The Power of Your Armpits
by Rob “The Kinetic Guru”
A few months ago I took a visit to a local high school to reunite with a colleague I hadn’t seen in awhile and I found myself helping coach some of the athletes as they entered the weight room.
One common question I received from one of the male athletes was:
“How could I improve my bench press, should I just do more dumbbell flyes and add in incline bench press?”
Since this type of response was the furthest from my mind. I emphasized;
“You need to take the slack out of your lats and bring your core up to speed.”
He looked at me confused like a 3rd grader doing fractions for the first time so I had to explain a little better.
“Your lats help to connect your shoulders and your hips, and are a big part of your core.”
He STILL looked at me a little confused, so I simply said:
“You gotta learn how to push from your armpits!”
The lightbulb must’ve finally came on because he smiled with a big “Ohhhhh!”
The Solution and Results
The four exercises I told him to focus on and get stronger in were chinups, dips, pushups and sumo deadlifts. This way he’ll engage his lats as both a moving and core muscle in these four movements. After 2 weeks of implementation he slapped 40 pounds onto his max bench press.
Now you may be wondering “how is this possible?” Here’s how: after watching him bench press, his body had no idea how to stay “connected” in order to avoid leaking and wasting energy. From a sequencing and patterning standpoint, the coordination of his lats with the rest of his body improved so that his shoulders didn’t have to carry the load alone.
This is what I meant by take the slack out of his lats and bring his core up to speed. The 40 pound increase came from increased stability, improved coordination and simply priming the nervous system to move more weight. He didn’t follow a 3 sets of 10 scheme either. Because he was looking to increase strength, 4-5 sets of heavy triples and sets of 5 were key. His body had to accumulate a lot of volume (reps and sets) with relatively heavy loads.
So if you want to start moving more weight, no matter if it’s a bench press or deadlift, or even if you want to be able throw a ball farther then you must take the slack out of your lats and tap into the power of your armpits.
The Schematics of Armpit Power
The lats play two critical roles in the body:
- Work with the abs to stabilize the lumbar spine (lower back).
- Work with the upper back muscles to stabilize the shoulder joint.
Now this whole concept of “Armpit Power” is something I assumed everyone was aware of. A few weeks ago when I attended the Perform Better 3-Day Summit in Providence, RI Dr. Stuart McGill also talked about the importance of the lats. And during the practical portion I was blown away that most of the attendees had not been using their lats when they lifted. I even
met a competitive powerlifter from New York, I partnered during the hands-on breakout session with, who had no concept of armpit power.
We talked after the conference and with a few tips I gave him I recently found out that he added 35 pounds to his bench, 60 pounds to his squat and 45 pounds to his deadlift while decreasing his back pain.
To continue this article and view the videos about the benefits of armpit power, click on the titles below: