How the Shoulder Affects the Front Rack and How to Address It

vaughnlift1Are you the guy who’s pinky slips out from under the bar during a max clean and jerk?  Do your wrists kill after thrusters?  Can’t even touch the barbell to your chest during push press?

You might have a front rack issue.  

The areas that are generally limited in a poor front rack will be:

  • The thoracic spine
  • The shoulder
  • The elbow
  • The wrist

We need adequate motion in all of these areas to front rack well.  I wanted to spend some time today to address the shoulder’s role in the front rack.  The reason I wanted to talk about this is because there appears to be some general confusion of the shoulder’s role in the front rack.  I’ve even heard people say that shoulder mobility is not important in the front rack because you only need 90 degrees of shoulder flexion for the front rack.  I really believe this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Let me explain…

Jerk-Rack-Full-GripIn the front rack we obviously need to get our elbows up.  This will require pure shoulder flexion.  However, we also need to get the hands out a bit wider then shoulder level.  This is going to require combined shoulder flexion and external rotation.  We also need to have a bit of scapular protraction in order to get the shoulder forward some to rest the barbell on.  Also keep in mind that if we have significant restrictions at the wrist, thoracic spine or elbow it will force more motion onto the shoulder.

Having adequate motion in the shoulder will give us a nice strong platform in order to allow our lower body to help blast that barbell overhead.  Without this, we’ll be greatly limiting our ability to transfer force from the lower body to the upper body and move big weights.

So here are three quick exercises you can use use to get that shoulder inline and improve your front rack:

  1. This first drill promotes flexibility of the shoulder into combined flexion, external rotation and protraction.  Notice how with each breath I’m attempting to sink into my front rack position further.

Drill #2 reinforces this new range of motion we’ll be needing for the front rack actively.

Drill #3 puts it all together as we use this new range of motion and learn how to get the shoulder into the proper position for the front rack.

There you have it, how the shoulder effects the front rack and 3 easy drills to start correcting the issue.  Just keep in mind that the shoulder is only one part of the equation.  To be thorough you’ll have to clear all of the other parts of the chain.

Want to be able to get into a solid front rack position like Chad Vaughn?  Keep on the lookout on May 16th when Dr. Dave Tilley, myself and the rest of the power monkey fitness crew will be releasing a digital product “Monkey Method: Movement Essentials.   Sign up below if you want to be part of a special discount offer once it’s released:






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