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Thoracic Mobility When Front Squatting/Cleaning

Sorry if this is a topic which has been done to death! But essentially, as a fairly inflexible lifter I have a propensity to round my upper back when heavy front squatting/cleaning. I can’t achieve the locked arch position down low like some lifters can ( Peter Kirkbride is a great example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02e3ZS-C__4 ). Has anyone here had similar experiences and if so, in terms of increasing mobility, how have you helped deal with it?

That hasnt much to do with flexibility, thats just going soft under the bar. I know cause i have great flexibility but still do it sometimes.

Koing does it in his Front squats cause sometimes its unavoidable.

Edit: not picking on you koing just using you as an example :stuck_out_tongue:

But it’s something I notice all the time front squatting; basically I’m staying upright purely by back strength, whereas with a back squat I can achieve solid locked position which doesn’t really move regardless of the weight. In contrast as the weight gets heavier with my front squat the lean forward and round increase with the weight. Surely working on flexibility to achieve a more upright sitting position would help benefit staying upright throughout an entire clean/front squat, even if it doesn’t completely solve the problem? So if you can increase your hip flexibility so that your back angle in an ATG squat is around 10 degrees instead of 35, it should help with this issue?

Well, yeah, I think if you stay as upright as possible it’ll make keeping your back tighter easier. But that’s not an upper back flexibility/mobility issue like you implied you thought you had in your original post. Can you sit down into a deep front squat with a tight arch through your whole back without any weight on the bar? If yes, then it’s a strength thing, not a flexibility thing (which is also implied when you say it gets worse as the weight gets heavier).

Just due to the different leverages I think it’s far easier to keep a tight upper back while back squatting than front squatting. If it’s an issue, maybe putting more emphasis on driving those elbows up out of the hole could help. Just spitballing. Also, on the comment of using back strength to stay upright, I’ve had people tell me that doing sets of any more than 5 for the front squat is a bad idea, because the upper back tends to fatigue before the legs do and you’ll round and your form will go to shit. Not sure where they got that, but on some level it makes sense.

I guess what I’m trying to say is clean the sand out of your vagina and tighten your shit up. Though I suppose if your hips are preventing you from being more upright you could work on that too.

[quote]TheJonty wrote:
Well, yeah, I think if you stay as upright as possible it’ll make keeping your back tighter easier. But that’s not an upper back flexibility/mobility issue like you implied you thought you had in your original post. Can you sit down into a deep front squat with a tight arch through your whole back without any weight on the bar? If yes, then it’s a strength thing, not a flexibility thing (which is also implied when you say it gets worse as the weight gets heavier).

Just due to the different leverages I think it’s far easier to keep a tight upper back while back squatting than front squatting. If it’s an issue, maybe putting more emphasis on driving those elbows up out of the hole could help. Just spitballing. Also, on the comment of using back strength to stay upright, I’ve had people tell me that doing sets of any more than 5 for the front squat is a bad idea, because the upper back tends to fatigue before the legs do and you’ll round and your form will go to shit. Not sure where they got that, but on some level it makes sense.

I guess what I’m trying to say is clean the sand out of your vagina and tighten your shit up. Though I suppose if your hips are preventing you from being more upright you could work on that too.[/quote]

I dont think he was going to listen, he had his mind made up about flexibility.

OK - fair enough. My logic was just that if, even though the back may be flat, you are leaning forward a lot when you squat then the propensity to round in a more extreme way would be higher. Obviously strength is going to play a big part in avoiding rounding, but I can’t really sit in a deep front squat position without the tight arch regardless of weight - which is why I thought that flexibility is an issue to try to correct as well as just becoming stronger. On that note, there seems to be a lot of conflicting advice on how to effectively condition your back for cleaning/front squatting - other than just front squatting what sort of exercises are best for this?

Frankly front squatting is one of the best upper back exercises there is, if you’re concerned about the upper back rounding too much, focus more on keeping it tight, and maybe reduce the weight a little.

If you want to specifically target the upper back, any type of row/ pullup variation will do, just keep them heavy and try to up reps/ weight as often as possible with good form. (IE: targeting the lats)

Ok, I have had a few problems here as well and am well on my way to sorting them. I have short femurs which is great for front/back squats…until you get lazy with your technique and start pushing the weights as high as possible at the expense of technique, in this scenario anyone is going to get injured. I had so much inflammation in my upper back it started rounding on powercleans, I shit you not.

After a little time off, I rebuilt my front squat by using 70 and eventually 80% for triples (I mainly did singles before) and as many sets as I could maintain a tight core and perfect form.

The key for me, with regard to technique, was mastering the descent.

Don’t over arch your back and keep a neutral spine with eyes straight ahead and chin over bar. weight through heels and pushing knees out
aim to keep bolt upright at every moment in the lift (Watch Lu front squat 230x2 @ 77)
weight should be spread evenly throughout feet at very bottom of lift. This allows you to stay upright and ‘sit-in’ between your heels
If your hips shift back anywhere up to this point, YOU LOSE!

Drive elbows high and maintain tightness in your core.

The rest is consequential really…

Doing it right was shockingly hard on my core, even at the reduced weights. I am almost back to my previous best weights now but look and feel so much more efficient doing them. I can now ‘zombie squat’ pretty much what I do with a full grip… in fact I do this exercise weekly as it’s a great core builder…I highly rate it

In addition, I also started doing pendlay rows, but in a constant concentric/eccentric fashion for 3/5 sets of 5/10 reps, I was very weak at these which pointed towards back strength being poor. I’m now much stronger at them and I’m sure they have helped my squat.

Whereabouts are you from Dave?

Thanks for the input gogetit, I think rebuilding my front squat is to be put top of the agenda with the adjustments you mention. Have you found that increasing your efficiency has carried over to your cleans? With mastering the descent in mind, would you recommend eccentric front squat with more than a maximal weight to build solidity in the bottom? I’m a student in the UK West Midlands :slight_smile:

[quote]onemandave wrote:
Thanks for the input gogetit, I think rebuilding my front squat is to be put top of the agenda with the adjustments you mention. Have you found that increasing your efficiency has carried over to your cleans? With mastering the descent in mind, would you recommend eccentric front squat with more than a maximal weight to build solidity in the bottom? I’m a student in the UK West Midlands :)[/quote]

Without a doubt - there is nothing like an efficient clean to make sticking the jerk a certainty!

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