I don't remember the first time I tried an overhead squat, and I don't do them regularly, but they are always a great squat learning tool. There are a few pointers that are critical:
#1. You must be willing and able to dump the weight if things go wrong. And, if you do them often enough, they WILL go wrong once in a while. Trying to save a bad position is a really bad idea.
#2. A lot of people are going to lack the requisite mobility to do these to depth well... "Load and go" is a very bad plan for those people. They will find themselves in a bad position almost immediately ON EVERY REP.
#3. Refer back to point #1.
#4. DON'T SQUAT WITH WEIGHTS AND BABIES! JUST DON'T!
(Seriously, what are some people thinking?)
Dan John. He has a way with words that comes from decades of experience, study, and practice. The following excerpt is from his classic article The Overhead Squat:
Monday found me in the weight room. I thought I would just “toss” in a few overheads, just to see what he was talking about. I knew I had to do a few warm ups, so I tossed a 45 on each side of the bar. I thought I would knock off a quick ten or so. I went to the rack, stepped back and let my hands slide out to the inside collars (at just over six feet tall, this is my usual snatch grip), then push jerked the weight up to arms length. Locking my elbows and really trying to pull the bar apart while holding it straight over my head, I sank between my knees, dropped to rock bottom and came back up.I thought: “Huh? Most not be warmed up enough.” Rep two. “Woah.” Rep three. Aren’t my legs stronger than this? What I was discovering was that the overhead squat requires total concentration, total lockout and perfect positions. There is no cheating; one can’t squirm, roll the knees or hips, or let other body parts help kick in. It builds “Dad Strength.”When my friends and I used to lift the old six foot bar with cement filled weights, we all thought we were pretty strong. Then, Dad would ask us to help him move a car engine or open a rusted jar of nuts and bolts, or put the ping pong table up on a rack for storage. Yes, I was the strongest kid in the four-house area, but every Dad had that scary kind of strength that allows one to pick an engine out of a Pontiac station wagon and carry it to the lawn.Overhead squats build that kind of strength. For an athlete, it turns your body into “one piece.” Unfortunately, for the past few years, misguided athletes have been taught to do upper body one day, lower body another. Or worse, front of the thighs one day and back of the thighs another. One day soon, people will be asked to train the muscles that pull the left thigh in, then rest that overfatigued muscle for the next 21 days. Wait, you’re right. It is already happening.