Olympic Lifting is just like powerlifting, except when you start to move the weight you are expected to do calculus.
While this is somewhat of an exaggeration, he has a point. There is a huge amount of thought, time, strength development, and mobility that goes into Weightlifting (Oly lifting). You cannot expect to come in and just pick up heavy ass weight without first knowing form, function, and having the ability to actually catch the weight and drop into a proper squat.
So let’s talk about your Front Rack. Is it good? Can you actually shelve weight? Have you been getting by with something you deem a front rack only to find out that your collar bones are on the verge of shattering because of all the weight you are slamming into them? Do you have terrible wrist pain every time you do cleans, but don’t know why? All of these questions have the same solution: You need to properly mobilize (both before and after your training session) the areas responsible for your T-Rex like position so that you can properly front rack the weight and fix your clean and jerk!
So lets talk about the areas that really need to be addressed:
- Upper Back/Scapula area (Thoracic Spine area)
- Lats and Posterior Deltoids
1. The best and easiest way to get to this area is a simple foam roller placed on the upper back and rolling back and forth over the given area. Rolling back and forth (changing arm positions to on the chest and overhead) will effectively mash your traps, erectors, and lats (you can also trigger point these areas with a lacrosse ball).
2. A close second is the use of a large #14 or #20 Dynamax style ball and kettle bell. The idea here is to lie your upper back (between your shoulder blades) on the Dynamax ball and reach overhead to where you have place a kettle bell. Once you have grabbed the kettle bell, let your hips sag toward the floor and you will really start to feel the stretch in your lats, chest, traps, and triceps areas.
3. This last one can be seen in the video provided below, but is a very simple and effective way to mobilize your forearms and wrist. In a kneeling position, place your hands on the ground with fingers pointed straight ahead, stacking your hands and elbows directly below your shoulders. Start by internally and externally rotating your elbows (make sure your hands stay in place while doing so). Now shift forward, backward, and side to side, making sure to hold each for about 10-15 seconds. Repeat all of this with your fingers facing away from each other (out toward the sides) and fingers facing backward (toward you).
So these are just a couple of ways to really help you with those problem areas so that your front rack is not holding you back from increasing weights or causing injury. As always, remember that it WILL feel uncomfortable, but mobilization should never hurt. If you need more in-depth explanation or pictures and videos, go to Mobility Wod for some deeper explanations on some of the stretches and mobility techniques above. The video below is something I found on Fitness Pain Free and goes through a lot of stretches we use in the gym to increase that ROM needed to have an immaculate front rack position.
Remember, if it is a problem area, once or twice a week of stretching and mobilizing will not fix it. If you really want to improve or fix the area, it has to be a daily occurrence. Rest days are not days of complete rest, they are best served as days of recovery, which means to get on the floor or into your gym and spend some time working your problem areas and focusing on increasing your ROM!! Next blog post will cover some issue areas around the hip and how to improve that squat!
Video Cite: Pope, D. [Dan Pope]. (2013, December 16th). Best Mobility Exercises to Fix the Front Rack for Cleans, Front Squats, and Overhead Pressing [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_g2Ad20aEB0&w=640&h=390.