I have been really focussing on this recently with our CrossFit Chiltern athletes. Until I started CrossFit, I never realised what a worldwide problem the front rack position is for people.
After doing extensive research here are my findings and advice for improvement. You will see from the videos that just with a little bit of mobility work (which can be boring and take extra time) you can achieve great results!
If you are going to try and improve, it’s always advisable to video your positioning at the beginning and re-video post mobility work. Visually you will see a huge difference in your technique! Its really motivational…..
There are four main areas to look at when trying to improve the front rack. Lets look at them in a little more details now;
The wrist starts to feel pain when you squat as flexibility at the joint is limited, and the forearms can be really tight front and back. To stretch out the forearms sit in a kneeling position. Put the hands flat on the floor with your fingertips facing your knees. Slowly rock yourself back so your hips head towards your heels. If it feels tight, it means it probably is! Hold this position for anything up to 2 minutes. For extra mobility you can add in some rotations to ensure you hit the whole forearm and wrist.
External rotators are tight and weak
Firstly, you can stretch out the shoulder by using a PVC pipe. Whilst this stretch is uncomfortable to hold, it works wonders for people with tight and forward rotated shoulders. Place the pipe on the outside of your arm with your elbow bent so you can hold the pipe with your fingers on the outside. With the other hand, pull the pipe upwards, moving the pipe arm outwards of the shoulder. Make sure you don’t lean with the pipe, hold for at least 30seconds to a minute on each side.
Thoracic spine in too much flexion
During every day life the upper portion of the spine becomes flexed. This makes exercises like the front rack position incredibly hard to sustain good movement patterns as the upper back rounds forward when you try to squat. By using a foam roller of lacrosse/massage ball on the scapula and thoracic spine area will help loads with this exercise. If using a lacrosse ball, place it underneath your shoulder blade. Use circle movements with the arm sideways and overhead to create a massage effect and release off tight inhibited areas. If using a foam roller – move side to side in addition to up and down to roll across tight fibres – this is A LOT more effective and will really feel like you are stretched and flexed out in the upper spine!
The Lats (biggest muscles in the back)
When these become tight, they can pull the shoulders into forward rotation, ,making it really hard to keep the chest and elbows up for the front rack position. Using a band anchored on to a high point – kneel down holding the band in one hand. (imagine you are going to be knighted) so one arm is stretched out (make sure this arm is straight) lean back into the stretch and it will feel like the band is pulling you forwards. Resist against the band for maximum effectiveness. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds on each side.
Here is a video of one of our Crossfit athletes who I have recently worked with. Whilst you cannot fix years of bad posture – I’m sure you will agree just with a hour of coaching there are significant improvements in the elbow positioning. Of course there is always homework to do, and improvements to be made – but with just a few drills and working 1:1 with a coach you can improve your technique and this will make you feel stronger and able to achieve more when you come into classes.
Kelly - CrossFit Chiltern Coach