The front rack position is an essential position for many different lifts in CrossFit. Athletes need to utilize the front rack position for cleans, front squats, and any shoulder to overhead movement with the barbell. If you aren’t able to get into this position, you will either fail the lift or make it much more difficult than it needs to be. Once you can get into a good front rack position, the weights you can clean, front squat, or press overhead will increase significantly. Once you get a good front rack position, you will be hitting PRs before you know it!
Getting into a good front rack position can be difficult…and I am not even talking great or perfect. Just something that you are able to obtain without forcing it and that you can hang out in for a long time if necessary. It should be a position you can rest in if needed during front squats; your leg strength and endurance should be the limiting factor in your front squats, not the ability to maintain a front rack position.
So, what exactly is required to get a good front rack position?
- Thoracic (upper back) extension
- Rotator cuff extensibility
- Elbow flexion, including triceps extensibility
- Wrist extension
Thoracic (upper back) extension
If we maintain a rounded position to our upper back, it will be nearly impossible to get our elbows up like we need to, especially in the bottom of the squat. Even if we don’t get good extension, at least getting to a neutral position with our spine will help our elbows get through properly and help us to keep them there easier.
Here is my favorite exercise sequence for addressing thoracic mobility:
Rotator cuff extensibility
There is a portion of our rotator cuff that needs to lengthen in order to allow our arm to elevate. When it becomes tight, it causes difficulty bringing our elbow through. This is especially noticeable before you get warmed up. If you have difficulty getting into the front rack position in the beginning of your warmup or workout, but then it gets easier as you get moving, this could be the culprit. This can also be the cause of your elbow coming through slower on one side compared to the other side when catching a clean.
Check out how to loosen up the muscles:
This is not normally the problem limiting front rack position, but I wanted to throw it in here because it is a factor at times. If the triceps becomes tight, it can contribute to some tightness and stiffness at the elbow. If this happens, you may also notice some numbness or tingling in the fingers at times as well.
Here are some ways to address tightness in the triceps:
Wrist extension is a key component to front rack position. Without it, the position will never be comfortable.
If you are new to CrossFit, this is definitely an uncomfortable position because it is not a position that we challenge in are daily life very often. It is a position that over time becomes comfortable, but also a position that we need to make sure to keep the mobility with in order to maintain the health of our wrist and the efficiency of our movements.
Here is a great way to maintain the mobility in the wrist: