3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Front Rack Mobility

Front squats, thrusters, the clean and the jerk. What do these all have in common? They all require you to be in the front rack position, and demand excellent mobility to do them well.

Ideally your chest is up, shoulders are back and elbows are high when in this position. If your elbows are low, you will not only struggle with heavy weights, but it can also be dangerous. I say dangerous because many people have snapped their wrists because they didn’t bring their elbows up high enough.

Front rack mobility in competition
Front rack mobility is important for many different exercises

If you’re doing a clean or a front squat, and your elbows are so low that they touch your knees, the point that is most likely to give way now is your wrists. Often times they end up breaking (and that is from personal experience).

So now that you know how important it is to maintain a good front rack position, here are 3 key areas/techniques you can use to mobilise and improve upon it. We’ll go through each of them below.

1 IMPROVE FLEXION / EXTENSION

improve front rack mobility in Crossfit
Improving front rack mobility through mobilisation

One of the main culprits for a poor front rack position is a tight tricep. Thankfully, this area is quite easy to mobilise.

Simply grab a rubber band and attach it to a stationary platform on the ground. Grab the band with the arm that you want to stretch, turn around, and lift your elbows high up into the air. It should look like the image above.

  • Hold this position for 30 seconds and feel the stretch in the triceps before switching arms.
  • Normally I’d do this for 30 seconds on each side, and repeat it 2-3 times (giving a total of 90 seconds per arm).

If you’re not feeling much of a stretch, try increasing the thickness of your rubber band.

2 DECREASE TENSION IN THE SHOULDERS / LATS

‘Perhaps one of the most common reasons for a poor rack position is an extremely tight shoulder.’

By that I am referring to everything in the shoulder region, including the rotator cuff, deltoids and the latissimus dorsi.

Whilst you can use an elastic band to stretch these areas, my favorite treatment method is using Gua Sha¹. Gua Sha is a scraping technique that removes adhesions under the skin, allowing blood to flow again and promoting mobility. You’ll see many different variations of this being used regularly in CrossFit now, such as Graston, and whilst the instruments are slightly different, they ultimately accomplish the same thing.

A video posted by TrainedTo (@trained.to) on

Note: Often times when Gua Sha is applied, the skin gets very red with bright spots. These are normal and encouraged. In fact, you want to be seeking out the bright red spots as those are indications that the areas need to be worked on. Do not be afraid of it!

Here’s how you can use it.

  • Grab your favorite gua sha tool and start by scraping the neck area (avoid scraping the spine).
  • Work your way down across the shoulders. I would work on each area for about 20-30 seconds. (If it is turning red, then that is an indication that you’re doing it in the right spot.)
  • Next, lift your arm above your head so you can start scraping the lats/rotator cuff area. Often times, just by working on this area alone, we’ll see results within a few minutes.
  • You can do all of this on your own, however if you have a partner, the results are usually much better even.

Take a look at this video for an explanation on how you can have your partner apply Gua Sha on you.

If you do not have access to a gua sha tool, a trigger ball could work, but fundamentally the technique is quite different, so the effects won’t be exactly the same. The trigger ball works by compression, whereas the gua sha tool works by breaking up scar tissue in order to increase blood flow.

3 FRONT RACK MOBILITY: IMPROVE YOUR THORACIC POSITION

‘The thoracic spine is the area between your middle and upper back.’

A common problem we see with athletes is that their back is rounded when coming up from the front squat. This can be an indication that they are missing mobility in the thoracic region. By loosening up this area, athletes will be able to rise in a more upright position, thereby allowing them to keep their elbows high and prevent the bar from falling forwards.

The best way to improve thoracic extension mobility is to use a foam roller.

  • Place the foam roller on the floor and lie on it with it just sitting under your middle back.
  • Relax your breath and extend your body until it arches over the foam roller and your arms are touching the floor.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds before moving the roller up your body.
  • Keep repeating this all the way up to your shoulders.

Here is an excellent video to help explain this:

Give these 3 techniques a shot and let us know in the comments below how they work for you!


¹Pacific College of Oriental Medicine

Featured image © Nero @ RX’d Photography

Battle of south image © Nero @ RX’d Photography

Band mobility stretch image © Kelly Starrett

Instragram © TrainedTo

Youtube Video Gua Sha © TrainedTo

Youtube Video Thoracic Extension Mobility Exercise © The Proactive Athlete Channel

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About The Author

Hin Lai is a Canadian National Olympic Lifter, CrossFit Regionals competitor and Personal Trainer. He enjoys helping others in their fitness journey and overcoming their limitations. Hin is the owner of TrainedTo – a mobility tool company that helps athletes improve their mobility and flexibility.

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