Lower body-focused exercises can be some of the most versatile moves in your workout.
While you’ll always need to stay consistent with some aspects of form—not rounding your back when you squat, keeping your knee from slamming on the ground during unilateral moves—you have an opportunity to shake things up when it comes to the load you’re using to challenge yourself and the way you hold it. From barbells and barbells to kettlebells and Bulgarian bags, there are lots of options on the table.
One of our favorite methods of holding a load during lower body exercises is the kettlebell front rack position. The grip is particularly useful because you force your core and upper body to become more active participants as you rep out your squats, lunges, or farmer’s walk reps, making these exercises more of a full body affair. Since you’ve loaded the front of your body, you’re forced to engage those muscles to keep the weight from pulling you forward to stay upright in a spine-safe position. If you only hold one weight in the rack position, you also have to engage the muscles on the opposite side of your body to maintain your upright position, too, adding in a stability component to your workout.
But you can’t just swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height and hold it their to get high quality reps. The position is more involved than that—it’s all about constant tension and creating a position of work. Lazy front racks are one of Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.’s biggest pet peeves.
“The front rack is one of the most misunderstood training positions in fitness,” he says. “At its core, it’s supposed to be a position of work. Every second in the front rack, even if you’re not lunging or squatting or carrying in it, your lats should stay tight and your abs should stay tight, and your wrists should be fighting the kettlebells. It’s a position of total-body tension.”
The way to fix this issue is to change the way you think about the front rack. The position isn’t just how you hold the weights—it’s an integral step of whichever exercise you’re doing.
“The biggest mistake people make in the front rack is simply thinking they can “hold” the weight up there and relax their bodies,” says Samuel. “Don’t do that. Keep your abs tight and keep your ribcage down, and keep your forearms fully perpendicular to the ground. Then tighten your lats up, “pulling” the kettlebells tight to your torso. This active front rack will make it easier for training, and will also build ab and lat strength.”
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