Squat To Overhead Press

Resistance training is well-known for its range of physical and mental benefits. Throughout lifting communities, the squat and the overhead press are both seen as functional resistance exercise staples. They use compound movement patterns, help to build strength, and power, and improve sports performance.

The squat to overhead press combines the two exercises to give you a functional, full-body workout. With this, you get the benefits of both in one movement. 

In this article, we’ve described the correct form, given programming tips, and discussed the muscles worked. We’ve also talked about the benefits and who should perform them. 

How to do

  1. With a pair of dumbbells by your sides, assume a shoulder-width stance. Lift both dumbbells to shoulder height, ensuring your elbows are tucked into your body in front of you. 
  2. Ensure both palms are facing inward with the dumbbell heads pointing in front of you. This is the correct starting position.
  3. Take a deep breath through your nose and engage your core. Perform a hip hinge by bending your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep a neutral back position with your chest up and head facing forward.
  4. Pause briefly at the bottom position. Drive through the floor using your legs to stand back up, keeping your elbows tucked in. 
  5. Once your knees and hips are extended past 90 degrees, press both dumbbells overhead until both elbows are fully extended. 
  6. As you press overhead, rotate your palms forward. Breathe out through the entire pushing motion. 
  7. Bring the dumbbells back to the starting position under control, rotating your palms so they are facing inwards again. 

Tip From Expert

  • Ensure you follow the technique cues stated above. If you notice any deviations in your form, reduce the weight and reassess. 
  • To check your form, you can use a nearby mirror or enlist the help of a friend. They will be able to get a better overall picture of the things you may need to improve on.
  • Make sure you pause briefly at the bottom before using your quadriceps to power back up. You should be using your muscles rather than momentum.
  • Start to drive your elbows upward once your knees come past 90 degrees. The squat to overhead press should be performed using one fluid movement pattern. 

Optimal Sets and Reps

When programming the squat to overhead press, use the table below as a general guide. The most suitable repetitions and set ranges should be based on your training goals.

Training Type Sets Reps
Strength Training 5 4–6
Hypertrophy 3–4 8–12
Endurance Training 3–4 12+
Power Training 3–5 1–3

How to put in your workout split

The squat to overhead press is a functional compound exercise. This means that it works a large number of muscle groups and helps to develop functional movement patterns. Because of this, it offers several useful applications when programmed correctly.

As a beginner lifter, your sets and repetitions should remain consistent whilst you change the load as you progress. This is known as linear periodization. It gives you a simple progression method and provides a training structure.

The table above can be used to find the correct numbers according to your training goal.

As an intermediate or advanced lifter, the squat to overhead press may be programmed slightly differently. At this phase of training, you'll likely need to also adjust the sets and repetitions. A good example would be to use the block periodization lifting model. 

During block periodization, you dedicate training blocks to certain training phases. Typically, you perform a high volume phase, high-intensity phase, then reduce your volume before the performance. Each of these phases may last for three to four weeks before reducing your volume for a week. 

As a full body exercise, the squat to overhead press should be programmed towards the start of your workout. This is before isolation-type exercises when your energy levels are still high. They can be part of a full-body workout, push day, or lower-body day as needed. 

If you're a strength and power athlete working towards better performance on specific lifts, this will be performed after them. Allow at least two to five minutes of rest intervals between sets.

In terms of frequency, performing them one to two times weekly with 48 hours of rest in between is suitable.

Primary Muscle Groups


Muscles located at the front portion of your upper legs, below your pelvis and above your knees. Consists of four parts.

Anterior Deltoid

Muscles located at the front of your shoulder region

Effect On Quadriceps

Your quadriceps are made up of four distinct muscle groups. These are your vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis, and rectus femoris. They are primarily responsible for extending your legs at the knee joints and flexing your thighs at your hip joints. 

During the squat to overhead press, you squat down with the dumbbells at the front of your body. Once in the bottom position, your quads work to extend your knees before you press the weights overhead. 

As a prime mover, the squat to overhead press is great for muscle growth and strength development in your quads. 

Effect On Anterior Deltoid

Your shoulder muscles consist of three heads; the anterior deltoid, lateral deltoid, and posterior deltoid. Your anterior deltoids make up the front portion of your shoulders. They are primarily responsible for moving your arms forward and upwards. 

When pressing the dumbbells overhead, your anterior deltoids bring your arms upwards against the resistance. As a primary mover, this helps to build muscle and develop strength.

Secondary Muscle Groups


Large, superficial muscles located at your buttocks just below your lower back area.


Muscles located at the back of your upper leg, below your glutes and above your calves. Consists of three muscles.

Erector Spinae

Muscles that span the entire length of your spine on either side.

Serratus Anterior

Small, fan shaped muscle that lies deep under your chest and scapula.

Triceps Lateral Heads

Muscles located on the back of your arm between your shoulder and elbow.

Triceps Medial Heads

Small muscles located at the back of your arms. Deep to the triceps long heads between the shoulder and elbow.

