Sunday, March 11, 2007

Engage the Lats for a Better Bench Press

Use back muscles to exercise the chest?


By tensing up the lats, along with the pectoral and arm muscles, you bring into effect the phenomenon known as hyperirradiation. In hyperirradiation, muscles other than the targeted muscles are tensed and hardened to give support to the targeted muscles and stabilize the joints. In this case, the tense lats (Latissimus dorsi) stabilize the shoulder and support the action of the pectoralis major. The end result is a stronger lift and, perhaps more importantly, a safer lift that is less prone to injury.

Think of it this way: Imagine a ladder lying on the ground and you have to lift it to a vertical position by pulling on one of the rungs. If you just heave on the rung without bracing it, the ladder will be very difficult to control and you will use most of your strength to keep the ladder from swinging out of control. But if you brace the ends of the ladder with your feet or have an assistant steady the ladder, you can focus your strength on raising the ladder into place. Hyperirradiation works the same way, the assisting muscles stabilize the joint and supply a firm foundation for the movement so that the pectoralis major can focus its strength on pressing, rather than stabilizing.

In addition to stabilizing the joints, the additional muscular activity of hyperirradiation also stimulates more neural activity in the targeted muscle, i.e. pecs.

Power to the People, Pavel Tsatsouline says this about the effects of hyperirradiation:
“Powerlifters (to) whom I taught this deceptively simple move report a typical increase of ten pounds on their bench press the first time they try it!”

To engage the lats from the bottom position of the bench press, prior to pressing tense up the lats by making an inward twisting motion with the arms as if you were attempting to bend the barbell. Maintain tension on the lats throughout the press. You can do the same thing starting from the top position and maintaining the tension through the eccentric (lowering) motion.

Another way to employ hyperirradiation to improve your bench press is to crush the bar with your grip. The forearm muscles activated by the grip will stabilize the elbow and wrist and lend strength to the triceps. With solid, tense muscles all the way up the arm, the force generated by the pecs and lats goes right to the bar instead of being absorbed by the shoulder, elbow and wrist.

Stay strong, live well.

John Fike


Gurtej said...

Thanks for that write up. I've been looking for how to do this method and this has really cleared up things for me.

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