5 Exercises to Improve Front Rack Mobility
5 Ways To Improve Front Rack Mobility
A lot of athletes, especially American Football players, shot putters, or anybody who tends to be extremely large struggles with their front rack in the clean. They catch the clean with their elbows down and barely have their fingers on the bar. They can barely get their elbows up. Mobility in the elbows and through the wrist is needed.
The goal is to get the front rack to the point where the athlete can catch the bar with the full hand on the bar, elbows are nice and high, the upper back is strong and extended, and the ribs are packed underneath right into the hip. That is the main focus. This is the point where we want the athlete to get to full hand on the bar, elbows in a stable position, and the upper back is extended.
Let’s walk through a progression to get to that point.
1st Progression: Tabletop Lat Stretch And Shoulder Flexion Wall Walks
Place the elbows on a table, box, or jerk block. Grab a PVC pipe or broomstick with the palms facing the torso as if curling the apparatus. The grip needs to be right around the shoulder. Try to get the head between the arms and as low as possible. We want to get the back down as well to increase the lat mobility. This will help lengthen the lats and might even cause a crack in the upper back. Hold this for two or three sets of fifteen to twenty seconds the body will start to prime up and wake up.
In the next movement, the athlete will walk over to the wall. With the elbows at ninety degrees and the feet close to the wall, the elbows will be walked up the wall while the forearms remain in constant contact with the wall. The face will move in toward the wall. The main goal here is as shoulder flexion occurs we want to see the thoracic extension in the upper back. The arms will then be walked back down and up.
A key concept when talking about hitting a good front rack, we have to have mobility for elbow flexion, wrist extension, shoulder flexion and external rotation, and thoracic extension or at least anti-flexion in the upper back. There are a lot of different moving pieces.
After the first two stretches, go over to a lightly loaded bar and squat into a slight quarter squat and just stand up with the bar in the rack and re-rack the bar. Do this three times. The whole goal here is working towards the position with the whole hand on the bar. This is positional training. It is a tester to see as the athlete goes through the progressions the athlete’s front rack is improving. The stretches are being done to execute the actual position: the front rack. By the end, we want the pinky on the bar with a nice clean rack and minimal amounts of discomfort.
2nd Progression: Green Roller And Tabletop Stretch
For this progression, we use the green roller. The green roller at Garage Strength is a large cylinder with a diameter somewhere in the neighborhood of 12”. The inside of the cylinder is hollow. The surface is maybe a ¼” thick.
Using this implement, the athlete aligns their spine on the green roller. The athlete reaches their hands over their head, bends their elbows, and grabs the roller with their hands. The upper arm is parallel to the ears.
The goal is to really try to lengthen the lats as well as trying to achieve shoulder flexion. Make sure the hips are being dropped as much as possible and the trunk is being squeezed. The movement can be rolled back and forth with a hold once the elbows touch the ground for a brief count.
Once done, go back over to the tabletop stretch. After the tabletop stretch, go back over to the slightly loaded bar and work the front rack position with the bar. An improvement with the positional work should be occurring.
If access to the roller is not available, use a couple of bumper plates put together.
3rd Progression: Green Roller To Dumbbell Presses In Bottom Of Squat
Start with the green roller here. Take two or three passes. Try to drive the elbows to the floor and then roll back until the hips touch the floor. Then get up and do to the dumbbell presses from the bottom of a squat.
Think about driving through the heels from the bottom of the squat. Keep the elbows in and extend the elbows vertically. It is important to keep the elbows in while extending. It is also important to pay attention to what is going on with the ankles while performing this movement. Weightlifting shoes are ideal to elevate the ankles. If weightlifting shoes are unavailable put ten-pound plates underneath the heels.
It is almost as if the dumbbell stays in front of the forehead, but not drastically out in front. As the upper body starts to loosen up, feel the hips and lower body driving into the ground. Do three solid reps with a focused concentric and eccentric. Remember this is mobility work.
Again, head back over to the barbell and test the positional improvement. The pinkies will begin to be able to be on the bar if they weren’t before. Ideally, we want the entire hand on the bar.
4th Progression: Dowel External Rotation To Squatted Dumbbell Presses
This positional work has a focus on external rotation. Remember there are a lot of different factors when talking about racking a clean: external rotation, shoulder flexion, wrist extension, elbow flexion, thoracic extension, thoracic anti-flexion. So now we will use a dowel to create a little shoulder external rotation work.
Using the dowel, grab at the top around the level of the ear. The palm needs to be facing the head. The dowel needs to come down through the armpit. The other hand will grab the dowel at the bottom. This hand’s palm will be parallel to the belly.
With the hand on the dowel on the level with the ear, go ahead and pull the dowel towards the frontal plane of the body like throwing an overhand pitch. With the other hand at the bottom of the dowel pull the dowel across the body. Keep trying to lower the upper hand closer to the shoulder.
Press into the dowel and loosen things up. Do the movement dynamically at a slow pace, pulling across and back in over a period of twenty seconds for multiple sets. Do the movement on each side of the body.
After the dowel stretch, go ahead and perform the squatted dumbbell press again. After this progression, again go over to the bar and test the front rack position multiple times to evaluate the occurring progression. Things should be moving in a positive direction.
5th Progression: Dowel External Rotation
Hit the external rotation with the dowel to really try to loosen everything up in the shoulder girdle. Go ahead and complete active/passive work with the dowel while working through the stretch.
The last movement is band-assisted, we recommend PowerLastic bands. Put the elbow up on the bar, the hand through the loop in the band, and a foot holding the band to the ground. Push into the loop with the hand. Athletes can do two sets of fifteen to twenty seconds.
Go ahead and get into the front rack position with the pinkies on the bar and reap the rewards of performing the front rack progressions. Complete a few front squats to feel the front rack through the full range of motion.
Seeing all the fingers on the bar is a wonderful feeling. Not only does it signal improved mobility but creates more surface area to apply force into the bar to stand up heavy front squats and cleans. Athletes who follow these progressions, people who are super-tight in the upper back, lats, wrists, or elbows, and who go through this mobility work three to five times a week over the course of a month, their front rack will improve.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.