January 23, 2012
January 27, 2012

If you thought that the two (not one, but TWO) met-cons on Tuesday looked familiar, you wouldn’t be wrong. That’s because both have been class features on two recent but separate occasions (one less than a month ago on January 3rd, and the other not long before that on December 27th). Each are short but brutish met-cons in their own right, but when paired up, it definitely became an exercise in pushing through the suck (despite the soothing 10min rest in between).

 Met-Con #1: 
6 minute AMRAP of 6 HS cleans (95/65) & 12 HR Push-Ups

In 6 minutes, perform as many rounds as possible of 6 hang squat cleans and 12 hand release push-ups. Weight for the hang squat cleans was RX’d at 95lbs for guys and 65lbs for ladies, but everyone was given the option to scale to a weight appropriate for their needs. Additionally, those still working on cleans (or just plain uncomfortable with the HS Clean) could perform a hang power clean and then front squat the weight. Score was total rounds and reps.

—- 10 min Rest —-

 Met-Con #2: 
6 minute AMRAP Cluster/Burpee Ladder

In 6 minutes, perform as many ascending sets of the cluster/burpee ladder as possible, adding an additional rep of each exercise with each additional round. Thus, the first set was 1 cluster and 1 burpee, the second set was 2 of each, the third three of each, and so on. The Cluster is a Clean and Thruster combo, and athlete’s had the option to either squat clean the weight right into a thruster, or perform a power clean and then thruster the weight. Regardless, each clean had to start from the floor.

The combination of these two workouts really serves to hammer home the importance of a stable front rack position, and by stable, we mean with the bar resting on the tops of the shoulders with the elbows up and triceps parallel to the floor (as opposed to the a position where the weight of the bar is born in the hands rather than on the shoulders, and the elbows are pulled down and pointing at the floor).

 A good rack position can be the source of a lot of pain and frustration for many athletes. As discovered Tuesday, the inability to get into a good rack position affects a whole host of exercises, including front squats, cleans, and thrusters, as well as the pressing triumverate of strict press/push press/jerks. Oddly enough, it’s relatively easy to combat this frustration (and by easy, I mean of course that the solution is accessible to all). It just takes a lit bit of time, along with a big dose of desire to fix the primary issue: limited mobility & flexibility.

If you’d like your front rack position to look as comfortable as this, read on….

If you’re one of the people struggling to obtain and/or maintain a good rack position (and don’t worry, there’s a lot of you), ask yourself: what am I doing to work on this? If the answer is “nothing, really,” then why not? If it’s simply a lack of resources, look no further than the perma-link on the left hand side of our blog entitled Mobility WOD. This link to KStarr’s website has been there for over 6 months now. Click the link, and throw “front rack” into the MWOD search box, and you’ll discover at least 9 different videos concerning various fixes for problem points of the front rack, including this great discussion about honestly assessing what it is that’s affecting your front rack/front squat position and then figuring out how to fix it:

Using this video as a guide, as well as the other 8 related “front rack” videos in KStarr’s collection, begin attacking your limitations – all it takes is a few minutes before/after each class or trip to the gym. 
Of course, just because you don’t have issues with the front rack position doesn’t mean you’re home free. Let’s face it, we all have those movements that frustrate us to no end due, in large part, to the limitations imposed on our ROM (Range of Motion).  These limitation are self imposed as a result of un-addressed sticking points in our mobility/flexibility, and while some of us have more, each of us has one that usually dominates, be it awkward ankles, high-strung hamstrings, unhingeable hip flexors, or stingy shoulders.
So, with the new year now in full swing, and what I hope is a subtle realization that none of these “frustrating” lifts are ever going away, I ask all of you to rededicate yourselves to working on those major sticking points of yours. 
Now then, rest up, roll out, and we’ll see you soon for some more fun later this week.


  1. SBV says:

    I’m convinced, now moreso than ever, that the front squat is fundamental movement in CrossFit. By improving your front squat, you improve your squat clean, hang squat clean, thruster, cluster, wallball shots, and air squat. And improving doesn’t just mean increasing the weight on the front squat. It includes improving positioning. It means working to keep the torso perfectly upright. Show me someone who can front squat a lot of weight with an upright torso, and I’ll show you someone who can do a whole host of other CrossFit movements well.

    Last night was a prime example of the importance of front squat strength and positioning. Those with solid front squats were able to keep moving on the hang squat cleans and were able to continue driving the bar overhead on the cluster. Those without solid front squats were left with rounded backs, aching wrists, and no power to drive the clusters overhead. I got hammered by wallball shots and thrusters at the SuperFit Games, and am determined to strengthen my front squat.

    I’d like to add one more thing to Chris’ write-up about front rack position mobility. I see a lot of CFDC athletes struggling with their wrists. I suffered from terrible tendonitis in my elbows around this time last year because of wrist strain in the front rack position. It cost me a lot of time out of the gym (not to mention chiro bills). It may sound backward, but I found the biggest help for wrist pain is improving ankle and hip mobility. Improved ankle and hip mobility also you to obtain a more upright torso, which then takes the strain off your arms/wrists in the front rack position. It certainly helps to mobilize the front rack position, but don’t forget that the bigger issue may be in the squatting movement itself.

    I scored 5 rounds plus 1 hang squat clean in the first segment, and 6 rounds plus 7 clusters and one 1 burpee in the second.

    Slow day at work, clearly . . .

