Activating the lats more will greatly aid you ability to get “tight” and utilize your entire body more effectively which will over time greatly improve your current levels of strength.
Below are some cues , some or all of which should help you learn how to get way “tighter” and use muscles that previously were not being used enough in your exercises .
You will notice that when you properly activate the lats you are also properly activating the chest as well effectively tightening the entire upper body way more than you ever did before.
Cues to help activate lats during Squat
Pinch my pointer finger in between your shoulder blades and pull the bar straight down into your back.
Description: With the bar resting on your back, fully retract your shoulder blades. From here, pull the bar firmly down into your back.
Make the letters on your shirt visible to the wall in front of you and try to bend the bar around the front of your body.
Description: With the bar resting on your back, force your chest up as high as possible and actively try to bend the bar around your back.
Hit the wall in front of you with your chest, pinch my pointer finger in between your shoulder blades, and pull the bar straight down into your back.
Description: With the bar resting on your back, force your chest up as high as possible, fully retract your shoulder blades, and pull the bar down directly into your back.
Cues to help activate lats during bench press
Put your shoulders in your back pocket and bend the bar towards your feet.
Description: Holding the bar directly above your chest, shove your shoulders down/away from your ears and try to bend the bar.
Shove your shoulders down/back towards your heels and actively reach your chest up towards the bar.
Description: Rather than think about lowering the bar to your chest, imagine pulling your chest to the bar. If you can do this while keeping your shoulder blades shoved down towards your back pockets you will instantly feel your lats take the load off your shoulders.
Raise your chest up to the bar, bend the bar with your armpits, and slide your shoulder blades down your back towards your glutes.
Description: Holding the bar directly above your chest, bring your chest up as high as possible (without taking your butt off of the bench) and try to bend the bar with your armpits (not your hands) while actively depressing your shoulder blades.
Cues to aid using lats in deadlift
Imagine you’re holding a big, juicy orange in each armpit. Now make orange juice.
Description: Shove your shoulders down/away from your ears and imagine using your armpits to squeeze the oranges as hard as you possibly can.
Make your arms as long as possible and shove your shoulders down/away from your ears throughout the entire lift.
Description: Keep your arms completely straight and do NOT let your shoulders shrug up towards your ears. Keep your arms as long as you possibly can.
Hit the wall in front of you with your chest and pull the bar into your body by squeezing your armpits.
Description: Get your chest up as high as possible, force your shoulders away from your ears, and actively pull the bar into your legs by trying to squeeze your armpits as hard as you can.
Of course there are other cues for activating the rest of the body, ( this may be another article in the future) but one of the best is simply to squeeze the glutes as hard as you possibly can while driving your feet into the floor. Do this along with the tips above and you will soon amaze yourself at how effective this is.
Remember you must constantly remind yourself to do this, it seems simple enough, but I cannot emphasize just how much you need to consciously be aware of doing this, and you must practice it, learning how to contract the muscles involved even harder to get more muscle activation.