Performing bench press, push-ups, and other chest-focused exercises recruit a host of muscles, including your lats. Because your lats and serratus anterior muscles get a workout on chest day, it’s not uncommon to feel soreness in your back and sides after a chest workout. Your lats are activated to properly control the barbell’s downward path during exercises such as the bench press. Plus, your lats and other muscles work when your arms are extended during a dip, press, or push-up to steady yourself.
Should Your Back Be Sore After Benching?
Don’t be alarmed if you have soreness in your back muscles the day after a focused chest workout. This is not in itself a sign that you are performing an exercise incorrectly. In fact, proper lifting form for complex lifts, such as the bench press, will require you to recruit muscles in your legs, shoulders, arms, and back throughout the range of motion, in addition to your chest muscles.
- It is normal to feel some back soreness after a chest workout.
- Many chest exercises utilize back muscles, as well as other muscle groups, in addition to the chest.
- Seek professional guidance to make sure you are performing chest exercises correctly.
If you are feeling soreness only in your back and not in your chest and triceps, it’s worth taking a closer look into how you are working out. Learn from the best—a personal trainer can help hone your form. Rather than getting your lifting advice from “that one guy” at the gym, watch several in-depth YouTube tutorials from professional trainers, athletes, and strongmen competitors. Educating yourself will help you get the most out of your chest workout to build a strong upper body.
Why Are Your Lats Sore After a Chest Workout? 4 Reasons
If you’ve woken up the day after completing several sets of flat bench press only to feel sore muscles on your sides, below your armpits, you may be wondering what’s going on. Don’t worry. There are several reasons your lats may be sore after engaging in rigorous chest exercise. The reasons are:
Lats are Secondary Muscles for Many Chest Exercises
Your lats do a lot of work during many typical chest exercises, including push-ups, flat bench, and incline bench press. For starters, the lat muscles have attachment points on the shoulder blades and the rear of the upper arm, above the triceps. This means that your lats are partially responsible for adducting (opening) your arms. So, when you lower the bar to your chest during a bench press or lower your body down during a push-up or dip, your lats are working hard to control that descent.
- Your lats are a key secondary muscle activated during many chest exercises.
- Lat engagement occurs when you control the eccentric (downward) motion of chest exercises.
- Sore lats can be a sign that you are performing your chest-targeting upper body exercises correctly.
Having sore lats after a chest workout can be seen as a good thing. It’s a sign that you are practicing proper form throughout the entire range of motion of the exercise. If you were performing improper bench presses where you allow the weight to “drop” down to your chest, your lats wouldn’t be sore. You’d also be cheating yourself of half the workout.
Your Lats Provide Stability During Chest Workouts
Although most lat engagement occurs during the eccentric movement (lowering the weight) of a chest exercise, that isn’t the only time your lats are called upon to work. When you extend your arms at the top of a rep during a bench press exercise or push-up, it takes a lot of work to keep the weight stable. Your lats are activated to keep the weight from tipping to one side or falling forward or back.
- Your lats are engaged at the top extension of chest exercises to stabilize the weight and your body.
- By engaging for stabilization, your lats are kept under tension for a long period, resulting in an intense workout followed by muscle soreness.
A loaded bar held at arm’s length has a lot of leverage. Consequently, your muscles work hard to maintain control. You may not notice your lats working when you are at the upper point of your barbell bench, but they are. In addition, your quads, core, deltoids, triceps, and pectoral muscles will all be engaged. Shift your thinking—bench pressing isn’t just for your chest; it has benefits for several muscle groups.
Your Chest is Stronger than Your Back
When performing any exercise that works several muscle groups, the weakest muscle will have to work the hardest. This results in that “weak link” muscle experiencing more soreness than the stronger muscles. So, if your back is sore after a chest workout, it simply signals that the weight you are lifting is not an extreme challenge for your chest and triceps, but it is pushing your lats to their limit.
- Lat soreness after a chest workout signals that the weight was more challenging for your back muscles than your chest muscles.
- Add more emphasis on back development to your workout plan—incorporate 15–20 sets of back-specific exercise per-week.
- As your back gains strength, the soreness will be more evenly distributed between your back muscles, chest, and triceps.
Again, this can be seen as a good sign. Your body is letting you know where you need to develop strength and combat muscle imbalances. Weak lats signal that you should perform more lat-building back exercises such as wide grip pull-ups and row variations. Continue to work on chest-specific exercises until your lats catch up and your chest and triceps feel the burn as much as your back.
You May Not Have Sore Lats After All
Your lats definitely work during chest exercises, but if you’re feeling soreness beneath your armpit after a back workout, this may be due to a muscle called the serratus anterior. Your serratus anterior is a muscle to the side of your pectoral, beneath the armpit. It works to bring your arms forward in a pushing or pressing motion, making it a primary muscle used during chest exercises.
- Soreness beneath your armpit may actually be caused by a sore serratus anterior muscle, not sore lats.
- The serratus anterior is responsible for moving the scapula forward and protracting the arms, which are key motions during any “push” or “press” exercise.
- A sore serratus anterior muscle is a good sign after a chest workout—this muscle is critical to properly performing chest exercises.
Although most workout guides list the pectoralis major as the primary muscle activated by chest exercises, the truth is more complex. The serratus anterior is partially responsible for bringing the arms forward to execute these exercises. So, what you first thought was lat soreness may be more accurately described as soreness in a chest-adjacent muscle.
Why Do Your Lats Hurt When You Bench?
If you are experiencing sharp or shooting pains in your back or the rear of your shoulders during the bench press, rack the bar and reassess. Improperly performed bench press—or overtraining by benching too frequently—can injure your shoulder joint. This can manifest as pain in your shoulders or back. If this happens, consult a physician, rest, and recover. Then, study your bench press form and work at a lower weight. As you recover, make sure to perform your exercises with strict form.
- Sharp, shooting, or intense pain in your back or shoulder during bench press is a sign of injury.
- If you believe you are suffering from shoulder injury, consult a doctor and begin an injury rehabilitation program.
- If your chest workout has caused shoulder injury, reassess your bench press form and training schedule to reduce injury risk.
- If the pain you feel is muscle burn, not injury, it is likely a sign your lats are weaker than your chest and are thus working harder during the bench press
However, if the pain you feel in your lats during the bench press is simply the burn of working muscles, this is not a problem. It merely means you are recruiting your lats and serratus anterior to move the weight. Again, this is probably a sign that your back is a weak link in your muscle development compared to your chest.
Why is Your Back Sore After Training Chest?
Sore, tight muscles in your back or your sides are not uncommon after an intense chest workout. In addition to your pectorals, many chest exercises recruit several major muscle groups. This includes the shoulder muscles and back muscles, such as the lats. The reasons for this soreness are:
- Lats are a secondary muscle used to control the downward motion of most chest exercises.
- Your lats work as stabilizer muscles to control the weight when you are at the top position of a chest exercise with arms extended.
- Your lat muscles are less developed than your chest, leading them to fatigue more easily than your pectorals.
- The soreness you’re feeling is not in the lats but actually the serratus anterior, a muscle that is targeted by pushing and pressing motions.
Whether you’re moving heavy weights during a bench press or performing a standard push-up that moves your entire body weight, you’ll be working more than just your chest muscles. A good chest workout may result in sore pecs, but it’s also common to feel the results of your hard work in your back, shoulders, and arms.