One of the biggest things athletes tend to struggle with when it comes to Olympic lifting is getting into and maintaining a solid front rack position. The front rack position is most commonly used for front squats, cleans, and pressing the bar into an overhead position. What exactly does a good front rack position entail?
- “Elbows High”
The elbows should sit high enough so that the triceps are parallel to the floor. Athletes should be able to maintain this position so that the bar is resting on the front of the shoulders rather than being held at chest height. Ideally and athlete should be able to release their hands from the bar and still have that bar resting on the front of their shoulders with no assistance
- Engage the Lats
Keeping the lats engaged while slightly elevating and protracting the scapula will help increase midline stabilization. This helps to create a solid “shelf” for the barbell to rest on
- Externally Rotate the Shoulders
Slightly rotating the shoulders externally will help keep the lats engaged and the posture aligned. Another key to helping maintain midline stabilization throughout any movement that requires a front rack position
- “Breath Through the Belly”
According to Weightlifting and fitness professional Mike Dewar, “Diaphragmatic breathing is the key to bracing and the Valsalva maneuver. Whiles under the load be sure to fill the belly with air, increasing intra-abdominal pressures. This will also allow for greater movement and positioning in the lats and shoulders, since heavy chest breathing may decrease your ability to maneuver the limbs under load to find your rack positioning.”
Being able to get into a good front rack position is vital for the movements mentioned above: front squats, cleans, and effectively pressing or jerking the bar into the overhead position. Without the ability to get into a solid front rack position, you’re not only limiting your progression, but also putting yourself at risk for injury. Due to the fact this challenges so many, it’s often an avoided position which limits a lot of Olympic lifts and overall progress.
Why is it that so many struggle to accomplish and maintain a good front rack position? More often than not it comes down to mobility and tightness in the upper body. Many lack the mobility and flexibility to fully achieve the position. The biggest contributing factors are tightness latissimus dorsi, teres major, posterior deltoid, and triceps. Many times the wrist flexors contribute as well.
What is the best way to tackle this issue?Spend 10-15 minutes 3-5 times per week working on your upper body mobility and flexibility. Specifically in these areas. The following stretches will effectively help you:
Internal Rotator Stretch with PVC
-Grab PVC in front rack position with a single arm right outside the shoulder
-Reach your other arm across the body to pull on the PVC until you feel an effective stretch in that front rack position
-Keep the elbow of the PVC pointing forward, use your other arm to pull the PVC back across the body, externally rotating the shoulder until you feel a good stretch
-Hold 30-60 seconds 1-2x on each side
-Repeat 2-3 times
Banded Front Rack Stretch
-Using a moderately tight band, loop your hand through the band then turn facing away from the band
-Life arm so the elbow comes up and you feel a good stretch in your Lats
-Hold 30-60 seconds each arm
-Repeat 2-3 times
Triceps Barbell Smash
-Place a barbell on a rack set at or just below chest height
-Spend some time rolling the triceps with just a slight bend in the elbow
-Roll out all angles of the triceps, but making sure not to roll over top of any actual bones
-Take your time until the triceps feel loosened up
-Spend 30-60 seconds on each arm
Lats Foam Roll
-Using a foam roller, spend 30 to 60 seconds, 1-2x on each side rolling out the lats,
-The side you are lying on to roll out, should have that arm placed over head.
-Any areas of tightness or knotting, should be focused on
Front Rack Hold
-Simply get into a front rack position and hold for a minute
-Repeat 3-4 times focusing specifically on the form and key points discussed above
Spend 2-3 days a work working on these mobility exercises and stretches, preferably doing them before a WOD requiring a front rack position. This a great additional warm-up to perform beforehand.