13 Sep 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! It’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 aren’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?
Click HERE to learn more about our program dedicated to CrossFit and Olympic weight lifters! 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!
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 – at the shoulder – 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
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.
- FEEL: You should feel a stretch in your lat muscles.
- COMPENSATION: Keep your thumbs up in order to get a better stretch.
Need Overhead Mobility For Other Lifts?
Unlock Your Lats
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 rack (>90 degrees of shoulder flexion). Shout out to @unchainedphysio for this one!
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!
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