Stretches and Mobility Drills to Prepare for the Snatch and Overhead Squat: Video Demonstrations

As we all know, the first time trying an overhead squat can be quite the experience.  It feels super awkward, its hard to put all of the pieces together and often times your body just does not feel like it can get into the right position.

NOTE: As of 10/16/2013 I’ve added a new video with mobility drills that I’m currently using.  Find the link to that article HERE:

Like all other exercises, mastering the overhead squat and snatch is going to require intense technical practice, probably more so then most other exercises.  The movements requires a ton of flexibility, stability and coordination to perform safely and efficiently.

One of the major limiting factors of someone’s ability to properly overhead squat is flexibility.  I decided to compile a video list and demonstration of my favorite stretches and mobility drills to increase flexibility for these lifts.  Some things to keep in mind with these stretches:

  • The longer you hold a stretch, the more of a permanent change you’ll create in that tissue.  The concept is called total end range time (TERT) and research shows that the longer you hold the stretch, generally the better results you’ll get (Flowers & LaStayo, 1994).  (Keep in mind that most of the research has been done in individuals with contractures which is a bit different then an athlete looking to increase their overhead flexibility)
  • The worse your flexibility is, the more stretching you’ll have to do.  Remember the concept of TERT, more time stretching = better results.  Daily stretching works best in my experience
  • If you have a flexibility limitation and can’t perform these exercises correctly you’ll be at an increased risk of injury.  Hammer your flexibility before trying to add weight to these exercises.  Training with poor flexibility and bad form will build poor motor patterns and future injury.  When learning to snatch correctly after having learned  how to do snatch with poor technique, you’ll have to break your old habits and then form new ones.  This process takes a long time and a lot of effort.

  • I honestly believe one of the major reasons why people get injured or hurt in crossfit is because they are doing exercises that require extreme ranges of motion like muscle-ups, ring dips and olympic lifts and they aren’t simply flexible enough to perform the exercises properly.  These exercises require a tremendous amount of flexibility, stability and coordination.  Couple that on top of a fatigued athlete in the middle of an intense workout and you’ve got an injury on your hands.  Let’s avoid this!
  • Holding a stretch for a prolonged period of time decreases the muscle’s ability to produce power.  The longer the stretch is held, the larger the decrease in power.  I discussed this topic in length HERE:  Because of this phenomenon I recommend spending a good 30 minutes really hammering your flexibility the day before a squat session.  In the warm-up before the session the same stretches can be used but I wouldn’t hold them quite as long and I would use some of the contract relax and reciprocal inhibition techniques more.
  • Another thing to keep in mind is that the hip flexors directly oppose the hip extensors, which produce power in the squat.  I would recommend thoroughly stretching the hip flexors immediately before squatting for the flexibility benefits as well as the added benefit of turning off a muscle group that may be decreasing the power output of the hip extensors (glutes mainly) during an exercise like the squat.
  • The reciprocal inhibition and contract relax techniques have a neurological component which provide fast improvements in flexibility.  They are very powerful tools, give them a shot.
  • Proper exercise technique is only one part of the equation.  Having the correct programming is another extremely important part of the equation.  I spend copious amounts of time creating competitive crossfit programming for those who wish to minimize risk of injury and promote longevity.  Learn more about the program by clicking HERE:

I broke these videos into 5 parts.  I’ve put coaching cues directly onto the youtube videos right below the video player.  I embedded the videos for your benefit, to see the coaching cues you’ll have to click the link in the bottom right of the video that says youtube(watch on youtube).  Special thanks to Steph Oliva (my beautiful girlfriend) for letting me video her doing the exercises.  I get a great deal of pleasure by helping others out there with their sport and fitness.  You’re allowing me to live my dreams!

I’ve also taken bits and pieces from very smart people out there, particularly Kelly Starret and wanted to give credit where its due.  Check out his blog here.

Stretches and Mobility Drills to Prepare for the Snatch and Over Head Squat – Part 1: Hip Flexors, Adductors and Anterior Capsule

Part 2: Hip External Rotators and Hip Posterior Capsule

Part 3: Gaining Thoracic Spine Extension

Part 4: Ankle Mobility from the Soleus

Part 5: Pecs, Lats and Shoulder Posterior Capsule

Hey guys, I’d love to hear your feedback about the videos.  If you enjoyed the videos please let me know by signing up for the newsletter found on the top right part of the page.  Also, let me know if you guys have any favorite stretches that you like to use to get in squat ready shape.  Brainstorming and sharing is what makes crossfit safer and more fun!

Happy Squatting,

Dan Pope



Flowers, K. R., & LaStayo, P. (1994). Effect of total end range time of increasing passive range of motion. Journal of Hand Therapy, 7(3), 150-157. Retrieved from

18 Responses to Stretches and Mobility Drills to Prepare for the Snatch and Overhead Squat: Video Demonstrations

  1. Is there a problem with the links for 3 and 4? I think they’re the wrong videos. I really want to see what you suggest for thoracic spine extension!

    • Sorry Jason! Thanks for bringing that up, not sure why the videos have the wrong link I’ll get to it. Nothing really snazzy in the T-Spine Mobs though. I really think we mostly need to be doing the right corrective exercises, but the key is to be consistent and get the work done.

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  4. Dan,

    For the ankle stretch, what do you mean when you say if you feel a pinch in the front of your ankle you might have something else going on? I can stretch my right calf fine, but my left I really only feel it in the front of my leg, almost like from doing toe raises??

    • I just meant that if you aren’t feeling a stretch in your achilles tendon then you may have some sort of restriction or “block” at the front of your ankle. The best way to clear this up would be some manual therapy from someone qualified. Try googling ankle mobility and mulligan MWM for ankle dorsiflexion. You might find some helpful exercises there. Thanks bud! Hope it helps.

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  10. Thanks for these! I am six months post-op FAI repair, and just beginning Crossfit; had an intense workout a couple of days ago with a coach who strenuously encouraged me to increase weight by advancing from a 35lb “female” bar to a 45 lb bar for snatches. I don’t yet feel entirely comfortable with my form on snatches; I have only been doing Crossfit for a month and my core is still weak, as is my balance due to my hip injury. Against my better judgment, I used the 45 lb bar. For two days now, I feel like I did before I had my FAI repair…similar pain and altered gait with lots of guarding. From now on, I am going to put my foot down…just as soon as I can bear full weight again, that is!

  11. Hi dan.
    I am one of those people who cannot OHS even with just a broom shaft. The bar just keeps moving forward. I think this is because of tight hip flexors and hamstrings (football and sitting in a car) and rubbish ankle mobility due to ripping ligaments several times.
    I will try these videos and see how things go.
    Any more tips and advice would be welcomed. .

    Thanks chris

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