Second: This is not the Overhead squat. No matter how much crack the publishers at Men Fitness magazine have smoked, inhaled, or ingested in non-traditional forms! Seriously! WTF are your editors doing?!?!
Step1: Starting position with bar overhead, arms fully extended with hands in the same position as the Snatch grip. Use active shoulders (push your shoulders upwards; similar to a shrug). Your feet should be in your normal squat position/stance with toes pointed slightly out and a tight buttocks.
Step 2: Squat down by pushing your butt back, keeping on your heels with a tight lumbar curve and chest up. Your knees should move outwards over your toes.
Step 3: Reach your max squat depth where the hips are at or below parallel. This depth is dependent on back flexibility and the maturity of your squat.
Step 4: Push out of the bottom of the squat maintaining the bar overhead.
So it seems simple enough, but looks can be deceiving. Besides the normal issues people experience such as low shoulder flexibility and lack of back flexibility, there are some major issues Amputees must overcome in order to perform this exercise. Let's take a look at Step 2 for a second. Keeping my heels on the ground is easier said than done. For me (a left below-knee amputee), keeping my right heel planted is easy but balance becomes an issue with my left heel being rigid and defaulting to the toe. I've been asked if there is a way to keep my heel down. I wondered this and asked the manufacturer of my foot if this was possible. Ossur responded by telling me the foot would literally snap before I would ever get the heal to stay planted. So, adapt and overcome is the name of the game.
Another issue that below knee amputees experience is what I call rimming. It's a crude term which I am sure means something derogatory in other contexts but here, it simply means that the lower you squat with weight, the more your prothesis' socket digs into the back of your knee. In my case, this means that bio mechanically, I have transition weight bearing from the normal patella tendon region of my knee to supporting the weight of the squat on soft tissue as well as the Hamstring and Posterior Cruciate Ligament. To say that this is uncomfortable is an extreme understatement.
Naturally, amputees, by virtue of not being able to maintain heel to ground connection and not having a normal range of motion in the ankle and knee, are not going to be able to reliably reach the "at or below parallel" standard. That's not to say that with lighter weight, an amputee might reach that parallel mark, but there is an element of danger in trying to do so without having practiced the OHS meticulously.
I have a few tips and tricks (some of which I practice and some of which I seem to have either screamed at me during a WOD or remember when I am sucking wind during a WOD) which may provide some help. Remember, these are just suggestions. Do not perform the OHS if you are not comfortable or do not have a certified coach who is willing to work with you on this (Thanks to my many CF Reston coaches).
- Practice Overhead Squats daily as a part of your warm-up. I use the standard PVC pipe and perform at least 3 rounds of 10 Shoulder Pass Thrus to 10 OHS. Gradually work up to 3-5 sets of 5 reps of OHS with the 45# bar.
- SCALE. Let me repeat; S-C-A-L-E!!! Do not try to be that guy (I have been that guy. Dumping every other rep, cussing, crapping on form) Do not go up in weight until you can comfortably perform the OHS to the best of your abilities. This is key; to the best of your abilities. You have limitations and are no doubt wanting to prove you are not "disabled". The OHS will disable you if you are not true to form and if you try to go beyond your capabilities!
- Use a foot with a heel! I know, sounds weird. I have crossfitted in a running foot, sprinters foot and the normal daily activity foot. You need a heel for this one. Your body will thank you when you are in the starting position and have the heel for stability.
- Keep your core tight and your shoulders active! Due to our lack of balance this is very important. Seriously. As you fatigue, the first thing to go will be active shoulders which will limit your ability to keep the bar in line with the base of your spine and will cause you to dump the weight. A good trick to keeping your core tight is to press your belly out as if you have a weight belt you are pressing against.
- Pick a neutral point on the wall to focus on throughout the duration of the lift. Not too high and not too low. Either of those and your balance will suffer, you'll dump weight and you be stuck snatching the weight and starting all over again.
- Don't stop and drop the weight until you absolutely have to. This is not to say that if you injure something or cannot complete the lift safely to hang on to the bar. Remember, the more you drop that bar, the more you have to clean it or snatch it back up and mentally reset to perform the lift.
- Finally, don't quit!! It'll be frustrating. So what! Suck it up, pick up the damn weight and complete the prescribed reps! You will never see me quit. I might not be the fastest, but I won't quit and neither will you!