The Overhead Squat is an overlooked exercise, but if you happen to be an athlete, especially one cut from the fighting cloth, then you would do well to start adding this exercise into your routine.
Just why is this exercise so great? Because it works the very muscles you need to fire off powerful punches, everything from your legs, hips, core, glutes and shoulders is worked and if you have any weakness in any of these areas, the overhead squat will expose them. This helps you to then concentrate on your weakness and go about strengthening them as it forces you to work harder. Trust me, actually I guarantee it, if you add these to your workout, you will notice an increase in strength and punch power.
So how do you include these lifts into your strength and conditioning workouts? This exercise will work the whole body but will be especially hard on the legs and shoulders. When you’re having to use your legs on an almost daily basis running, jogging, sprinting and sparring – just how much time do you have to throw in a leg training workout with the weights?
For this reason, I recommend using the overhead squat during a period you do not have a fight lined up, if you do not fight and Box as a hobby then you can start adding these into your routine immediately. If you have a fight lined up you have to be very careful you allow your legs sufficient time to recover because running should take priority over weight training. Use lower weight in this case, if you are not preparing for a fight, then you can concentrate on a strength building phase and gradually build up to a heavier weight.
There are various ways to perform the overhead squat. You do not need to only perform straight sets. If you are new to overhead squats then keep it to the bar only and straight sets, once you have become accustomed to the movement I suggest using tempo sets. These tempo sets will add an extra dimension to the benefits gained from overhead squatting and give you the edge, namely power and an even stronger core.
What is a Tempo set? It is basically a set of repetitions performed at a specified speed(tempo) but the tempo sets I advocate for increased strength and power incorporate an increased pause at the bottom of the movement. Because we’re looking at punching power here, much of which comes from the hip drive and leg muscles, I recommend doing Tempo sets on the overhead squat. I suggest taking 3 seconds on the way down(commonly referred to as the eccentric portion of the lift, basically lowering down or ‘negative’ part of the lift) to bottom position on the squat, then pausing for 3 seconds holding this bottom position and then exploding or driving yourself back up(The way up is referred to as the concentric portion of the lift, or positive). Why do I like these for increased power? Because as opposed to ballistic or plyometric training(both by the way can also be used in your program, it is just not something I am discussing in this article) which looks to take advantage of the elastic components of our muscles, pausing forces you to face your challenge with strength and strength alone, so you have no stored energy to take advantage of and no momentum, it is your muscles you need to rely on to produce brute force. Pausing when squatting is great as it helps keep the core tight and increases your stability, so we’re working some of those essential muscles used when punching. The explosive drive up after pausing will increase both hip drive, strength and power, again something to aid our ability to hit harder because your explosive power and fast twitch muscle fibers are recruited to power the weight back up to starting position.
Begin with 5 reps of 3 to 5 sets. Gradually add weight to the bar to your next workout once you are able to complete all of the reps and sets. Rest periods for strength training the lower body can be up to 3 minutes. For conditioning, the weight would be reduced as would the rest period between sets.
The tempo can also be changed, it is not required to always perform 3 seconds down, 3 seconds pause and explode up in 1 second. You can also use 5 seconds down, 1 second pause and explode up.
To commence the movement stand in an upright position with your feet hip to shoulder width apart.
Ensure that you have a firm base and keep your knees slightly bent and maintain a tight core with your weight on your heels.
Walk into the power cage, rack or squat stands and hold the bar with a snatch grip(wider than shoulder width) and press it above your head.
Make sure your head is up and your chest is pushed out with a slight arch in your back.
To commence the movement, descend under control as low as you can whilst remaining as upright as possible.
Ensure that you only go as low as your flexibility permits without your back rounding and you don’t lean forward.
Make sure that your elbows remain locked out throughout the movement with your arms straight – this will be challenging the 1st few times you try the exercise as it is new to you and even an empty bar will be a struggle, you will see where your weaknesses are but try your best to keep the arms straight.
Once in the bottom position, drive upwards aggressively using your quadriceps and gluteal muscles(develop the explosive power)
Keep your core tight and ensure your back remains in a slightly arced position.
Once in the top position, take a breath and then repeat again.
Perform 5 repetitions for 3-5 sets and continue to practice this movement to perfect your technique.
If you want to take your performance in the ring to the next level and see just how much harder your punch can become, then check out my book Strength and Conditioning for Boxing – Workout Hits to get you Fighting fit! Available for download now on Amazon.
Boxing Coach Strength and Conditioning Coach Boxing Writer for the Ringside Report Boxing Author of: (Available for download on Amazon) The Boxing Cheat Sheet - Your Ultimate Guide to Ring Survival Strength and Conditioning for Boxing - Work out Hits to get you Fighting Fit! Forgotten Legends of the Ring - Ten Past Masters of the Squared Circle