this significant obstacle of how to remember the OSA solutions table, here is my mnemonic device which will help you memorize all of the overactive and underactive muscles.
You can create your own imaginary story of course, or feel free to use my fable of overworked elves at the North Pole!
It is tried and tested, so I know it works!
You get an invitation to visit Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. As you enter the workshop…
Excessive Forward Lean Compensation
Looking from the side (Lateral View), you see an ELF (Excessive Forward lean compensation) with a GASH (Gastrocnemius, Abdominal Complex, Soleus, Hip Flexors – overactive muscles) across his hips; he is at least the AGE (Anterior Tibialis, Gluteus Maximus, Erector Spinae (underactive muscles) of 1000,
Imagine an Elf who is 1000 years old with a Gash from Santa across his hips for not working fast enough.
Lower Back Arch Compensation
This ELF’s name is Larry B. Archy (Lower Back Arch compensation), and he is just sick and tired of working for Santa, to the point that he feels like he is living in HELL (Hip Flexors, Erector Spinae, Latissimus Dorsi (tight muscles).
Larry B. Archy is holding a large bottle of Ghee, but think GHI (Gluteus Maximus, Hamstring Complex, Intrinsic Core Stabilizers such as; transverse abdominis, multifidus, transversospinalis, internal oblique pelvic floor (weak muscles).
Arms Fall Forward Compensation
So, out of tremendous frustration, Larry screams out, AFF (Arms Fall Forward compensation)!
I cannot take this anymore!
I am so tired of my lazy boss Santa telling me what to do, and asking always, is it done yet?
Are the other elves that I am responsible to manage finished?
Did you feed the reindeer?
And Larry makes both arms fall forward in exasperation.
Larry exclaims to all of the other elves, let’s start a revolution!
It is time for a work stoppage!
So, Let’s sTop Production LTP (Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Pectoralis Major/Minor (overactive muscles)) in Santas factory, we have had enough!
And instead of working for Santa, We immediately need some R and R – MRR (Middle/Lower Trapezius, Rhomboids, Rotator Cuff (underactive muscles).
So Larry B. Archy quits Santa’s workshop and takes a vacation to Antigua beach, (Anterior View).
Feet Turn Out Compensation
At the beach, while he is sitting under the umbrella, Larry sees his own feet turn out (External Rotation compensation) to the sides.
And as an Elf, he knows that means he is hungry and has to order his favorite Sandwich of Bacon and lettuce SBL (Soleus, Biceps Femoris Short Head, Lateral Gastrocnemius (overactive muscles).
I am sure you know that Elves do not eat tomatoes or eggplant, nothing from the nightshade family, only SBL.
Larry is so happy with his SBL, that he made the right choice to bolt from Santa’s workshop to the beach, what a sandwich and he shouts out:
“Mmm Good, So tart and popular! MMGSP (Medial Gastrocnemius, Medial Hamstring Complex, Gracilis, Sartorius, Popliteus (underactive muscles).”
Knees Move Inward Compensation
After his delicious sandwich for lunch, Larry lies down on the beach, still in his Elf clothes, but he sees that his knees are exposed because the patches came off, and his knees move inward (compensation) towards each other.
Larry’s knees flap inwards and out like a Virtual Bat VBAT (Vastus Lateralis, Biceps Femoris Short Head, Adductor Complex, TFL (overactive tight muscles).
And finally, he sighs in happiness, Very More Only Good VMOG, which is how elves say very good, I made the right decision to revolt and flee Santa’s workshop, how Very More Only Good! VMOG (Vastus Medialis Oblique, Gluteus Medius/Maximus (underactive muscles).
Corrective Strategies for Excessive Forward Lean
Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) for Calves and Quads
Since the gastrocnemius, soleus, and hip flexor muscles are tight, do self-myofascial release (SMR) foam roll of the calves and quads.
How to foam roll your calves (soleus, lateral and medial gastrocnemius)
How and why you should use a foam roller
Static Stretching for calves and quads
Static stretching your calf muscles – lateral, medial gastrocnemius and soleus
The hip flexor stretch will help help to lengthen your tight hip flexors. Never underestimate the power of simple stretches to help resolve back pain or any other type of muscular joint pain you have in your body.
Even better, do SMR and static stretches to prevent you from ever suffering from joint or muscular pain!
Strengthening Exercises for EFL
Here are the sample strengthening exercises for the excessive forward lean compensation which indicates weak, lengthened, and underactive anterior tibialis, gluteus maximus, and erector spinae muscles.
Quadruped Arm Opposite Leg Raise
How to do the quadruped arm opposite leg raise
Ball Wall Squat
Stability ball wall squat
Short, tight, overactive muscles means that there is too much stimulation of these muscles by your central nervous system. Overstimulation of these muscles results in altered reciprocal inhibition of the antagonist muscles. For example, overactive hip flexors, a common postural pattern distortion caused by excessive sitting, results in a weak, lengthened, and underactive gluteus maximus.
A weak gluteus maximus will reduce your ability to produce the muscular force in any exercises that require hip extension, such as the squat and deadlift, two of the greatest compound exercises.
These weak muscles must be strengthened while the overactive muscles need to relax, to calm down.
Here are several examples:
For a tight soleus and gastrocnemius, as in the excessive forward lean and feet turning out compensations, use:
- Self-myofascial release for the calves and
- static gastrocnemius stretch
Or, for tight hip flexors, as in the excessive forward lean, lower back arches compensations, use:
- SMR (self-myofascial release) for the quadriceps
- static kneeling hip flexor stretch
In the anterior view of the OSA, overactive biceps femoris short head as in the feet turn out and knees move inward compensations can use:
- SMR for the biceps femoris short head, and
- static supine biceps femoris short head stretch
Overhead Squat Assessment – Final Thoughts
Why is the overhead squat assessment so important?
The OHS assessment puts you in a position of credibility and is an important tool to enable you to help yourself and others improve their coordination, function, and strength.
Because when there are muscle imbalances, they affect the neural communication between your brain and your muscles and hinder your ability to generate maximum force.
- You will immediately understand any outstanding postural dysfunctions
- Identify the overactive (tight) and underactive (weak) muscles through the overhead squat assessment
- As a result, you will know how to design a program to correct these postural imbalances and prevent injury
- This program design will help your muscles work more efficiently, and get stronger
- Make greater progress in your fitness goals, for example, as a result of tight hip flexors, you might not be making the gains in the squat you want.
- Or because of weak hamstrings, you might be experiencing the same lack of progress in your deadlift.
- Establish your authority and competence as a personal trainer and fitness professional.
- You have a better chance of passing your NASM exam if you memorize the OHS assessment solutions table
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