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Bench Press: The Role of Lats & Triceps

Powerlifting is a sport that demands exceptional strength and technique, and the bench press is one of its fundamental lifts. While most powerlifters prioritize building chest strength, it's important not to underestimate the pivotal role played by two often-overlooked muscle groups: the lats (latissimus dorsi) and triceps. In this blog post, we'll delve into the significance of these muscle groups in the context of powerlifting, emphasizing how they contribute to improved strength and performance on the bench press platform.

Powerlifting Bench Press: A Compound Strength Movement

The bench press is a cornerstone of powerlifting, showcasing the lifter's upper body strength. It's not merely an exercise but a competitive lift where every ounce of strength and technique counts. This lift is a compound movement, involving multiple muscle groups working in harmony to lift the weight. In addition to the chest, shoulders, and legs (for leg drive), the lats and triceps are instrumental in ensuring success during this vital powerlifting endeavor.

The Crucial Role of Lats in Powerlifting Bench Press

  1. Stability and Arch Control: Powerlifters know that a controlled arch of the thoracic spine is essential to maximize leverage and minimize the range of motion. The lats play a pivotal role in maintaining this arch while ensuring stability on the bench.

  2. Eccentric Control: As you lower the barbell to your chest, the lats come into play to eccentrically control the descent. This control allows for a more controlled and precise touchpoint on the chest, which is crucial for a strong, efficient press.

  3. Racking and Unracking: During setup and unracking, the lats help you position the barbell efficiently, preserving energy for the lift itself. This is particularly important in powerlifting, where every bit of energy conservation can make a difference.

How to Engage Your Lats in the Powerlifting Bench Press:

  • Maintain a tight upper back and engage your lats by pulling your shoulder blades down towards your hips.

  • Focus on maintaining tension in your lats throughout the entire lift.

  • Visualize using your lats to stabilize the barbell and maintain your arch.

The Role of Triceps in Powerlifting Bench Press

  1. Lockout Strength: Powerlifting competitions often hinge on the lockout phase of the bench press. This is where the triceps come into their own, providing the necessary explosive strength to extend the elbows fully and secure a successful lift.

  2. Breaking Sticking Points: Strong triceps can be your secret weapon in overcoming sticking points, those challenging areas where the barbell seems to stall. Robust triceps give you the ability to power through these sticking points and complete the lift.

  3. Injury Prevention: Healthy triceps play a pivotal role in injury prevention. Strengthening the triceps stabilizes the elbow joint, reducing the risk of strains or injuries during heavy bench pressing.

How to Engage Your Triceps in the Powerlifting Bench Press:

  • Optimize your grip width to leverage your triceps' strength.

  • Concentrate on an explosive extension during the upward phase of the lift.

  • Incorporate triceps-specific exercises, such as close-grip bench presses and board presses, to bolster triceps strength.


In the world of powerlifting, the bench press is a battleground where lats and triceps should never be underestimated. These muscle groups are the unsung heroes that contribute to stability, precision, and explosive power during the lift. To excel in powerlifting, it's essential to recognize the critical role that lats and triceps play, incorporating targeted training to strengthen them and optimize your bench press performance. By doing so, you can harness their power to conquer your competition and elevate your powerlifting journey to new heights.

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