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"Why do we 'fire the lats' in the swing?" illustrated

mc

New member
After the posts about Lance Armstrong swinging Kettlebells, and my own question about his shoulder packing, i kept hearing Pavel's instruction on Enter the Kettlebell to "fire the lats"
It's also what the first RKC instructor told me to do in the swing - and it's a concept i confess i couldn't connect with the mechanics of the swing. Ok i'll do it, but so what?

in case anyone else is having a similar experience, i thought it might be useful to explore:

  • what is meant by "firing the lats"
  • why that "packs the shoulder"
  • how else that muscle contributes to swing form (comparison with hamstring in the sprint)
  • if you're knew to this stuff, how to check if your lat is "fired" in the swing.
Here's a semi illustrated guide to the above points.

best
mc

[update: lat firing self-test and visualization added ]
 
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geoplaten

New member
A very nice piece, thanks for sharing. I'll admit I don't think I'm firing as much as I should, so I will try to pay closer attention starting today.
 
Very thought out piece that I hope will provoke discussion...while I agree that the lats fire to brake the bell at the top of the swing, if I understand what you are saying, I don't agree that one wants to initiate the downswing with the lats. Even (or especially) with overspeed eccentric swings, the downswing commences first with the hip flexors (folding at the hips) followed by accelerating the bell with lat action.

At the top of the swing, the lats are a big player in compressing the joints and plugging power leakage making the composite lever made up of torso, shoulders and arms more rigid...but it is the hip flexors that crank down on that lever initially.

At least, that's my understanding...I may be completely off here.

Question: What shoulder girdle muscles act as the "brakes" to keep the shoulders packed in the socket at the finish of the backswing where the biggest forces are encountered in an overspeed eccentric?
 

mc

New member
Very thought out piece that I hope will provoke discussion...while I agree that the lats fire to brake the bell at the top of the swing, if I understand what you are saying, I don't agree that one wants to initiate the downswing with the lats. Even (or especially) with overspeed eccentric swings, the downswing commences first with the hip flexors (folding at the hips) followed by accelerating the bell with lat action.

good point. i was just focusing on upper body action. you're right on action is starting with the hips. will make that clearer that this is just about what the lats are doing within the swing - not sequence of all movers, etc

At the top of the swing, the lats are a big player in compressing the joints and plugging power leakage making the composite lever made up of torso, shoulders and arms more rigid...but it is the hip flexors that crank down on that lever initially.
agreed
At least, that's my understanding...I may be completely off here.


Question: What shoulder girdle muscles act as the "brakes" to keep the shoulders packed in the socket at the finish of the backswing where the biggest forces are encountered in an overspeed eccentric?
The pecs.
awesome clarification. thanks again.

best
mc
 

Semonides

New member
I do not think you exhaustively answered "why" do we fire the lats in the swing.

One answer is that many of us Americans have what Pavel calls Stupid Bodies. Our legs and our backs do the work that the hips should be doing; we have delegated the lat's responsibility to other muscles like the teres minor. Therefore beginning kettlebellers should engage the lats during the swings of the program minimum in order to wake these sleeping giant muscles. They will need them for all the more advanced training.


I did not start recruiting my lats until much later, and I caused myself some shoulder problems by pressing without lats and by snatching without shoulder packing.

I am now better but I would like to underscore to all beginners to get the lats into the game as soon as possible if they want to avoid injury.
 
I did not start recruiting my lats until much later, and I caused myself some shoulder problems by pressing without lats and by snatching without shoulder packing.

I am now better but I would like to underscore to all beginners to get the lats into the game as soon as possible if they want to avoid injury.

This is a good point in regard to focusing on the macro and not the micro. Instead of thinking about bits and pieces of different techniques, teach your body to do what it should instinctively have been doing all along. Similar to the manner in which we don't really need to train to squat, we have just effectively 'trained it out' over the last 20-30 years.
I've found virtually no one can even connect with the concept of firing the lats, so I tend to run through different shoulder packing drills, which if done properly should fire the lats. In the beginning it helps to really illustrate how the shoulder works. I think as trainers we sometimes forget just how little the average person knows about this. Nine times out of ten when I tell someone to pack their shoulder or 'plug it into the socket' they just pull it up or back.
 

mc

New member
Pecs? Interesting...I was thinking more along the lines of the traps, mid-delts, levators and rotator cuff.

