Your Front Rack Has Some Issues Dude

We've all been there: you grab the bar and clean it sweetly up onto your delts, right under your chin, balanced delicately on the tips of your fingers. Your elbows might even be high at this point. You look over at your coach and smile, "Look at my rack dude!" And then you try to squat and it all falls to shite. "Blast you Front Squats!!! Why must you torture me so?!" 

As you might remember, last week we focused on wrist and forearm mobility in the blog post "I like to move it!" and I mentioned that this week we would be building that wrist mobility into our front rack positioning work. Some of the key elements to achieving the front rack position in solid A+ form are: thoracic spine mobility, tricep and lat flexibility, external rotation of the shoulder joint, and of course wrist mobility. So let's go through these elements and figure out how to get a better rack.  

THORACIC SPINE MOBILITY

Your thoracic spine is what we consider your mid to upper back. There are 12 thoracic vertebrae in your spine, ranging from T-1 to T-12, and we need a good degree of mobility there in order to be able to keep an upright torso when completing a front squat.

  The first exercise here requires a foam roller and a weighted object (pictured here with a 20# slam ball). Lay your torso, belly up, over the foam roller so that the roller sits right under your shoulder blades, right above where your sports bra or heart rate monitor would sit. Keep your bum off the ground while you reach overhead to find your weighted support. Once you've got a hold of the ball, straighten your arms completely (if possible) so that your biceps are touching your ears. Work to externally rotate your shoulders while keeping them locked out, this should feel like work. For some of us this initial step will be enough. If however you are still breathing and are able to keep your arms straight, you can begin to do some hamstring/glute bridges. Drop your hips as far as they go, without losing proper form, and then lift them back up. Keep lifting and dropping your hips for about two minutes. Eventually, after doing this for a week or more the exercise will become easy. At this point, you can begin to elevate the foam roller (yikes!). I like to place mine on a 15# plate, but start small, don't rush!

 

The first exercise here requires a foam roller and a weighted object (pictured here with a 20# slam ball). Lay your torso, belly up, over the foam roller so that the roller sits right under your shoulder blades, right above where your sports bra or heart rate monitor would sit. Keep your bum off the ground while you reach overhead to find your weighted support. Once you've got a hold of the ball, straighten your arms completely (if possible) so that your biceps are touching your ears. Work to externally rotate your shoulders while keeping them locked out, this should feel like work.

For some of us this initial step will be enough. If however you are still breathing and are able to keep your arms straight, you can begin to do some hamstring/glute bridges. Drop your hips as far as they go, without losing proper form, and then lift them back up. Keep lifting and dropping your hips for about two minutes. Eventually, after doing this for a week or more the exercise will become easy. At this point, you can begin to elevate the foam roller (yikes!). I like to place mine on a 15# plate, but start small, don't rush!

TRICEP AND LAT STRETCH

  One of the limiting factors in our front rack position is whether or not we even have the range of motion (ROM) to lift our elbows high enough on their own. Tightness in the triceps and lats can inhibit the high elbow positioning.  In this stretch you will attach a resistance band to the base of the rig. The height of your resistance band will depend on how strong the band is, how tall you are, and how insanely inflexible your triceps are. While facing the rig, wrap the resistance band around your wrist and hold on to it. Turn your body to face away from the rig while bringing your bent arm over head. Work to keep your arm and shoulder externally rotated just like in the last exercise, and try to keep your palm faced towards your head/the ceiling. Keep your elbow close to your head and do not over arch your low back. We always want stability in the lower spine and mobility in the upper. Hold here for one to two minutes before GENTLY releasing and switching sides.

 

One of the limiting factors in our front rack position is whether or not we even have the range of motion (ROM) to lift our elbows high enough on their own. Tightness in the triceps and lats can inhibit the high elbow positioning. 

In this stretch you will attach a resistance band to the base of the rig. The height of your resistance band will depend on how strong the band is, how tall you are, and how insanely inflexible your triceps are. While facing the rig, wrap the resistance band around your wrist and hold on to it. Turn your body to face away from the rig while bringing your bent arm over head. Work to keep your arm and shoulder externally rotated just like in the last exercise, and try to keep your palm faced towards your head/the ceiling. Keep your elbow close to your head and do not over arch your low back. We always want stability in the lower spine and mobility in the upper. Hold here for one to two minutes before GENTLY releasing and switching sides.

ASSISTED WRIST MOBILITY

  The last exercise here is a repeat from last weeks series only this time we have added a resistance band to induce traction. Attach your band at the base of the rig. Come down onto hands and knees. Bring your hand through the resistance band so that it rests right in your wrist crease. Walk your body away from the rig as far as you can. With your palm firmly planted, begin to rock front to back and side to side. Spend about two minutes on each wrist. You can include the other positions from last weeks post just by repositioning your body, however I find this angle to be the most effective with the band. 

 

The last exercise here is a repeat from last weeks series only this time we have added a resistance band to induce traction. Attach your band at the base of the rig. Come down onto hands and knees. Bring your hand through the resistance band so that it rests right in your wrist crease. Walk your body away from the rig as far as you can. With your palm firmly planted, begin to rock front to back and side to side. Spend about two minutes on each wrist. You can include the other positions from last weeks post just by repositioning your body, however I find this angle to be the most effective with the band. 

The thoracic mobility, tricep and lat flexibility, and improved wrist mobility should all contribute to a better front rack position when done consistently over not even that long of a period of time. I suggest testing your front rack position, going through all of these exercises, and then retesting. I can pretty much guarantee you will see at least some improvement. A couple other small cues I've heard around the gym that have helped me when front squatting are: neck neutral but eyes looking slightly up (instead of looking down), initiating the very beginning of the movement itself by pushing your hamstrings back as you pull down into the squat, and driving your shoulders up into the bar as you go to stand.

Hope some of those help and I look forward to reenactments of my titanic picture up top from y'all. Better those racks this week dudes and dudettes.