Overhead Squat Assessment Muscles Mnemonic for the NASM CPT Exam

What is the Overhead Squat Assessment?

The Overhead Squat Assessment is a dynamic postural assessment that helps you identify muscle imbalances.

To perform the Overhead Squat Assessment, you or your subject will:

  • Stand with feet pointing straight ahead, and
  • The feet hip-width apart, with
  • Both arms raised straight above your head, then
  • Squat to the depth level of chair height
  • While maintaining the same alignment

There are common compensations that you will likely experience or see during this movement, for example:

  • An excessive forward lean of the upper body
  • Significant lower back arch
  • Arms falling forward
  • Feet turning outwards, or
  • Knees caving inward

Your Brain and the Overhead Squat Assessment

The Overhead Squat Assessment will tell you how well your brain controls your muscles.

You are not only looking at the mechanical system of the muscles, but you are also looking at the neuromuscular system, which muscles does the brain activate?

Keep this fascinating idea in mind, and you will have a much better understanding of the OHS assessment.

An accurate Overhead Squat Assessment will reveal how you can make your muscles work better through mechanical principles, to get stronger and function more efficiently.

  • Overactive (tight) muscles work too much, and 
  • Underactive (weak) muscles work too little.

As a personal trainer, the overhead squat assessment will help you understand how to help a client improve their functional fitness.

For this reason, the Overhead Squat Assessment (OHS) plays a pivotal role in passing your NASM certification exam. 

The NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) exam for certification as a Personal Trainer devotes up to 20 percent of the test questions on the Overhead Squat Assessment.

How Do You Remember the Overhead Squat Assessment Solutions Table?

overhead squat assessment nasm Image Credit HashiMashi.com Courtesy of NASM Fitness Essentials 6th Edition
Overhead Squat Assessment Solutions Table Image Credit: NASM Fitness Essentials 6th Edition – HashiMashi.com

The big challenge is, though, how do you remember:

  • Two views, lateral and anterior
  • Four kinetic chain checkpoints
    • LPHC – lumbar pelvic hip complex
    • Upper body
    • Feet
    • Knees
  • Five compensations
    • Excessive forward lean
    • Lower back arch
    • Arms fall forward
    • Feet turn out
    • Knees move inward
  • plus 34 muscles

That is a lot of information to remember, but if you do, not only do you have a better chance of passing the NASM exam but in addition, you will remember valuable information that helps yourself and others immediately.

Overhead Squat Assessment Mnemonic Device

You can create your own bizarre story or use the following as a mnemonic device to help you memorize the Overhead Squat Assessment Solutions Table.

overhead squat assessment Elf Mnemonic Image Credit Elf Movie
Overhead squat assessment Elf Mnemonic – Image Credit Elf Movie (New Line Cinema)

Lateral View

Excessive Forward Lean Compensation

Looking from the side (Lateral View), you see an ELF (Excessive Forward lean compensation) with a GASH (Gastrocnemius, Abdominal Complex, Soleus, Hip Flexors (overactive muscles) across his hips; he is at least the AGE (Anterior Tibialis, Gluteus Maximus, Erector Spinae (underactive muscles) of 1000,

Imagine an Elf who is 1000 years old with a Gash from Santa across his hips for not working fast enough.

Lower Back Arch Compensation

This ELF’s name is Larry B. Archy (Lower Back Arch compensation), and he is just sick and tired of working for Santa, to the point that he feels like he is living in HELL (Hip Flexors, Erector Spinae, Latissimus Dorsi (tight muscles).

Larry B. Archy is holding a large bottle of Ghee, but think GHI (Gluteus Maximus, Hamstring Complex, Intrinsic Core Stabilizers such as; transverse abdominis, multifidus, transversospinalis, internal oblique pelvic floor  (weak muscles).

Arms Fall Forward Compensation

So, out of tremendous frustration, Larry screams out, AFF (Arms Fall Forward compensation)! 

I cannot take this anymore!

I am so tired of my lazy boss Santa telling me what to do, and asking always, is it done yet?

Are the other elves that I am responsible to manage finished?

Did you feed the reindeer? 


And Larry makes both arms fall forward in exasperation.

Larry exclaims to all of the other elves, let’s start a revolution!

It is time for a work stoppage!

So, Let’s sTop Production LTP (Latissimus Dorsi, Teres Major, Pectoralis Major/Minor (overactive muscles)) in Santas factory, we have had enough!

And instead of working for Santa, We immediately need some R and R – MRR (Middle/Lower Trapezius, Rhomboids, Rotator Cuff (underactive muscles).

Anterior View

So Larry B. Archy quits Santa’s workshop and takes a vacation to Antigua beach, (Anterior View).

Feet Turn Out Compensation

At the beach, while he is sitting under the umbrella, Larry sees his own feet turn out (External Rotation compensation) to the sides.

And as an Elf, he knows that means he is hungry and has to order his favorite Sandwich of Bacon and lettuce SBL (Soleus, Biceps Femoris Short Head, Lateral Gastrocnemius (overactive muscles).

I am sure you know that Elves do not eat tomatoes or eggplant, nothing from the nightshade family, only SBL.

Larry is so happy with his SBL, that he made the right choice to bolt from Santa’s workshop to the beach, what a sandwich and he shouts out:

“Mmm Good, So tart and popular! MMGSP (Medial Gastrocnemius, Medial Hamstring Complex, Gracilis, Sartorius, Popliteus (underactive muscles).”

Knees Move Inward Compensation

After his delicious sandwich for lunch, Larry lies down on the beach, still in his Elf clothes, but he sees that his knees are exposed because the patches came off, and his knees move inward (compensation) towards each other.

Larry’s knees flap inwards and out like a Virtual Bat VBAT (Vastus Lateralis, Biceps Femoris Short Head, Adductor Complex, TFL (overactive tight muscles).

And finally, he sighs in happiness, Very More Only Good VMOG, which is how elves say very good, I made the right decision to revolt and flee Santa’s workshop, how Very More Only Good! VMOG (Vastus Medialis Oblique, Gluteus Medius/Maximus (underactive muscles).

Overhead Squat Assessment – Final Thoughts

Why is the overhead squat assessment so important?

The OHS assessment puts you in a position of credibility and is an important tool to enable you to help yourself and others improve their coordination, function, and strength.

Because when there are muscle imbalances, they affect the neural communication between your brain and your muscles and hinder your ability to generate maximum force.

Therefore, there are many benefits to knowing and remembering the Overhead Squat Assessment solutions table.
Here are a few:
  • You will immediately understand any outstanding postural dysfunctions
  • Identify the overactive (tight) and underactive (weak) muscles through the overhead squat assessment
  • As a result, you will know how to design a program to correct these postural imbalances and prevent injury
  • This program design will help your muscles work more efficiently, and get stronger
  • Make greater progress in your fitness goals, for example, as a result of tight hip flexors, you might not be making the gains in the squat you want.
  • Or because of weak hamstrings, you might be experiencing the same lack of progress in your deadlift.
  • Establish your authority and competence as a personal trainer and fitness professional.
  • You have a better chance of passing your NASM exam if you memorize the OHS assessment solutions table

What’s Next

The squat is a foundational movement to improve your health.

Learn How to Do Squats Properly With Or Without Weights and use this Beginner Squat Workout Routine to increase your functional strength and mobility.

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