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Old 12-28-2011, 07:33 PM   #1
Ben Glidewell
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 34
Default To clean, or not to clean... front rack issues

Let me start by saying that I know that I have serious flexibilty issues and that I have been, in Greg's words, "stretching my face off" lately and using mwods from Kelly Starrett for front rack and hips. I train in the early am 4 days/week following the sample master's program and use day 4 for heavy deadlift and press. I stretch and do mobility work daily and I am getting better, but I still have a ways to go. I posted a link to my snatch and I have been following Greg's advice incorporating high hang snatch, snatch balance, and 1 1/4 OHS and I am seeing improvements in turnover speed and confidence in the bottom position. I did not post a video of my clean and jerk because of my front rack issues hoping it would improve more as my flexibility improves... but I still do not have a front rack. The bar is completely supported by my arms, elbows down on my lats. I can not get the bar on my shoulders and have my hands on it at the same time... yet.

My question is if I should continue to clean with my front rack issues or if I should program differently until I can get the bar to rest on my shoulders correctly? If so what would you suggest?
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Old 12-29-2011, 07:35 AM   #2
Matt Morris
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Madison, Wi
Posts: 78

I would say keep cleaning and stretching and cleaning and stretching (literally stretching your front rack between reps). Loading that postion after mobilizing should reinforce it. Besides, is there a better way to work into that position than putting a hundred or so kilos on it?

That's just my humble, dangerously uninformed opinion. However, I too have a lousy front rack and actually end up "Zercher" cleaning 1/2 my attempts and then have to pop the bar up and reset each hand. It kind of sucks, but at no point has my coach said to stop cleaning.

Good luck!

PS ...what are your most limiting factors in the front rack? Triceps? External Rotators (whatever those are)? Lats?
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Old 12-29-2011, 04:59 PM   #3
Steve Pan
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Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 505

It would be wise to be cautious with your loads for cleans as to prevent injury to your wrists. I would suggest using pulls if you want heavier loads, and continue with lighter cleans and muscle cleans.

Keep foam rolling your lats and upper back, stretching those shoulders and wrists, and you should continue progressing.

Good luck!
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Old 12-30-2011, 05:43 AM   #4
Ben Glidewell
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 34

Good points, thanks for the feedback Matt and Steve. My flexibility issues would fall in the all of the above category, but my my main problem with front rack is external rotation and tightness in my wrists and forarms. I thought with wider hand placement, and that I could loosen up enought get a complex last week with a power clean to a front squat to a jerk, but I couldn't get the bar to settle in so I just did pulls and jerk from the rack. I am hoping next week to get my training partner to stand in front of me and help get my elbows up and settle the bar to work that complex with light weight.

Thanks again for the feedback, any and all advice is welcome and appreciated.
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Old 12-31-2011, 04:13 AM   #5
Patrick Haskell
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Join Date: Jul 2008
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Bear in mind that there's a difference between passive mobility (the range-of-motion achievable via stretching) and active mobility (the ROM achievable by normal movement). If you find that you can approach a rack position while doing KStar's contortions, it's likely that a big part of your ROM deficit is an active mobility deficit caused by muscular imbalance. It's not uncommon for folks who's training has included a lot of bench, pressing, or pushups and less pulling to have forwardly rotated shoulders due to such a muscle imbalance. There are three things you can readily do about that, stretching, self-myofacial release, and strengthening the opposing muscles.

I assume that you are doing SMR along with stretching, if you're following the MWOD. There's a particularly good one involving a lacross ball, a door frame, and your pec minor that you may find helpful, and foam rolling the lats and upper back to improve thoracic mobility is something that most everyone should do as part of their warmup. The stretching and SMR loosen the tight tissues. The other side of the coin is strengthening the relatively weak muscles that externally rotate the shoulder.

The general recommendation for this is to pull more and push less. You might use a rower in your warmup (concentrating on big chest and retracted scapulae). You can do rowing exercises as a supplemental movement after your main lifts. You can add a pulling movement to whatever conditioning work you had in mind, so pushups get paired with a like number of ring rows, for example. Lastly, you may find it worthwhile to do a prehab routine to activate the rotator cuff and scapular stablizers to help with external rotation during your workout. Diesel Crew's should prehab routine on youtube is a good one.

As for cleaning before you've got a decent rack, I'd steer away from full cleans and concentrate on power cleans for now. Get so you know that your elbows won't finish on your knees. Even a weight that's light for your pull can fell heavy on your wrist if you catch it bad. There's still room for truyly light form work in there, but once you start adding SMR, prehab, and supplemental exercises to your workout, you're going to run out of time anyways.
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Old 01-04-2012, 12:55 PM   #6
Ben Glidewell
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 34

Thanks for the reply Patrick. I can barely get a loaded bar in a rack position after some serious stretching/mwods and I can not keep it there through any range of motion. I am also trying to get used to pulling and power cleans + jerk with a wider grip. But, just a month ago I couldn’t even get the bar to touch my shoulder with any part of my fingers on it, baby steps I guess. Until lately my training was dominated by pushing, and I would say that my shoulders are rotated forward. There is not a rower where I workout, but I did hit Diesel Crew’s shoulder prehab day 1 and 50 SDLHP first thing and that felt pretty good… thanks for the tip.

I am doing SMR daily; I do need to concentrate more on my upper body. Is the mwod you are talking about place the arm behind the back to roll the ball on the corresponding pec?

Can you recommend some exercises to strengthen the muscles that externally rotate the shoulder?

I go back and forth on how to load front squats. With my miserable excuse for a front rack would you do front squats with my arms crossed? I have been doing them with my ‘elbows on the knees’ rack and the bar totally supported by my arms lately hoping that would improve my flexibility.

Thanks again for the advice.
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Old 01-04-2012, 02:15 PM   #7
Blair Lowe
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 593

Off hand I can think of Cuban Presses for external rotation. Diesel crew also does a version of them on an incline bench where they just focus on the rotation and do not extend the weight.

Maybe for the FS, use straps that wrap around the bar.
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Old 01-05-2012, 02:05 PM   #8
Ben Glidewell
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 34

Thanks for posting the Cuban Press Blair, I have never seen or heard of it before. I suppose having weak external rotators explains why I have never been able to throw a ball very far and why if I threw a baseball or football really hard it would cause pain in outside of my shoulder. Thanks again to Patrick for the heads up. I found these exercises online http://www.spinalhealth.net/ex-rot.html before I saw your post did 12x2 with a 15# db lying flyes and lying L flyes on a rest day with some stretching and SMR... how would you program strengthening external rotators? On the front squat do you mean regular straps for heavy pulls or deads?
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