The Importance of a Nice Rack

The Importance of a Good Rack

Because the rack position is the key to the front squat!  So why do I care about the Front Squat?  Well, it is the most functional of all the squatting movements since humans evolved to walk upright and carry objects with their arms in front of their bodies!  Therefore, when you find yourself squatting in everyday life (like you always do when you bend down to lift any object off of the Earth’s surface), you will probably notice that the object is almost always in your arms; occasionally on your back; and pretty much never balanced over your head (I hope).

So clearly the front squat deserves it’s relevance among the squatting triad, which brings us to the rack position.  The rack position is the bar resting firmly on the shoulders, fingertips gently in contact with the bar, and upper arms parallel to the ground.  It is the only safe and secure way to hold a barbell in front of the body.

BoatmanTwoRackPositions

It is obvious the top picture is the correct one.   If you find that your wrists are in excruciating pain after doing cleans or front squats, then your rack position probably looks like the bottom photo.  Not a nice rack. :-(

Since all of this seems challenging and painful, most people might ask themself, “Why the hell would I want to do this?”.  Fortunately, because you are CrossFitters, I don’t have to answer that question.  Instead, let’s get right to the benefits and what it says about our skeletal anatomy overall.   As you are probably aware, postural distortions are epidemic in our society. They are exacerbated by endless hours in front of computer screens (like now GODDAMIT!  SIT UP STRAIGHT!)

Figure-22_mod

The hallmark of this disturbance is a weakness of the muscles that support the thoracic spine.  You are probably more concerned with your lumbar spine, which is reasonable.  However, thoracic spine stability contributes to lumbar spine stability in addition to supporting your neck, which might be a concern if you care about your head.

thoracic-spine-and-muscles

Fun Fact: These are the muscles that actually compose a sexy back!

Ideally, when lifting any object we would like to have it as close to our center of mass as possible.  While standing erect, our center of mass runs directly through our spine.   The only way we can approximate this is by placing the bar up against our throat.  In order to secure this position, the upper arms must be parallel to the ground with the elbows pointed directly ahead so that the torso can remain as upright as possible.  The primary requirement is having the flexibility to get the arms into the rack position.  If you cannot get into the right position, than you have no strength in that position.  Excessive tightness of the deltoids, lats, triceps, wrists, scapula, pecs, and even hamstrings have all been implicated in poor rack positions.  After being able to achieve the position, your next challenge will be your ability to hold it.  That is your strength.  Achievement of a full rack position while performing a front squat reflects your body’s ability to stabilize your thoracic spine, cervical spine and head over a changing base of support.  Let’s see what happens when it goes wrong:

Front Squats: Good and Bad