Let’s revisit this topic.
Six weeks or so ago, I posted a blog about the use of wrist wraps and wrote the statement:
“Don’t ignore the actual problem if the wrist is just the victim. The biggest culprit of wrist pain is poor thoracic, scapular, and shoulder mobility leading to an ineffective rack position. Consequently, the wrist then becomes injured as the athlete compensates and gains too much mobility from this downstream joint rather than looking up the chain at the problem area. In these cases, stretching the wrist is not only unproductive, but can be injurious as the wrist is likely already overstretched.”
Then, about two weeks ago, I posted this picture and posed this challenge on social media:
"When you bring your shoulder and elbow up and into this position, can you keep your trunk stable and get your forearm vertical (as in the left sided photo)? Can you open further (as in the right sided photo)? If you cannot achieve these positions because you are lacking mobility or strength/motor control to get there ... or both... you're going to struggle with a front rack. This can lead to shoulder pain of course ....but also potentially wrist or elbow pain."
So how does this all relate??
And yes, it absolutely does. First, the wrist wraps. If you are wearing wrist wraps because your wrists hurt, please evaluate WHY they hurt. Second, let’s skip to the stretching through pain. Dr. Nickleston is correct, stretching to a point of pain is not only unproductive but it is dangerous. You could be stretching tissues that are already inflamed and injured and as I said, are downstream victims of your movement patterns. As he notes, stop chasing your pain. The painful area may not be the problem area. I take that back. It is now a problem area but it is not always the driver of the problem, and thus, pain.
Ok, so we have that out of the way...
Now for the rack position.
The secret you have been waiting for… it comes down to your rib cage and shoulders people! Today – we will discuss the shoulder but watch for posts regarding the scapulae (shoulder blades) and the ribcage. On the right side of the above picture, my shoulder is in, what is called, external rotation. If you place your elbow by your side and pull your hand away from the body, you get the same thing. Seen here (Go Hawks!):
Now try this as pictured above with the elbow in front on the shoulder (right sided pic in the side-by side where I am wearing jeans). Harder?? Non-existent?? If you don’t have good motion there, do you also have pain with the front rack? Where? Your wrist? Will wrist wraps help in this case? Eh, probably not. What might help is mobility into the position of external rotation. Now mobility might mean STRETCHING into that position. I like the ninja stretch as it positions the elbow up as in the front rack:
Similarly, you may need strengthening into that position. I like the drill I learned from Dr. Ryan DeBell of The Movement Fix (seen on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDCr-h1S38I). PLEASE WATCH THIS! Its a super helpful drill that I give this out to many of my patients. The idea is that though you may have strength in this position (and it may be suboptimal….), you likely have trouble with the endurance of this position. The drill he outlines is fantastic! Why is endurance important? It is crucial that not just one rep looks and feels good but that you are able to get into the most optimal position for the entirety of a workout.
Also, note that if you have been a weightlifter and/or have a large amount of mass in the area of the biceps, you will need even MORE external rotation range of motion. This is because of the space taken up and blocking flexion of the elbow. If you can’t bend the elbow AND the shoulder won’t externally rotate, the wrist may take a beating.
Ok folks, your homework is to do a little self-assessment. Can you get into the positions pictured here? Is it mobility or strength? Can you do both of these things with no problem? If so, we have to keep searching for your front rack limitation. Let me know if you need help!!