The front rack is a versatile bar placement from which one can perform squats, cleans, holds, carries, presses, and jerks. It is particularly useful within the context of a fitness program. However, this position can be a tough nut to crack, especially for those first learning it. Difficulty in the front rack is often attributed to the wrists since this is the area where discomfort is often felt. However, the real obstruction seldom comes from the wrist, unless, of course, you happen to have a screw in there.
The front rack is affected by the upper back, shoulders, and elbows, as well as the tendons and musculature surrounding these structures. Oftentimes, tightness in one or more of these areas will result in a poor rack position, which places excessive strain on the wrist. If you struggle with significant discomfort in the front rack, here are a few tips that will help:
Eccentric Lengthening: Think of this as active stretching, using the muscle’s own activation to help lengthen itself. It is quite effective at increasing range of motion. How cool is that? As an example, the lats are the most common trouble area regarding the front rack. An eccentric chin up is a great way to stretch this area. Using a supinated (palms up) grip, hang on the pull up bar. Jump or use a box to get your chin over the bar. Then, slowly lower yourself until your arms are completely locked out and your shoulders are relaxed. As an alternative, you can perform a supinated dead hang with or without a toe spot.
Use the Front Rack: As simple as it sounds, we cannot expect to improve our front rack if we never use it. The front rack hold is particularly effective, since it allows us to focus solely on the front rack. Starting with a moderate weight, lift the bar in the front rack and hold for 20-30 seconds while focusing on pushing the elbows up. If you really struggle with the front rack, perform shorter intervals of 10 seconds with a brief rest in between. Pairing this exercise with some form of eccentric lengthening is the most effective way to improve your front rack.
Consistency: The only way to improve your front rack is to work on it regularly. Perform 2-3 sets of an eccentric lengthening exercise and a front rack hold 2-3 times per week, either as a warm up or as accessory work. If you stick with it, you WILL see the benefits!
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