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Lats Help The Bench Press?

A T-Nation poster questions what role the lats play in the bench press, asking:

I seen people say that strong lats help in the initial stage of the bench press.

How would lats help in benching ?

Explanations:

This is a little hard to explain, but here goes: take a closer grip (hands about 1.5-2 feet apart) on the bar. Don't press the bar out of the rack, rather pull it out with your lats. Keep the tightness in your lats that you had to use to pull the bar out of the rack. When you bring the bar down, it should feel almost like you're spring loaded, and make sure your elbows are almost touching your sides. Bench press as usual.

Lats also provide a strong base to bench from. The more surface area situated on that bench the better.

Bring your arms down in the same fashion you would bench press.

Now flare your lats, if your arms don't move in the same way as they would if you were beginning to push the bar up, you're not flaring right.

They can be used as secondary movers, and play a big role in stabalizing.

my interpretation was also that they helped the stretch-reflex. The harder you can flex your lats, the greater teh stretch in the antagonist muscle 9the pecs, front delts.) The greater the stretch, the greater teh ensuing contraction

Big lats also help with cradling the weight in a meet environment. If you watch some of the larger benchers that use a low, tucked-elbow groove, you may see that some do not take the weight at arm's length. Rather, when the hand-off man lets go, the lifter's elbows are bent a little and jammed into their lats. This really doesn't work unless you have a decent arch and big lats to create that stable shelf.

Also important to note that I don't mean that you should always bench with a closer grip, just that it's easier to feel your lats that way, so you get a feel for what you are trying to accomplish.

Anatomically the lats insert on the front of the humerus, not the back like most people think. When the front of the humerus is behind the body (as it is in the bottom of the bench) contracting that muscle pulls the humerus back in line with the body (the first few inches of the bench). So the lats help the beginning drive off the chest.

Normally if you bench and can't even budge your max off your chest, you have weak lats. They also help keep your elbows tucked in.