Tag Archives: foam rolling

How to Improve the Front Rack Position

frontrack

The front rack position is useful for the front squat, clean (also any variation of it like the hang clean or power clean) and any olympic style overhead press (i.e. push press or jerk).

 

Front Rack Position

Here is a quick example of what a good front rack looks like.

front-rack

She could improve her position by pushing the elbows in (together) and up a little more. She could also grab the bar a little wider to make this possible.

Key points to a good front rack position:

Grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Note that 2-3 fingers on the bar per hand is enough to keep the bar in place for a front squat or to finish a clean, if current wrist flexibility limits you from grabbing it with 4 fingers per hand. The load should be carried by the ‘shoulder shelf’ created by the arm position, so the hands only serve to help hold the bar in position and should not be carrying the load.

Note: For a push press or jerk, flexibility will need to be improved until four fingers can be placed on the bar with a fairly narrow grip (right outside the shoulders basically) to facilitate proper overhead pressing mechanics.

Force the elbows in and up, which puts the shoulder in external rotation and allows for a good position: Chest up, shoulders back and down. The bar should rest in the groove created behind the front delts, very close to the throat.

 

Flexiblity/Mobility for the Front Rack Position

The front rack position requires more flexibility than most other upper body movements. To facilitate a good front squat with vertical torso, hip mobility and ankle mobility will also be important, but I will stick to front rack specific stretches and mobility drills in this particular article. Always take the entire body into account for compound movements.

Areas that need to be stretched and/or massaged (i.e. using self myofascial release) to create a good front rack position tend to be the pecs (especially pec minor), lats, triceps, wrists and thoracic spine (often simply called the T-spine or upper back). Daily or even multiple times daily stretching and mobility work will improve things quickly, but not everyone has time for that. Do these things when you have time for them and prioritize them depending on how bad your front rack position currently is (and how important a good one is to you). Expect results based on how much work you put in and how consistent you are.

The following videos are resources I use to improve my own front rack, which was fairly atrocious a couple weeks back and is slowly improving now as I spend time daily on improving my shoulder and front rack specific mobility. Take what you find useful and use it in your own training.

 

Front Rack Help from MWOD

I’ll start you off with a few front rack specific MWOD videos from Kelly Starrett. If you’re interested in watching more of his videos, check out his YouTube Channel and his web site mobilitywod.com. He knows his shit and – if you have the spare cash – I can also recommend getting his Supple Leopard book. It’s basically the mobility bible.

Tools required: Jumpstretch Band | Dowel Rod, PVC Pipe or Broomstick (I’d go for the PVC pipe because it has some ‘give’ to it.) – Special note: If you don’t have a partner to hold your elbows together for the second stretch, wrap a jumpstretch band around your arms at the elbows to hold them together. You’ll feel like you’re wearing a straitjacket, but it’s all good.

Tools required: Barbell | Squat Stand or Power Rack

Tool required: Jumpstretch Band | Lacrosse Ball Peanut (made with two lacrosse balls taped together with athletic tape like this) or get the fancy MobilityWOD GeminiNote: If you’re going to do a good amount of mobility work recommended by MWOD, a mobility pack from Rogue is a good ‘starter kit’.

The next video is more of an explanation on how to set up your front rack when you front squat. No mobility drills, but it’s very good information.

Tools required: Jumpstretch Band | Kettlebell | PVC Pipe

Tools required: Jumpstretch Band | Athletic Tape

 

Other Helpful Stretches and Drills for the Front Rack

The rest of these aren’t from MWOD, but they’re still really good.

This article describes a nice front rack stretch with a PVC pipe.

In the video above, I set the starting time at the 2 minute mark, because that’s when Glenn Pendlay describes his partner stretch specific to the front rack. The exercise before that is also good for shoulder mobility.

A while back, I did an article with some self myofascial release videos from Kai Wheeler. For the front rack specifically, you’d want to do the traps, pecs, lats and subscapularis ones.

 

Other Grip Options for the Front Squat

With clean variations or Olympic style overhead presses, you really have no options aside from the front rack, but for front squat I believe there are two other feasible options.

Cross Arm Grip

If you don’t have the required upper body mobility to do the front squat with a true front rack position, the cross arm grip shown below might be an option for you.

My problem with this ‘easy fix’ is that you’re not going to improve the underlying issue of poor mobility in the upper body when you take this route. A lot of people also find it easier to maintain their torso position with a true front rack position with clean grip once weights get heavier. The front rack with clean grip also makes it easier to ditch the weight in a more natural way, if you miss a lift.

You can argue that a guy like Dan Green front squats over 600lbs with a cross grip, but he is definitely more of the exception than the rule (with regards to just about any lift).

If you work on your mobility and use a cross grip while you develop the required mobility to do a clean grip front squat, I see no problem with it. I would recommend working toward using a clean grip front rack if possible… or at least gain the required mobility to do so. Being flexible enough to do this will keep your shoulders safer on other lifts as well and enable you to perform them with good mechanics.

Strap Method

You will need some lifting straps for this one.

