In this shorts by Jeremy Ethier, it is mentioned that punching fists down to the floor activates lats.

I'm trying this at home, and while it does seem my lats are activated, it also at the same time feels my chest is being tensed. Am I doing something wrong, or is this natural?

2 Answers 2


Am I doing something wrong

Yes, you're listening to Jeremy Ethier.

The idea of muscle "activation", in the sense that certain muscles can "switch off" or "fall asleep" if they not "activated" and will subsequently fail to contribute to movements that they would normally be required for, is absolute nonsense that was popularised over the last decade (because it was an effective form of fearmongering to allow fitness influencers to sell needless programs and products), and which is now fortunately starting to disappear. Talk of muscular "activation" should be regarded as a red flag.

The motions he shows to demonstrate his "punching down" cue are shoulder depression and elbow extension. Neither of these will assist or force the latissimus dorsi to contribute to the lift in any way, and both are the natural consequences of gravity in a deadlift anyway, and require no conscious attention, since on any significantly heavy deadlift, people generally won't be capable of doing anything but keeping their arms straight and shoulders depressed. (Though it can be useful to cue people to think of their arms like taught chains, so that they aren't futilely attempting to curl the bar with their biceps.)

The true means through which the lats contribute to the deadlift is in pulling the bar towards the body, reducing some of the demands on the back and glutes. A deadlift performed without lat contribution will have the bar hanging directly below the shoulder joint, whereas when the lats are properly contributing, the arms will be on a slight backwards angle when viewed from the side, so that the bar is closer to the body than it would be if the arms were just hanging straight down.


You should learn the actions of the muscles, it would answer a lot of your questions. The major action of the pectorals is adduction of the upper arm and internal rotation of the shoulder. So yes, "punching" down produces both of those motions, and will tense your chest somewhat.

  • 1
    Mayve you can include a resource recommendation for learning about muscle actions Oct 2, 2023 at 15:28
  • @AlexanderGruber - I thought about that, but there are hundreds of sites from very basic to medical intricate. My usual recommendation is to put in a search term such as "what action does the [insert muscle] perform?" and find sites that you can personally relate to. My personal favorites currently are the journal of sports science (JSSM.org) and science of sport (sportsscientists.com). Livestrong and medium and similar sites are very hit or miss.
    – JohnP
    Oct 2, 2023 at 22:52

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