Workout of the Day

Mobility, or Strength?


Of all the movements we do at No Boundaries, the overhead squat and squat snatch often provide the greatest challenge to many people, and unsurprisingly so. These movements are demanding on the system in many ways, requiring above average mobility and strength, as well as other qualities such as stability, balance, and coordination. As such, the question often comes up with students who struggle with these movements: is it mobility, or is it strength?

Let me start off by saying that, more often than not, the answer is: “yes.” It’s both. That being said, most folks have more low hanging fruit in one category or the other, and can direct their efforts there to see massive returns.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Am I challenged to perform a proper depth overhead squat with an empty barbell, or even a broomstick or length of PVC?

Does my overhead squat improve drastically if I elevate my heels or wear lifting shoes?

Does the overhead squat get even harder if I narrow my grip on the bar?

Do I have trouble keeping my arms straight in the overhead position with light weight or a broomstick/PVC?

Is my squat depth a challenge in other variants of the barbell squat (back squat, front squat)?

Do I feel impingement during the overhead squat or squat snatch?

Does my overhead squat or squat snatch tend to get better the more reps into a workout I am?

If you answered “yes” to most or all of the above questions, there’s a good chance that mobility is your major sticking point. Shoulders, hips, and ankles tend to be the biggest culprits, and more often than not, fixing one set of joints will make the task easier for the others. Even 5-10 minutes a day for 50 days could be there difference between “I hate overhead squats” and “hey, these are kind of fun.” What’s most remarkable is that with improved mobility, the movement can feel easy -- it takes no extraordinary effort to maintain the once-challenging positions, and you can move with efficiency rather than fighting against your body’s own restrictions.

Now, ask yourself:

Is the overhead squat relatively easy with light weight, but suddenly becomes very challenging as weights increase?

Do I feel shaky in the wide snatch-grip overhead position?

Do I have a hard time maintaining a neutral spine, and often find myself over-extended in the overhead squat or squat snatch?

Do my shoulders or arms tend to “buckle” as weights increase?

Does my overhead squat improve when I narrow my grip on the bar?

Do my overhead squats or squat snatches tend to get worse the more reps into a workout I am?

If you answered “yes” to most or all of the above questions, there’s a good chance that strength is your major sticking point. Shoulder strength -- specifically, shoulder strength in a wide grip and in a position of extension -- tends to be the biggest culprit here. It’s important to recognize that you can be “strong” in your shoulders (say, you bench press a lot of weight), but be very weak in the challenging positions of an overhead squat. Position-specific strength is the name of the game with these movements. Core strength is another common weak link -- with a barbell placed overhead, the demands on your core to stabilize and transfer force to the bar are tremendous.

Of course, a simple set of question online can’t answer this question for you with any certainty or depth of insight; but the idea is to apply our efforts where they will yield the greatest return. Never sell yourself short by putting all of your eggs in one basket -- there will always be rewards for both improved mobility and improved strength -- but target your efforts where they are needed most, and watch the change unfold. We’re here to help you get there!

- PS


  • 5 min bike/row


  • Banded bully stretch (2 min/side)

  • Triceps smash (3 min/side)

  • Banded calf stretch (2 min/side)

  • 5 min squat hold


  • IYTWs - 2x10 each

  • Bicep openers - 2x8 each

  • 10 min skill work