Front Rack Mobility Constraints and How to Fix Them

Have you been trying to get into the position for a particular lift, and it just doesn’t feel right? Particularly in this article, we will be addressing the most commonly overlooked front rack mobility constraints and more importantly, the best ways to fix them. Yes, thoracic extension and shoulder flexion limitations are oftentimes the biggest culprits, but let’s not forgot to address wrist, elbow, and transverse plane shoulder mobility as well. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know to improve your front rack mobility, your front squat position, and make it easier for you to perform cleans!


Self Mobilization for Wrist Extension To Improve Front Rack Mobility

In order to get into a proper front rack position, you need good wrist extension mobility. ENOUGH WITH ALL THESE BANDED MOBILIZATIONS FOR WRIST EXTENSION! All you need is your other hand! Itโ€™s more specific, you get better joint play, and you can find YOUR specific mobility restriction.

If a specific motion (in this case wrist extension) is limited, it can be caused by one of 3 things: soft tissue restrictions like muscles, joint restrictions like the joint capsule, and/or bone. Soft tissue restrictions can be treated by a physical therapist with techniques like soft tissue mobilizations (STM) via strumming, rolfing, tac-and-go, active release, or instrument-assisted STM. Similarly, joint capsule restrictions can be treated by a physical therapist via joint mobilizations. Specifically for the wrist, the proximal row of carpal bones in your hand is comprised of the scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum, and pisiform. When you move your wrist into extension, these bones GLIDE relatively in the PALMAR direction, or towards your palm. In order to increase wrist extension, you want to mobilize these bones in the PALMAR direction (towards the ground in this example)

HOW TO: Rest your arm on your lap to relax the muscles. Make sure you arenโ€™t mobilizing directly downwards, the joint line is angled ~10 degrees palmarly (ie towards your elbow) so you must be mobilizing in that direction. I drew a line on my wrist for easy identification. Happy mobilizing! Also, if you are dealing with wrist pain, check out our blog below as we show you some exercises to improve your symptoms!


Looking For More Corrective Exercises For The Fitness Athlete?

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Click HERE to learn more about our program dedicated to CrossFit and Olympic weight lifters!ย If you are having trouble getting into your lifts such as a front rack for example, we have educational videos and proper instruction to guide you towards optimal movements!ย 



exercises for wrist pain the prehab guys


Front Rack Mobility: Tricep and Lat Stretching

The lats are often the culprit of decreased shoulder mobility for many people so ADDRESSING THE EXTENSIBILITY OF THE LATS IS KEY. What is often overlooked, however, is the importance of also gaining range in the TRICEPS. In the front rack position, your elbows are in a FLEXED position, meaning the triceps are maximally lengthened distally, or closer to the elbow. While the triceps still aren’t in their fully lengthened position proximally โ€“ at the shoulder โ€“ in the front rack, someone with restriction in their triceps range may still exhibit limited shoulder flexion range of motion. So get your triceps and lats stretched out to achieve optimal front rack mobility!

Triceps Stretch – Dowel

Sample Front Rack and Overhead Stability Program Exercise Video

So while addressing the lats is key, make sure to also address the triceps. Here is a great way to stretch both the lats and the triceps simultaneously. Using a dowel behind your back, slowly pull down on the dowel until you feel a stretch. With the shoulder in flexion, you are getting a great stretch distally. You can also add some trunk flexion, side bend to the opposite side, and posterior pelvic tilt to further increase the stretch of the lats proximally. Now with the elbow flexed, we are further lengthening the triceps distally (in addition to lengthening the triceps proximally with shoulder flexion).


Latissimus Dorsi Mobility

Your lats are also a key muscle group that needs adequate mobility to ensure your front rack mobility is optimized. The muscle actions of the lats include shoulder extension, internal rotation, and depression. In order to actively stretch this muscle, perform the opposite! You will be working on dynamic movements that incorporate shoulder flexion, external rotation, and elevation. In particular, should flexion and external rotation both are key for adequate front rack mobility. We will touch on shoulder external rotation in more detail next.


Active Lat Mobility

  • HOW: Begin in a kneeling position with your feet pointed down and a foam roller in front of you. Place your wrist on the roller with your thumbs facing up and slightly out. Let your arms roll forward and your chest drops toward the ground. You can spread your knees more to let your chest get lower. Hold that position as prescribed and repeat.ย 


  • FEEL: You should feel a stretch in your lat muscles.ย 


  • COMPENSATION: Keep your thumbs up in order to get a better stretch.


