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 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.
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