Updated: Dec 5, 2018
Front rack mobility, the bane of some peoples training regimen. You want to go heavy on the front squat or jerk, but you just can’t seem to get your arms into the right position or you can at the expense of some serious wrist pain.
While there are multiple factors that could contribute, the first step would be to address mobility/flexibility. Before we do that lets look at the front rack position itself for the front squat and jerk.
The front squat or the receiving position of the clean requires the bar to sit back on the finger tips and getting the triceps parallel to the floor. This allows us to create a shelf or rack to rest the bar on the shoulders and maintain as vertical torso as possible. Pictured above.
The jerk however is slightly different. Once we’ve stood the bar up from the clean we are looking at taking a firmer grasp on the bar and dropping the elbows down slightly. We want to achieve this while still supporting the bar on the shoulders.
Give them a try with some light resistance, can you get into these positions comfortably? If you can’t, your performance and safety could be compromised, so let’s look at some fixes. Remember with any mobility, flexibility or stability exercise, you should see immediate change. Test and re-test, if no change is seen, move onto a different exercise/area.
First up we want adequate thoracic extension. This is going to allow adequate scapula movement. If we have sufficient movement of the shoulder blades it will reduce the amount of external rotation required at the shoulder. Looking at mobility first we can use the trusty foam roller.
Thoracic Spine Rolling: https://youtu.be/6J-xrkxUN38
Next we can use some dynamic stretching exercises
Bench T-Spine Mob: https://youtu.be/ko1R64gwibU
Camel/Cat Stretch: https://youtu.be/aNA9yexH2yA
Side Lying Windmills: https://youtu.be/mRLnG_gfmU4
Bretzel Stretch: https://youtu.be/nSna67xFa5Q
Quadruped Rotations: https://youtu.be/4hlW2CQRuyQ
Next we can reinforce the new range of motion with stability to ensure we keep our new flexible upper back. Simply add some weight to the bar and carry out a series of 10 second holds with the bar in the front rack position.
Next up we want to address our shoulders ability to internally and externally rotate which will help the elbows stay up or allow us to spread the shoulders to keep contact with the bar. We can use a resistance band or pvc pipe for this.
External Rotation Stretch: https://youtu.be/ZPcDOIJJdsA
PVC External Rotations: https://youtu.be/SOTSz547tYw
Once we’ve opened up the thoracic and shoulders we may also need to look at the lats and pecs to allow us to get into the front rack position, especially with the jerk. If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk then chances are these areas could do with some work.
Lat Rolling: https://youtu.be/cQx4Iw38NqY
Lat Stretch: https://youtu.be/ElXAp3aXf_M
Doorway Stretch: https://youtu.be/45Qsivk6Hs8
Often overlooked the triceps could also be limiting our shoulders ability to externally rotate and thus the ability to keep the elbows up in the front squat.
Tricep Rolling: https://youtu.be/H2Niz_GIOAg
Tricep Stretch: https://youtu.be/PAlZsbl5rzQ
Finally we want to look at the wrists ability to extend and support our position.
Wrist Walks: https://youtu.be/t5Uwk8PoEz0
Planche Pres-ups: https://youtu.be/gjc7DxEpPa0
Banded Wrist Mob: https://youtu.be/MxhnTf7Y5Ic
While there are a lot of exercises here and a lot to work through, some simple assessments may be able to point you to the right area. To add to this, if you sit for 8 hours a day at work, then 10 mins a day on these exercises is going to struggle to make a dent in your deficits. Get up, take breaks, mobilise often and consider posture and wrist position at your desk.
Similarly, it may be that you lack the correct core stability to keep the torso upright leading to a drop in the front rack. Is your back squat considerably higher than your front squat? Have adequate mobility? Perhaps some core strengthening work could be the answer.
Dead Bugs: https://youtu.be/TsaOEMvfUmc
Bird Dogs: https://youtu.be/yDQi2V-aZGg
RKC Plank: https://youtu.be/RFy9XKqoWUE
Side Plank: https://youtu.be/l8hgA8tTZt4
Finally, carry out some front squats and then re-test with a heel lift under each foot. Dramatic improvement? Look at some calf and ankle mobility.
Ankle Mobility: https://youtu.be/KnNEwNEJXzw
To re-iterate, test and re-test, if it improves you’re on the right track. If you suffer from pain during front squats or overhead pressing then change to goblet squats or DB squats/presses until the problem is resolved, there is always a way around. Never train through pain!