  2. SaltyHat says:

    Sebastian, that’s an excellent point, and – oddly enough – is also one that’s made by KStarr in the video that was embedded in today’s post.

    Discomfort in a position is often caused by overcompensating for limitations. Using SBV’s example: flexibility limitations in his ankles and hips meant he was leaning too far forward in the front squat; thus, the bar wasn’t staying on his shoulders and so had to be held in the hands. Maybe you can get away with that when holding a piece of PVC, but 100lbs? 200lbs? 300lbs?? Not likely.

    The point: Watch the video. Figure out what’s holding you back. And then work to address the problem.

  3. Steph says:

    Nice comment, SBV! And another informative post.

    I was discussing a similar issue with Brose last week about squatting form. He commented that I was getting strong (squat-number-wise), but I have to say that strength-wise I still feel I’m far from where I was before the injury, and the only good thing that came with this injury is that I am now much more focused on proper squat form and staying mobile than I did and that has allowed me to put up bigger squat numbers.

    At times it’s easy to get caught up in putting in lots of time on hard workouts and have no time to work on flexibility, but it’s very difficult to improve after a certain point when the muscles are too tight to go any further.

    I loved last night’s class. It was tough and kicked my ass.

    I started out strong in the first workout but lost steam after a few rounds. That makes me wonder, in these types of workouts, I know you’re supposed to go all out in such a short amount of time, but if you know you’re going to slow down considerably in the later rounds, is it better to go fast first and then grind it out at a slower pace or better to keep a steady pace the entire time? In any event, I finished the first workout with 6 complete rounds plus 6 cleans at 65lbs.

    After the first workout, I didn’t think I’d be able to do the second one because I had no grip left. Chris recommended the hook grip, which I know I was supposed to have used in the first workout also! It made a huge difference. I’ll definitely be better about using that in the future! Had to go down in weight for the second workout and finished with 6 rounds and 5 clusters at 55lbs. I was super slow on this workout but was glad that the hook grip allowed me to at least complete the workout.

    Will try my best to be there Thursday! See you then! And sorry for the loooong comment.

  4. Katie says:

    Great reading, and good reminder to work on things I struggle with. I was sad to miss this class because it was a lot of movements I need to work on (cleans and thrusters).

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling well last night so made the difficult decision to stay home. I skipped work to rest at home today but I’m hoping I can bounce back soon.

  5. Sara says:

    Katie – I hope you feel better soon and glad you made the smart decision to help yourself get healthy.

    I am usually very careful with trying to maintain good form but I definitely felt like I started to break down a bit at the end of the cluster workout. I don’t have too much difficulty with the front rack position but I have a lot of trouble with front squats because of the mobility related things SBV mentioned. I have been trying to work on my hip and ankle mobility as those are my limiting factors in the front squat position. I definitely could use some of the same focus Steph has with her squatting form. I need to work getting more upright in the front and overhead squat.

    I worked with 35kg on both metcons. I was 4 push-ups short of 5 rounds on the first workout and got 6 rounds plus 1 cluster on the second.

  6. Erica says:

    Way to burst my bubble, I sort of hoped these “frustrating moves” were going away soon. Sorry I missed a double met-con class. Sounds like you all kicked ass. Am curious to watch the video and see what I’m not doing wrong.

  7. Tom Brose says:

    Nice to see so much thought put into the comments. Sebastian is absolutely correct, the Front Squat is essential to CrossFit success. Both the FS and OHS highlight inefficiencies and mobility issues, so are valuable diagnostic tools.

    On high rep or max weight olympic lifts, the hook grip is ESSENTIAL! It sucks, but you have to get comfortable with it. On a workout like last nights, its the only way to keep grip from becoming a limiting factor. With light weight and high reps, you can actually keep the false grip in throughout the reps.

    On a heavy single rep clean or snatch, the hook grip cinches in the grip while allowing the arms to remain relaxed and transmit the power generated through the hips. In the explosive second pull, the acceleration will open up the hand as the velocity pries them open. Anyone experiencing early arm pull and not regularly using the hook grip, I have an easy first step in correcting your main fault…

    Katie, I hope you’re feeling better soon!

  8. TomandAmi says:

    I complete ly agree with SBV. My issue is engine (more CV stamina I think than muscle endurance) and these kind of WOds in the 4-10 minute time domain are what I need to work on. I can still make strength gains (particularly on the pulls) for sure but I feel like I gas in these WODs before I lose strength.

  9. TomandAmi says:

    NorCal 40s WODS – (A big Masters event)- note front squats.

    Workout #1- 1 mile run with 20# weight vest

    Workout #2- 30 squat snatches @ 125# for time. Any missed rep is a 20 double under penalty beofre continuing. 10 minute cap.

    Wokout #3- As many rounds as possible in 7 minutes of 7 chest to bar pull-ups, 10 dumbbell push presses @ 40#, 10 kettlebell swings at 40#.

  10. edgy reggie says:

    With what was well-stated by Coach Salty, SBV, and Coach, I can’t add anything to the discussion that wasn’t already mentioned.

    …except this: Do work on your hook grip if you haven’t already done so. I was a skeptic at first, but Coach bugged me enough on this that I eventually became a true believer.

    I used 95# for both met-cons. I did four rounds plus six squat cleans on the first met-con. I did up to five clusters and five burpees on the second met-con.

    That workout wore me out! 🙂

    I’ll be working on my mobility/flexibity with Winnie after tonight’s (January 26) class. 🙂