Why Do I Feel Shoulder Press in My Lats? (4 Factors to Consider)

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Have you ever asked, “Why Do I Feel Shoulder Press in My Lats?”

You’d expect to feel your shoulders and your triceps working hard during the shoulder press.

So, it’s perfectly natural to experience some soreness in these muscles.

However, many people complain of lat soreness after presses, which seems to go against the grain.

So, what exactly is going on here?

Why Do I Feel Shoulder Press in My Lats?

You will typically feel your lats during heavy pressing movements, as they act as a stabilizer. This is especially true in the eccentric part of the lift (lowering phase) with shoulder presses. So, in effect your lats are doing some of the work. This could lead to potential soreness in the lats if they are either tight or weak.

1. The Lats Are Stabilizers in Most Pressing Movements

A Man Holding a Barbell in the Behind the Head Press Position

We typically view upper body pushing exercises as working the front of the body, and pulling exercises to work the back of the body.

So, you wouldn’t do bench presses or overhead presses and expect your lats to grow.

However, something you should be aware of is that the lats act as stabilizers in most pushing movements.

This is especially true when you lower the weight back down towards the body.

In fact, you tend to “work” the lats even more on pushing exercises if you have an arched back.

Now I know many people perform heavy bench presses with an arch in the back.

I’ll admit I am not a fan of this technique, and have never used it, but it is widely seen as acceptable.

Therefore, if you’re overly arching your back during shoulder presses (which isn’t acceptable to anyone btw) then you are certainly stimulating the lats to far greater effect.

It’s a Core Thing Too

Another thing to consider is that the core muscles work very hard to stabilize the core and surrounding areas with most exercises.

The core works even harder when you press a weight overhead.

Now, many people view the core as just the abs and the lower back.

However, there are many other muscles that make up the core.

Additionally, there are even more muscles that cross the core.

These include the lats and traps, glutes, erector spinae, hip flexors, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominals, and the obliques.

Basically, all of these muscles will be working to some extent when you press a weight overhead.

So, realistically if you do feel shoulder presses in your lats, this isn’t a bad thing.

This is one way to show that the core has been activated correctly during the movement.

In effect, you are now “working” the core and protecting the lower back.

2. Your Lats Are Weak

As I’ve mentioned, the lats work as stabilizing muscles during the shoulder press.

Therefore, you will typically “feel” them during the lift and potentially afterwards as well.

However, if this “feeling” is more of a soreness of the lats, especially the following day, then this could be a sign of weak lats.

There’s no two ways about it, most of us push far more than we pull.

But, in truth, we should all be pulling more than we push.

In fact, I would go as far to say that you should be performing twice as many pulling exercises than pushing exercises on a weekly basis.

So, if you aren’t at least doing the same amount of pulling exercises as pushing, and preferably more, then it’s time to change things up a little.

This is the ideal opportunity for you to strengthen your pulling weakness.

Here’s Something to Consider

There is a tendency to focus on the “show” muscles of the body.

In the main these are the chest and biceps.

Pretty much anytime you enter a gym, you’ll see a swarm of people performing the bench press or some type of bicep curl.

And if you bring the lower body into play, then just about everyone squats.

The aim here is to work the “show” muscle in an attempt to look muscular.

However, for those of you wanting an aesthetically-pleasing body you would be actually better off working the largest muscles of the body.

And these happen to be behind you, namely the glutes and the lats.

Trust me, you can hone an athletic physique far better by focusing on pulling exercises.

10 Exercises to Build a Big Back

3. Your Lats Are Tight

A Woman Using a Foam Roller on Her Upper Back

Another reason you may feel the shoulder press in your lats is because of tight lats.

This is actually far more common than you think.

In the modern day-and-age we spend a lot of time sitting.

Whether this is at a desk, commuting to and from work, or even just relaxing at home.

And unfortunately all this excessive sitting can lead to poor posture.

Additionally, lat tightness can also be caused by overuse of the muscles.

Okay, I’ve mentioned above that many of us tend to push a lot more than we pull.

However, there are probably just as many of us who pull more often than we should too.

So, it is about finding a balance.

But, tight lats will definitely have a bearing on pushing a weight overhead.

And even though the shoulder press can be viewed as an “opposite movement” to pulling, tight lats will definitely restrict your movement patterns.

So, this could certainly be a cause of lat soreness from pressing overhead.

You can help to loosen tight lats through foam rolling.

Although, I much prefer to use either a tennis or lacrosse ball to really get into the knots.

If you ensure that you do some rolling work after both a shoulder and lat day you should find that this helps out a lot.

How to Test For Tight Lats

4. Could it be Your Serratus Anterior?

I have previously written about experiencing sore lats after push ups.

However, one of the reasons I mentioned actually had nothing to do with the lats.

In fact, I pointed to the fact that the soreness could actually be emanating from the serratus anterior.

Serratus Anterior

The serratus anterior happens to be a group of muscles that are responsible for the movement of your arms and shoulders.

And due to their location it is quite common to mistake soreness in these muscles for the lats.

The serratus anterior muscles also provide support for the back and neck too.

The muscles run down the ribs to the side of the chest.

Plus, they also happen to be one of the most neglected groups of muscles in the human body.

So, more often than not if you feel “lat soreness” following a push-exercise, it is probably the serratus anterior.

You will need to perform a variety of scapular exercises in order to strengthen these severely undervalued and unused muscles.

Intense 5-Minute At-Home Serratus Anterior Workout

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, it’s now more obvious why you feel the shoulder press in your lats.

It’s important to realise that the lats work hard as a stabilizing muscle during most pushing movements.

This is especially true when you’re pushing a weight overhead.

That being said, if you find that you are sore this could point to either weak or tight lats.

Then again, “feeling” or soreness in the serratus anterior is often mistaken for the lats.

So, it could be a case of working these neglected muscles more often.

Sticking to the subject about feeling push-based exercises in the lat region, here’s what I have to say about push ups hurting your upper back.

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