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For everyone I have talked to about front squats, it all revolves around the same conversation: “I don’t have the wrist flexibility for front squats.” In contrast to popular belief, front squat rack position is due to shoulder and lat mobility. High elbows and mobile lats allow the bar to be in the most optimum position for stability and upper back strength.

The front squat is regarded as one of the harder squat variation for any athlete at any level. The front squat has more anterior chain dominance in contrast to back squats, but the challenge that most lifters have is to keep that front rack position in front of the body.

In this article I talk about the anatomy of the shoulder girdle, how to increase external and internal rotation of the shoulders, and give some drills to help increase the mobility needed to build the front squat.

Anatomy of the Shoulder Girdle and surrounding muscles

The shoulder girdle is made up of the scapula and the clavicle. The muscles that help with the rotation and stability of the shoulder, in regards to the front rack position, are the subscapularis, infraspinatus, the teres major and minor, rhomboid major and minor, latissimus dorsi, and the serratus anterior. These muscles are crucial to the front rack position because instead of using the wrists to hold the load, more muscle groups would exponentially increase weight tolerance and better positioning.

Shoulder girdle and the surrounding muscles.

 

Mobility Importance for Front Squat Excellence

The shoulder joint is a multiaxial joint which allows for movement in three perpendicular axes: transverse, sagittal, and frontal plane (think ball-and-socket). During the front rack position, the shoulders are set in the sagittal plane (holding a weight right in front of you). To keep this the position, the muscles stated above must be mobile enough to keep that stretch throughout the front squat movement. In addition to keeping the weight in the stretched position, the shoulder must be externally rotated to keep that front rack from dipping down.

The front rack position is stabilized during external rotation.

As you can see, Nany does a really good job in keeping that front rack position throughout the whole lift. Stable thoracic.

 

If the lifter struggles with keeping his or her elbows up, the muscles mentioned above are weak or not mobile enough to keep the weight from dipping down.

Great front rack position vs lower elbows that can be fixed

 

Mobility Drills

There are numerous modalities and muscle-releasing strategies lifters would use in and out of the gym. Below I give different mobility exercises that I use in the gym for not only front squats, but all my powerlifting movements (Probably a different article hehe).

Possibly one of my favorite lat and internal/external rotator mobility drills. Kneel down and hinge down to a point where your spine is almost parallel to the floor. Using a box or an elevated step, place your elbows right on the edge. As the photo demonstrates, shoot your neck straight down towards the floor, still maintaining that neutral spine position (Head-through-the-window cue). Hold the bottom position for around 5ct. then release air when you're at the top position. As you can see, the lats stretch at the lowest position allowing the elbows to stay high. To progress this movement, you can ditch the stick and try unilateral movements for more pressure to one side. A tip: Try to keep the bar as perpendicular to the ground as you descend through the window. You can see I'm having trouble with that.

(oh my god please excuse my face) This drill also works on the external rotation of the shoulder, passively stretching those rotator cuff muscles. Using a stick, place your hand outside, while snaking your elbow inside. Using your other hand, pull the stick towards the opposite side of the arm being worked. You can feel the most stretch when the elbow is 90° with the neutral spine.

Cat-Cow

As one of the crucial mobility exercises for every lifter, the cat-cow exercise is the staple for thoracic mobility. At its highest point (Cat), the rhomboids, the infraspinatus, and both teres major and minor are all stretched out in this position. In conjunction with latissimus dorsi stretches, the thoracic region would be most mobile in the front rack position.

In Summary...

The front squat should be an exercise practiced by every strength and power athlete. Being more anterior chain oriented compared to the back squat, the front squat offers more leg hypertrophy from the increased dorsiflexion from the bar being rested in front of the body. As lifters practice the front squat, the determining factor that allows for the most weight being pushed is the lack of mobility of the muscles in the shoulder girdle with the inclusion of the latissimus dorsi. This article gave an insight of the front squat rack positioning and what can be improved as the weight starts getting heavier.