Need Overhead Mobility For Other Lifts?


Unlock Your Lats

ย Lean against a wall with your back flat and feet out with a slight bend in your knees. Raise both arms up as you rotate your hands out. Try to get your elbows to touch each other. Do this in a slow and controlled motion. You should feel a stretch in your lat muscles. Keep you back and head flat on the wall. This may feel quite difficult to perform at first, and that your motion feels very restricted. Don’t worry, this is normal! As you practice this active motion more and more, the mobility will improve.


Increasing Shoulder External Rotation

External rotation at the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) is vital for proper front rack mobility for two simple reasons. First, externally rotating the shoulders allows you to bring your hands CLOSER to the bar. Therefore if shoulder flexion continues to be limited and your hand can’t reach the bar, you can get some extra range by ‘cheating’ and externally rotating your shoulders. Second, in terms of [P]Rehab, external rotation of the glenohumeral joint opens up the subacromial space. This is the space that is commonly narrowed in shoulder impingement, so increasing your shoulder external rotation range of motion will allow for more clearance in the subacromial space and less chance for impingement.


Standing Shoulder External Rotation Stretch

To perform, simply use a dowel or stick as demonstrated. Place the stick BEHIND your elbow. Relax your shoulder and with your other arm, PULL the bottom of the stick towards midline. What’s best about this particular stretch too is that you’re gaining range in the exact same shoulder position necessary for the front rackย (>90 degrees of shoulder flexion). Shout out toย @unchainedphysio for this one!



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Closing Thoughts

Front rack mobility is important to ensure you are going to get the most out of your movement from this position. There are a lot of requirements from a mobility standpoint in various areas of our body for this position to be successful, including triceps and lat muscle length, wrist extension, and shoulder external rotation. If you happen to be lacking motion in one or more of these areas, work on some of the dynamic mobility exercises we have shown you in this article and you will improve your front rack mobility in no time!


Maximize Your Lifting Technique With [P]Rehab

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Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.

  • Patrick Avon
    Posted at 16:58h, 05 October Reply

    Love every single thing u guys do. Any thoracic mobility tips/clips for a 55 year old that loves to clean and snatch but has mega thoracic restrictions?

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 08:52h, 07 October Reply

      Thanks Patrick! We appreciate the love! Lots and lots of ways to mobilize the thoracic spine…best bet would be to head over to our youtube page and search thoracic mobilizations. Remember, not only do you need to mobilize but you also need to work/use that new range and load it!

  • Alexander Macip
    Posted at 12:24h, 23 August Reply

    hi there, great info!, any recommendations for when the restrictions is felt at the forearm?

    • Sherif Elnaggar
      Posted at 07:10h, 25 August Reply

      Thank you for the support! Use our search tab on the website and type in “elbow” or “forearm exercises”!

  • Luke Frandsen
    Posted at 10:08h, 10 December Reply

    These helped a lot! I had a patch of shoulder injuries from returning to sport too early and not listening to my PT… but a few years out I found I was unable to hold the rack position, and now I’m almost there!

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 10:08h, 14 December Reply

      Heck ya luke! Happy that you are almost there in the front rack position. Keep it up! and listen to your PT next time!! haha

  • Courtney Sampson
    Posted at 16:02h, 09 January Reply

    Great article. How often/long should one do each of these movements?

    • Michael Lau
      Posted at 15:50h, 10 January Reply

      No right or wrong, as much as needed! Try 5-10min per day of work and adjust as needed!

  • Bethany
    Posted at 02:00h, 28 May Reply

    What would be the most likely cause if I can get that position with PVC but Iโ€™m unable with even just the 35# bar?

    • Sherif Elnaggar
      Posted at 08:30h, 07 June Reply

      Great question! Perhaps working on slowly initiating mobility exercises with lighter loads and progressively increasing that load overtime as your mobility and stability continues to improve!!! Often times, our body may not be ready to stabilize in a particular position once load is added, but with time and repetition it can improve! Hope this is helpful!

  • Castiglione Andrea
    Posted at 08:46h, 04 September Reply

    Is there any rehab for uneven shoulder in the front rack position?

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