Written by Calvin Sun
The rack position is the source of much pain and frustration for many athletes. The inability to get into a good rack position affects your ability to effectively press, push-press, or jerk a barbell overhead. You’ll also be far less effective in your front squats and, of course, your cleans. This is usually caused by some tight muscles throughout your upper body such as the latissimus dorsi, teres major, posterior deltoid, and triceps. The wrist flexors are also a common culprit. I highly recommend reading Kelly Starrett’s articles on stretching the lats and triceps. Also, read Greg Everett’s “Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches” for some good ideas on how to stretch the wrists, or just ask a coach who has read these. Today, our focus will be on the teres major and posterior deltoid. Don’t get too caught up in the anatomy as our primary focus is to mobilize the restricted range of motion. Here’s a stretch that’s sure to improve your rack position.
1. Start with a length of PVC pipe, grip it in your left hand with your thumb pointed downward.
2. The PVC should rest on the outside of your left arm, grip the lower portion with your right hand.
3. Keep your left elbow pointed forward as if you were in a rack position. Keep your shoulder back and down.
4. Using the back of your left arm as a pivot, pull the PVC pipe up with your right hand to externally rotate your upper arm.5. You should feel a stretch in the back of your shoulder and/or the back of your armpit.
Once you are in a stretched position, implement contract-relax techniques to make this stretch even more effective. Contract for 5 seconds by internally rotating your left arm as if you were arm wrestling. Relax for 10 seconds but keep tension by continuing to apply tension with your right arm. Five cycles of 5 seconds on and 10 seconds off is the standard prescription.
Don’t forget to switch sides and stretch your right side as well. Trust me, you don’t want a lopsided rack. In addition to this stretch and the few I mentioned earlier, make sure you are also working towards increasing your mobility in your thoracic spine. T-spine mobility is also essential to a pain-free rack position, read more in my previous post here. Still not sure how to perform this stretch? Simply ask one of your coaches.