From what i can tell from the kinesiology texts spread before me, the pecs work on the arm, just as the lats do, but from the front. The insertion on the arm is the same place, but to the front. The anterior delts work with the pecs for horizontal adduction.

That said, in going through the move, there's not *that* much breaking of the move on the shoulders - because of the hip action, the arm position stays pretty much the same with the lats holding in the shoulder - they seem to stay on right through the "hike pass"

so i'm going with actually: still the lats as main *actor* on the shoulder of the three shoulder actors (pecs, delts, lats). The rotator cuffs, teres major, etc the constant stabilizers.

just an hypothesis...

[update] - indeed, as i go through my lat fired swing, my arms stay pretty static through the whole thing - not much motion in the shoulders at all - everything comes from the hips, hinging the upper body up and then back down. the arms stay pretty immobile in the sockets. hence, i say lats again.

mc
 
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mc

New member
I've found virtually no one can even connect with the concept of firing the lats, so I tend to run through different shoulder packing drills, which if done properly should fire the lats. In the beginning it helps to really illustrate how the shoulder works. I think as trainers we sometimes forget just how little the average person knows about this. Nine times out of ten when I tell someone to pack their shoulder or 'plug it into the socket' they just pull it up or back.

I'm glad to hear this - that you've found that virtually no one connects with "first the lats" -
glad it's not just me or the folks with whom i'm working. it's this disconnect that motivated the illustrated post including the section on how to feel if they're fired.

the terms firing the lats, packing the shoulder, all meant nothing to me initially.
Seeing the anatomy, at least for me, helps that.

Also just doing tons (and i mean tons) of swings under supervision helps make this concept connect. At least in my experience :)

best
mc
 

mc

New member
I do not think you exhaustively answered "why" do we fire the lats in the swing.

sport, going to failure (or exhaustion) is just not The Way :)

One answer is that many of us Americans have what Pavel calls Stupid Bodies. Our legs and our backs do the work that the hips should be doing; we have delegated the lat's responsibility to other muscles like the teres minor. Therefore beginning kettlebellers should engage the lats during the swings of the program minimum in order to wake these sleeping giant muscles. They will need them for all the more advanced training.


I did not start recruiting my lats until much later, and I caused myself some shoulder problems by pressing without lats and by snatching without shoulder packing.

I am now better but I would like to underscore to all beginners to get the lats into the game as soon as possible if they want to avoid injury.

cool observations, sir. thank you.
mc
 

mc

New member
Comparing the lats to hamstrings during a sprint is way off as the lats aren't producing any movement during the up swing. The hamstrings are actually working to extend the hips. Of course this all depends on what phase of the swing and sprint you're actually talking about.

as said in the article, this is at the apogee of the swing - i postulate - and the concept of brake is an analogy to the hamstring breaking the flexion at the top of the stride.

The pecs wouldn't be too involved either with the deceleration..mostly upper/middle traps,and anterior delts maybe some clavicular pec fibers even biceps.

and yes, agreed here, too, as posted above.
im not sure where the traps come into it tho - this is all quite interesting - as the scapulae are stable and not being shrugged - the shoulders are kept down throughout - so they contribute possibly to that?

this is going way beyond a swing dissection of the role of that lats! but very interesting to actually get at more of the kinesiology of the hardstyle swing

thanks
 
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jack-jack

New member
well im pretty sore i dont use the lats enough plus i have loose shoulder joints plus knees and i just hurt my shoulder last week luckly not too bad and i noticed my shoulders dont stay packed.i wish i had read this before my workout today lol
 

mc

New member
a lat-firing self test and a visualization

I've added a self-test one can try to experience lat firing, as well as a new visualization to the piece (this link will take you right to it) to see if these two bits help with getting what the lat is doing with the arm/shoulder joint for the swing.

works?

mc
 
C

Chiggers

Guest
Mc

Very detailed and intersting as ever. I also benefited from the pullup link within the article. Not that you need it but thanks for all the well though out info you put out on this forum and the blog. Please keep at it as may find it rewarding (and sometimes challenging :))
 

mc

New member
Thank you Chiggers.
Thought you were in the UK. Hope all is well in L'allemange.

best
mc
 
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