8 Mobility Exercises and Stretches to Improve Your Clean and Front Squat

As a coach and competitive weightlifter I often struggle with mobility (either the lack of or the constant battle to maintain it) and the effects of hard training. In my weightlifting club, many CrossFitters, beginner weightlifters, AND competitive athletes struggle with heavier loads in the clean, front squat, and pressing exercises, often due to mobility limitation/movement flaws that are hindering their performance.

When asked how to combat particular issues concerning the clean, and more specifically the catch positioning, the solutions are often derived from a combination of the following mobility exercises and stretches.

Below are 8 of my go-to mobility exercises/stretches to assist athletes in achieving a more stable, mobile, and stronger positioning in the front squat and clean.

Lower Body Mobility/Stretches

The following mobility exercises and stretches target common issues at the ankles, knees, and hips.

Squat to Stand Stretch

This dynamic mobility exercise works to improve movement in the hamstrings, lower back, inner groin (adductors), ankles, and calves. The dynamic movement also mimics the squatting pattern, making it a great proprioceptive warm up technique before training sessions.

Psoas Release on Ball

The psoas is responsible for assisting in pelvic stability. With overactive psoas and hip flexors, the pelvis goes into anterior tilt, creating additional stress at the lumbar and limiting hip mobility. Releasing the psoas through trigger point and soft tissue therapy will allow the pelvis to sit neutrally, increase pelvis and core stabilization, allow for better diaphragmatic breathing, and ultimately, save your squat.

Upper Body Mobility/Stretches

The following mobility exercises and stretches target common issues at the thoracic cavity, shoulders, and elbows.

Banded Lat/Triceps/Pec Opener

Increase lat/pec/triceps mobility places a large role in your ability to get the elbows under the barbell and maintain a secure and stable front rack positioning. Additionally, this is a great mobility exercise to assist in securing a better overhead positioning.

Triceps Barbell Smash

This is a fast and effective mobility exercise to increase elbow and shoulder movement, both vital for catching in the clean. This is a great exercise to do in between warm up sets with the empty barbell.

Weighted Thoracic Extension on Foam Roller

Thoracic extension is vital to maintaining a rigid and upright torso in the front squat positioning. Additionally, increases thoracic mobility with a foam roller will allow a better packing of the back in the pulls and alignment in the jerk.

Front Rack Specific Mobility/Stretches

The following mobility exercises and stretches can be used to develop improvements in movement specific (front squat and clean) enhancement in mobility and postural stability.

Front Rack Partner Stretch

Partner assisted stretching in the squat and/or standing position can greatly enhance your ability to achieve a proper catch position in the clean. By performing this partner stretch, you can develop greater postural awareness, mobility, and balance in the front rack position to allow for faster elbows and a more upright torso in the catch.

Front Squat with Straps

This gem is brought to us by Aleksey Torokhtiy and his coach, which entails using lifting straps to better develop a front rack positioning. Often, lifters fingertip the barbell, allowing the elbows and posterior to sag, which results in missed cleans and thoracic flexion.

Pause Squat Breathing

Chris Duffin, elite powerlifter, discusses the importance of breathing in the squat position to increase stability throughout the core. You can apply the same principles in a front squat position, as well as using front squat walk outs to increase core stability under loads. The more stable and comfortable you are under loads, the less the barbell will move around, which can negatively impact your bar patterning and performance.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image: @thej2fit on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.

Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.

Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.

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