This is a better stepping stone toward a true clean grip front rack position, if your mobility isn’t quite there yet. Christian Thibaudeau explains in the video above why he prefers the strap method over the cross arm grip and I tend to agree with him on this topic.

 

And that about wraps up the things I do to improve my front rack position. I hope it helps some of you!

Foam Roller Fail

fail

I was just going through looking at these foam rollers and came across this epic picture. I’m not sure WTF this guy is doing, but it’s awesome! Stay safe, brahs.

foam-roller-fail

Limber 11 Video – Upgrade of Agile 8

One of the most popular lower body warmup and general flexibility routines has been the Agile 8 from Joe DeFranco. The video below is a new and improved version called the Limber 11, also from Joe DeFranco. This routine will improve your hip mobility and can be a part of your daily active recovery work.

Tools you will need: Lacrosse Ball | Foam Roller – A PVC pipe does the trick and the Rumble Roller is probably the best foam roller you can buy. I also like the Trigger Point The Grid foam roller.

Hip Mobility

Other Mobility Articles: Shoulder Mobility | Thoracic Mobility | Ankle Mobility

 

In this article, I’ll be covering some basic stretches and exercises to improve hip mobility. Healthy hips are important both in everyday life and also at the gym or in various sports, so there is really no reason not to make it a priority to at least have decent hip mobility.

 

Can You Squat?

If you can’t high bar back squat ATG (ass to grass) with a fairly upright torso or you’re unable to keep a vertical torso when front squatting, there is a pretty good chance hip mobility is at least part of the reason why. Usually it’s not the only issue of course, but it tends to be a contributing factor.

A full squat is a natural movement that every person should be able to perform. Optimally, you should be able to spend a long time in the bottom position of a body weight squat with your heels on the ground, your feet pointing forward or slightly outward (about 15 degrees) and your knees at least tracking your feet (possibly outside of your feet, if you have excellent hip mobility). It’s a natural way of sitting. It forces you to use muscles that are basically inactive when you’re sitting on a chair.

A squat performed properly will also stretch your hips, so the squat stretch is a great start for a hip mobility routine.

 

The Squat Stretch

This is a great way to stretch your hips, among other things. It also gets you used to sitting in a natural position and will have direct carryover to a lot of lifts like any squat variation, the clean, the snatch, etc. If you can’t spend 10 minutes in the bottom of a body weight squat, you have some work to do. I embedded the first Mobility WOD 10 minute squat video below and linked some more of the 10min squat test videos from Kelly Starrett as well. It shows you some different variations of the squat stretch you can try out whenever you test your ability to stay in the bottom position of a squat for 10 minutes. Push your knees out at the bottom with your elbows, if you can.

10min squat test with a twist | 10min squat test with some more info about foot position | 10 minute squat test with a box | 10min squat test with a banded squat stretch

If you’re unable to get into the bottom position or unable to stay in the bottom position for longer than a minute freestanding, feel free to hang onto something in front of you to get your 10 minutes in. Try to progress to a point where you can do 10 minutes freestanding and beyond. Another good method is using a jumpstretch band to support yourself like this. The band-supported squat stretch also allows you to work on ankle mobility while you’re in the bottom position of a full body weight squat.

My personal experience with the 10 minute squat stretch test: The first time I tried the 10 minute squat stretch test, I was able to get about a minute of freestanding squat stretch time in the bottom position and I spent the rest of the time hanging on to a pole in front of me. About a month later, after daily squat stretches with mostly 2-3min sets of squat stretch adding up to 10mins/day, I was able to sit in the bottom of the squat stretch for 11 minutes straight. Mobility work is mostly about persistence. If you do it often, you will see progress fairly quickly. It also helps to work through soreness, so you’re killing two birds with one stone.

 

Going Beyond the Squat Stretch

Once you can hang out in the bottom of the squat stretch for 10 minutes, it’s fairly easy to maintain that level of hip mobility. I rarely go beyond 20 seconds at a time in the bottom of the squat stretch now, but sometimes I test myself and I can still do 10+ minutes easily. Just do it as part of your warmup and outside of the gym when you have time to keep the hip mobility you’ve earned through hard work. Paused ATG squats and front squats also help, along with the Olympic lifts if you do them.

 

Beyond the squat stretch, there are some other things that can be done to maintain good hip mobility. I’ll start with a nice set of hip mobility drills from Jonnie Candito. I do these exercises immediately after my lower body workouts like he suggests and I really feel like they help prevent soreness and maintain good flexibility in the hips.

 

The Lower Extremity Basic List below from MWOD will also benefit your hips.

 

Here is a great hip opener to do before a lower body workout courtesy of powerlifter Mark Bell.

 

Another one from Kelly Starrett.

 

Also foam roll your hips (along with just about everything else that’s tight) and do the couch stretch!

 

Some more hip mobility videos on YouTube: Hip opening with a box and lacrosse ball | Hip opener yoga | ‘Couch Stretch’ against a wall | Desk athlete hip rescue | Clearing hip impingement | Deadlift or pulling prep with hip mobility work | Better hip extension

 

That about wraps up hip mobility. I like to keep things basic, but if you feel I missed anything important, leave it in the comments. As always, it’s just my approach. I’m not a doctor.