Front rack mobility is an interesting topic for me. As a CrossFit coach I see front rack mobility issues in maybe 10-20% of folks. Squat and overhead mobility tends to be a much bigger issue for most people.
I think because of this, coaches and individuals don't always know how to fix this issue as well as other mobility issues. The reason why this sucks is because the folks that need help with front rack mobility REALLY need help with front rack mobility. They can't clean and jerk for the life of them and when thrusters show up in the WOD they're praying for a miracle that their wrists don't explode during the workout.
Obviously this is unacceptable and we should know how to improve front rack mobility both for ourselves and others. If you want an in depth guide on how to assess front rack mobility so you know exactly where to focus your mobility efforts click the link below:
The Ultimate Guide to Front Rack Mobility
With that being said I've compiled below my favorite mobility exercises for the front rack. We'll be going over mobility based on the area of the body that has a limitation. The areas that limit the front rack are:
- The Wrist
- The Shoulder
- The Elbow
- The Thoracic Spine
I tend to use a combination of soft tissue work (foam rolling), stretching, eccentrics and dynamic mobilizations to improve mobility. I've also included a quick navigation menu so you can easily jump down to the area you want to learn more about. Check it out:
Wrist Mobility Work
Forearm Flexor Eccentrics
Eccentrics are a phenomenal way to build both mobility AND strength in muscles. Since the wrist joint is small and needs a ton of strength to be able to handle the high volume of strength work we throw at it I love eccentrics to improve wrist mobility.
Forearm Soft Tissue Work (Lacrosse Ball)
The forearm muscles can get pretty stiff with the high volume of gripping and pulling exercises we perform in the gym. Regular forearm muscle soft tissue work can go a long way in keeping these muscles supple and improving front rack mobility.
Wrist Extension Glides
Lastly, when we extend the wrist the small bones in the wrist have to move to get the wrist into the position we want for the front rack. Here's a mobilization below to help in this regard.
Elbow Mobility Work
I'm actually not a huge fan of cranking on the elbow to improve mobility. This is largely because the end range of motion of the elbow is mostly limited by boney limitations or ligamentous limitations that shouldn't be overstretched. If you want to learn more about this and whether or not you've got a limitation like this click HERE to learn more.
With that being said, the elbow can definitely keep us from getting into a great front rack position for cleans, jerks, front squats and thrusters. Here are some of my favorite mobilizations for the elbow:
The triceps can be a major limiter for elbow mobility in the front rack. This is especially true of the long head of the tricep which is stretched even more as the shoulder goes into more flexion in the bottom of a squat. For this reason the tricep can be one reason the elbows drop in the bottom of the front squat.
Overhead Tricep Extension (eccentric focus)
Just as with the wrist eccentrics are a phenomenal way to gain mobility in the tricep. Just make sure you use a slower lower (2-3 seconds) with a pause in the full stretch position to maximize this movement.
Tricep Soft Tissue Work (with barbell)
Soft tissue work is an excellent way to gain range of motion at the elbow. Here's a variation I like to perform with a barbell.
Shoulder Mobility Work
Shoulder mobility in the front rack can be confusing and depending on how wide we want our grip to be you may need more or less mobility. To learn more about this click HERE. We're actually looking for more external rotation from the shoulder joint:
Here are some of my favorite mobility exercises to improve mobility in the shoulder for the front rack:
Kettlebell Shoulder External Rotation (eccentric focus)
We can also utilize eccentrics to improve shoulder rotation. Here's one of my favorite drills for this. Just make sure you elevated the elbow to the same level as the shoulder to mimic the front rack position we want to improve.
Dynamic Lat Stretch
The lats are a major muscle that limits shoulder mobility in the front rack. Here's a nice an easy dynamic stretch to improve mobility here:
Barbell Behind the Neck Elbow Pumps
This exercises exaggerates the amount of mobility needed in the shoulder by placing the barbell behind the neck. It's a great exercise to perform after mobilizing all of the pieces of the front rack puzzle and to put it all together prior to training.
Thoracic Spine Mobility Work
Without great thoracic spine mobility the elbows will always sit lower than we want in the front rack. Improving mobility here is an easy way to improve the front rack overall. Here are some of my favorite drills to improve mobility here:
Bench Thoracic Mobilizations
Thoracic Extensions Over Roller
Here's a classic mobilization for the thoracic over a roller that is a staple in every thoracic mobility program I prescribe.
Active Prone Thoracic Extensions
Lastly, here's an active thoracic extension drill to help reinforce that new mobility you just created with the prior mobility drills.
Well, that's a wrap! I hope you enjoyed this article on my favorite mobility exercises to improve the front rack.
If you liked this article and want a little more guidance on how to improve your own mobility I have a completely done for you mobility program to help improve your front squats, thrusters and clean and jerk.
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4 Week Front Rack Mobility Program
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Front rack so good I carry my groceries that way,
Dan Pope DPT, OCS, CSCS, CF-L1