Triceps Long Heads

Large muscles located at the back of your arms between your shoulder and elbow. Most outside portion of the tricep.

Effect On Gluteus 

Your glutes, more commonly known as your buttocks, consist of three muscle groups. These are your gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. They are primarily responsible for stabilizing and extending our hip joints.

As you go down, you need to perform a hip hinge to get into the bottom position. During this, your glutes are activated when lowering down and pausing at the bottom.

As a secondary mover, the squat to overhead press provides a smaller muscle-building and strength stimulus for your glutes

Effect On Hamstrings

Your hamstrings consist of three main muscle groups. These are the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris. Their primary functions involve bending your legs at the knee joints and extending at your hip joints.

Your hamstrings mainly work alongside your glutes when lowering down into the squat position. As you use your quads to power back up, they play a stabilizing role. 

As a stabilizing muscle, the squat to overhead press doesn’t provide much of a muscle-building and strength stimulus. 

Effect On Serratus Anterior 

Your serratus anterior muscles lie deep under your chest and scapula. Often classed as chest muscles, they help to elevate your arms and aid in respiration. 

When pressing the weight overhead, your serratus anterior functions alongside your anterior deltoids. They play a supportive stabilizing role. 

Effect On Triceps Brachii 

Your triceps brachii muscles are made up of three heads. These are the long head, lateral head, and the medial head. They are primarily responsible for extending your arms at your elbow joints.

As you press overhead, your triceps help to lock out your arms as your elbows move past 90 degrees. Because of this, the squat to overhead press provides some muscle and strength-building stimulus for your triceps. It also helps to develop lockout strength for pressing movements. 

Effect On Erector Spinae

Your erector spinae are muscles that span the entire length of your spine. They make up part of your trunk musculature and are primarily responsible for extending and flexing your back. 

These muscles work with your other trunk muscles to maintain an upright body position. They are largely responsible for keeping the correct posture discussed above. 




You can use these for a wide range of unilateral and bilateral exercises. Avoid using momentum to lift. Ensure a secure grip to prevent drops.

Who Should Not Do The Squat To Overhead Press?

People With Shoulder Mobility Issues

During the squat to overhead press, the pressing portion requires you to extend both arms overhead. Your anterior deltoids are the primary movers and are responsible for bringing your arms up.

If you suffer from shoulder mobility issues that mean you can’t extend your arms straight up, work on this first. Even small deviations in form can cause your body position to change, placing more stress on other muscle groups. 

The squat to overhead press requires a coordinated effort between your upper and lower body muscle groups for safe performance. 

People With Lower Back Problems

People with lower back problems should address possible mobility issues or injuries before performing the squat to overhead press. 

The front loading position places less stress on your lumbar spine. However, you still use your erector spinae to maintain a neutral back position throughout. Exercises that provide added back support should be the primary focus. This allows you to work on the lower back issue and develop better core strength first. 

Benefits Of The Squat To Overhead Press

Works The Whole Body

The squat to overhead press combines two popular exercises. This gives you a compound movement pattern that works several major muscle groups.

The squat portion of the lift works your quads, hamstrings, glutes, core, and erector spinae. The overhead press portion primarily targets your anterior deltoids and triceps. 

If you’re looking for a full-body workout with several added benefits, the squat to overhead press ticks all the boxes. 

Aids Functional Movements

Performing functional movement patterns requires good balance and coordination. Balance helps you to move properly during daily movements such as walking up the stairs or getting into the car. Coordination is the way your muscles and limbs work together to perform different movement patterns. This works alongside your balance. 

The squat to overhead press uses three functional movement patterns; the hip hinge, front squat, and overhead press. Each of these requires balance and coordination to be performed correctly. 

By combining all three into one movement pattern, the squat to overhead press is great for developing these functional movements. 

Improves Endurance, Strength, And Power

The squat to overhead press uses several large muscle groups to produce a high amount of force. Similar to the push press or jerk, your lower and upper body work together to power the weight overhead.

With this, you learn how to generate force from the ground using an explosive movement pattern over a short period. This makes it a great exercise to develop strength and power. 

When repeated, the squat to overhead press is also great for improving endurance. This is due to the large amount of effort required to use a dynamic movement pattern. 

Enhances Cardiovascular Health

Regular cardiovascular exercise is well-known to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of disease. When combined with resistance training, the effect on cardiovascular disease risk maybe even better. 

The squat to overhead press combines cardiovascular exercise with resistance training. This makes it a great way to improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is squat to overhead press good?

The squat to overhead press is a great exercise that combines two popular exercises into one compound movement pattern. As a full-body exercise, it’s good for developing strength, conditioning, and mobility.

What does squat to press work?

As a compound exercise, the squat to overhead press works several major muscle groups. Primary movers include your quadriceps and anterior deltoids. Secondary movers include your glutes, hamstrings, serratus anterior, triceps, and erector spinae.


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