The front rack position is crucial for successfully setting up and effectively moving through several exercises with good form. These exercises include cleans, front squats and even push jerks.
Without the ability to get into the front rack position comfortably the bar will often drag the body forward as your body fatigues and can put excessive pressure on the low back and other joints. The most common faults limiting this position will be hypertonic internal rotators of the shoulder, decreased thoracic extension mobility, tricep hypertonicity and poor wrist extension.
So what are the ideal front rack points to be aware of?
Firstly having the elbows up high to lock the barbell in position on the shoulders and prevent it coming forward which can overload the shoulders and low back.
Secondly make sure the shoulder blades can be locked down and back. Without the proper scapular control the shoulder and thoracic extensors will be inhibited thus creating a week frame to lift with.
Thirdly the core must be engaged correctly with diaphragmatic breathing. Without this stability the base you will be lifting from has decreased strength and much of your force required for the lifting action is lost due to stabilising inefficiently. This will be covered in a seperate article.
These are all easily managed at home with stretches, mobilisations and strength work. With prior injury to these areas some further work may be required to help achieve these positions using soft tissue work, dry needling or manipulation.
To allow the elbows to lift and get to the 90 degree position several muscles must be addressed. The latissimus dorsi is the most common muscle restricting this motion. To stretch hold onto a rack bar or door frame as shown and lean your body weight back. From here you can change your body position to where the most tension is felt and hold for three sets of thirty seconds. My second stretch for this is to stand side on to the rack, cross the back leg over, hold on roughly shoulder width apart onto the rack as shown and lean away again three sets of thirty seconds each side.
On top of this static stretch this active stretch of the lats can be added and creates fast results. To perform begin kneeling then curl your body forward with arms outstretched overhead which is a common yoga pose from here turn your body slightly to the side and and reach the outer arm out by walking your hand away form your shoulder. The point of tension through the lats will be quite obvious with this one whether its lumbar, thoracic or shoulder. I recommend walking the arm out to full stretch holding for a few seconds then repeat 6-10 sides each side.
The next step to achieve the optimal position is to have the required thoracic extension. To assess whether your body can get into the required position you will need to stand against the wall in the wall angel set up as shown.
Your elbows and wrists should easily touch the wall and you spine lay flat against the wall comfortably. If you cannot this demonstrates a lack in thoracic mobility and requires mobilisation. If the upper body does lay against the wall easily however you have a big lumbar arch this could be an indicator of poor core control or overactive hip flexors.
There are two key mobilisations to increase thoracic extension. The first being foam rolling the mid back while keep a tight core.
The second mobilisation is back in the wall angel position placing the arms against the wall and then slowly sliding them up keeping the elbows and wrists on the wall. If they come off the wall that is the point where you go back to the start position. Work 3 sets of 10 and gradually the range of motion will increase.