Coaches and athletes a like love power cleans and front squats for the great strength and power benefits they provide but, there are many that say the lifts are too dangerous, or put too much stress on the wrist. If you have chronic wrist pain, or rack troubles in general with the clean/front squat; the problem might be as simple as fixing your rack position.
A proper rack position for the front squat starts with the bar racked across your collar bones (clavicle) and shoulders (just on top of the landmark known as the acromium process). When teaching the front squat for the first time, put your hands out in front of you and rack the bar here. This is where we can address a problem that a lot of people have; rounding forward of the upper back. Keep your shoulders back and engage your lats (latissimus dorsi). This creates the shelf and tightens your core. Now we are ready to put our hands on the bar.
Drive your elbows up and out as you wrap around the bar, keep your chest up, and maintain a tight upper back. Not all your fingers need to be on the bar; you can take it down to just one if that is comfortable for you. As you descend and as you come up from the squat position you need to keep driving up with the elbows as this lets your back do the work more than your wrists.
Still having wrist pain? Time for some quick trouble shooting.
Using a large resistance band tightly wrap your wrist starting at the wrist and working up the forearm to where you cover about ¼ of the forearm. Blood flow will stop to your hand and it will go numb. From here make a fist with your thumb inside and start stretching it at all angles. Make sure you audibly breath out through your mouth to get your body to relax. After hitting all the angles, holding the stretch, and until you feel a release, unwrap the wrist and let blood flow return. This quick tip can drastically increase your range of motion and reduce wrist pain.
I can’t get my elbows high enough!
Here is where you might need to mash/stretch your triceps. If you have a massage therapist, AWESOME but, not everyone has this luxury so, lay on a softball or lax ball and start digging into your triceps. Don’t just roll it around, find a spot where its tight and keep it on there breathing out through your mouth long and slow until it lets go.
You can also use this same strategy to open up your lats and your serratus muscles that wrap around the back of the arm pit and your ribs respectively.
To stretch the rack position use a resistance band attached to a squat rack or pillar, put your hand through the band, twist to wrap once and then face away from the rack with your elbow high above your head, leaning forward and breathing out. Hold until it opens up.
I can’t seem to keep my upper back flat, what’s wrong?
You might be very tight in your thoracic spine or mid back. So, to correct this we lay our back down on a foam roller or 4” diameter ABS pipe. Make sure the roller is just below your shoulder blades. Let your hands go above your head and back as you relax and open up on the roller, make sure to not let the bottom of your ribs pop up, keep them down and engage your abs so your upper back is actually opening up. Make sure again to breathe out long and slow through your mouth.
Hopefully these tips can help improve your rack and make it a more comfortable experience Cleans and front squats really are great exercises and a lot of fun to perform. The last tip I can give you is to practice this at least 3 days a week, and remember that the closer you get to doing it everyday, the easier and faster the change can happen. Keep squatting!