Everything You Need To Know About The Connection Between Your Lats And The Bench Press

Though this may seem contradictory to you, despite the fact that the bench press and your lateral muscles work in opposition to each other, there’s a connection between them. When you are doing a bench press, you are focusing on your pecs, which are pushing muscles, so naturally, the bench pressis a pushing exercise. On the other hand, your lats are pulling muscles, meaning that they benefit the most from lateral rows and pulldowns. In short, strong lats don’t play a big role in the bench press to most people who have just entered the world of fitness.

If you start to think about it on a more anatomical level, though, there is evidence to counter this claim. The first fact worth mentioning is that your lats are actually connected to the front of your upper arm bone, even though there is this common misconception that they end at the back of the bone. In purely physical terms now, everything is simple – your lats are there to pull your arm back whenever you place it in front of you. That is why lats are called pulling muscles. With the bench press, as you well know, the arms are positioned behind your torso in the starting position in order to give you a head start when you begin pushing the bar upwards. This is also where your lats come into play.

When your arms are behind your torso while you’re lying on the bench, the lat actually shortens and helps bring the arms forward. This can be easily checked by grabbing a light long object that can be used as a bar and setting yourself into a bench press position. When you flex your lats, your arms will momentarily shift forward, and your upper arm bone will come closer to being in line with your torso.


To give you a clearer and more straightforward explanation, the role of your lateral muscles is to actually make it easier for you to take the bar off your chest at the beginning of the bench press. That’s when their role changes – they become pushing muscles. The more the bar is in front of you, the less the impact of the lats. Of course, the size of your lats is important when it comes to having a strong base of support in your bench press, they add to the stability of your bench press.

Internal rotation is the second important factor when it comes to the ways that laterals make a difference for your bench press. How this works is closely connected to your elbows and how you should position them when starting to do the press. It is important that you get your elbows out when you start moving the bar away from your chest. This elbow position activates the lats through the internal rotation, so they are doing some work as well. If you have ever seen how trained professionals hit while in the ring, you understand the mechanics behind this. As the arm extends while you’re throwing a punch, your hand should actually be slightly rotated in as it punches, and this little move significantly improves the stability strength of the punch, not to mention that more muscles are activated when you do it correctly. The same goes with the lats and the bench press – when you put your elbows out, the internal rotation takes place and your lats are in the game, along with other, more accessible muscle groups.

In case you feel that your lateral muscles just aren’t strong enough, there are numerous ways to work on them. The good thing is that you don’t need a special kind of program to work your lats successfully, it is only important to work on them continually and consciously. You have to keep good form at all times (which goes for any and every exercise), set the number of reps so that they don’t exhaust you, but still work, and be sure to progressively add more weight every ten days or so, just to keep it challenging. When it comes to exercises that target your lateral muscles, definitely go for cable rows, dumbbell rows, and bodyweight pull-ups, you will see the difference quickly.

If you are working your body toward the goal of becoming a lifter, know that you will need your lats to be strong, as they are both your base of support and additional help in your bench press performance.

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