Rack City || Coach Tim Garland
Athletes come in all different shapes and sizes, and with a complex balance of strengths and limitations. Taking a look at the set-up in our lifts, our anthropometric measures (body proportions) come into play and are a big factor in dictating position. The front rack position is no different. We use the front rack for a variety of lifts, so the rack position may also vary slightly depending on the lift itself. While we cannot paint a black and white picture with one broad stroke, we can structure a basic framework from which we can meet and/or improve our points of performance. To illustrate; an athlete with a long humerus (upper arm) and shorter radius and ulna (lower arm), will have a slightly different looking rack position than someone with opposite measurements. Similarly, someone with longer arms and shorter legs would have a slightly different set-up in the snatch than someone with longer legs and shorter arms. Again, not black and white.
Please, do me a favor. Before reading any further, close your eyes and complete a few mental reps of your front squat. Next, try the same with your strict press. If the position of your elbows during both movements was/is the same, you’re kidding yourself….Or one of your movements is st-ruggling! Can you imagine letting the bar sit in your fingertips and trying to drive your elbows high before performing the strict/overhead press?
Taking into consideration the above, we can move on to the basics of the front rack position.
Midline stability. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s important! Lacking stability here under any load is like driving a motorcycle without a helmet. Sure, you may get away without anything tragic happening for awhile, but you’re playing against the odds and eventually it can catch up to you. Keeping that rib cage from “flaring up” is the goal. Coach Wes and Coach Zach recently posted a video on bracing. If you missed it, I recommend taking a peek at that video! YouTube gold with those two fellas! [Watch it here]
The next focal point, “elbows up”! This is a cue that is widely used by many coaches, myself included. Oftentimes, it is a cue utilized when the individual is driving up out of the bottom of a clean. While not incorrect, it can be difficult to actually make that happen in the moment. Addressing the muscular and connective tissues of the upper-mid back, chest, shoulders and triceps, allows for better positioning, but like most things in life it requires consistent work and attention. Bottom line…you have to do the work to EARN your position. The posterior side of the shoulder is where the stability of the scapula happens, thus the magic of the position. I often use the analogy of the drawbridge. (Possibly because I’m a Game of Thrones fan and hold steadfast in my opinion that the alligator-infested moat and drawbridge are highly underutilized…but I digress). Once the soft tissue component is addressed,we need to activate this newly accessed tissue. In this method, and analogy, as the elbow (drawbridge) is being raised, more and more musculature is being called upon to stabilize the scap…just as the cable spool on the pulley system is collecting more and more cable to pull the bridge upward.
Elbows down and out is another commonly taught method for the front rack position. Coach Burgener, an experienced, widely known coach in the CrossFit world, teaches this position at his seminars. His reasoning is to get the triceps more involved and keep tension on the bar as the athlete transitions from the front rack, to driving under the bar in the catch-phase of the jerk. In this method, there is no disengagement and regripping of the bar. The bar sits more to the “meat” of the hands and less in the fingertips. As I stated earlier, it’s not necessarily black and white. Your coach can help you identify which set-up may work best for you considering any structural or soft tissue limitations that you may be working to conquer.
While not everything, personal preference for the more experienced athletes is also something to consider. If the individual ‘feels’ more at ease with one method over the other, it might not be the best idea to try and force them into the other position. Again, everyone has a complex balance of strengths and limitations and should be guided based on myriad, individual factors.
*** 3 main factors of position***
2)elbow position: considering any structural or soft tissue limitations as well as athlete preference and specific movement for the rack
3)bar position: resting on the deltoids and either in the fingertips or more to the palm of the hands depending on method utilized
*** 3 focal points to work to improve soft tissue ***
1) thoracic spine
3) front rack ROM with active/passive stretching