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Dumbbell Overhead Squat: exposing mobility sins in the highest level athletes.

With Single Arm Dumbbell Overhead Squats at the Crossfit Regionals this year, you're going to see some mobility holes exposed in some really awesome athletes.

The bottom position of a single arm dumbbell overhead squat is an extremely demanding position to get into. The mobility and stability requirements for this position are huge. You've got to have the mobility to get into the position before you can even think about trying to be stable in the position. If you have mobility deficits in your overhead position or in your squat positioning, prepare to be humbled by the movement!

This blog post is going to be targeted at the mobility components of the Single arm Dumbbell Overhead Squat. Know that there are large stability and motor control pieces that you need to address in addition to gaining the mobility. Once you free up new ROM, you need to use it in a controlled manner, then put it back into function (performing the actual movement).

The movement requires you to stay upright in the bottom of the squat with the dumbbell controlled over your center of mass. The further the DB moves from your center of mass, the tougher the movement will be and the more energy you will need to exert in order to control the weight overhead. With an 80 pound dumbbell overhead, any deviation of the weight outside the center of mass is likely to result in a missed rep (or close to one).

Lets look at some of the major requirements needed for the movement and ways you can prepare your body for task at hand.

Positional Requirements:

Overhead position is crucial and Ankle mobility are both crucial. If you are lacking in either of these positions you'll likely be in for a long day.

  1. Thoracic spine mobility - Rotation and extension

  2. Shoulder flexion

  3. Shoulder External Rotation

  4. Ankle Dorsiflexion

  5. Hip Flexion

  6. Hip External Rotation

  7. Hip Internal Rotation

Thoracic Spine mobility

This is probably the most important piece of the equation when talking about a mature overhead position. It's also one of the most frequent mobility restrictions I see in the Crossfit athlete. If you are looking for the place to start with improving your overhead position, its probably here.

Like I mentioned earlier in the article. Once you free up new ROM, you NEED to use it in a controlled manner. Banded mobilizations are a small piece of the puzzle when becoming more mobile. You need to own the range you have.

If you don't know where to start with your mobilizations, take the time to get an assessment from a movement professional. They will be able to tell you where you're lacking mobility and/or where all you really need is stability work. Motor control and stability deficits are often disguised as mobility deficits.


Take the shotgun approach and just work on all the areas listed above. However, the more specific you can be with which areas you address; the less time you'll spend mobilizing, and the better results you will probably see overtime.

Goodluck to all the regional athletes competing in the following weeks! If you struggle with the dumbbell overhead squat, give these mobilizations a try, and crush the movement on game day.

Dr. Michael Tancini, DPT

Ground to Overhead Physical Therapy


Phone: (619) 354-6591

Address: 10999 Sorrento Valley Rd, San Diego, CA 92121


Instagram @groundtooverheadpt

San Diego, California, Physical Therapy, Crossfit, Sports Therapy, Recovery, Rehabilitation , Movement Specialist, Knee pain, Back Pain, Hip pain, Shoulder pain, Specialist

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