The latissimus dorsi, commonly referred to as “lats,” is the largest back muscle. They originate from the back of the hips and create a fan shape across each side of the body. It runs along the spine and fans out under the scapula to finally attach on the arm bone. Its primary function is to bring the arms to the body. The lats help stabilize many every day movements, and therefore tend to be tight on most people.
Overhead Lat Stretch
The overhead lat stretch is a simple stretch that can be performed to stretch the entire length of the lats. Stand up tall and put one arm overhead, use the other arm to grasp the elbow or wrist and gently pull down toward the opposite shoulder. If you do not feel enough of a stretch here, you can bend toward the pulling arm to stretch more deeply. Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds before switching to the other side.
Seated Torso Reach
The seated torso reach requires that you sit up straight with your legs in the figure four position (one leg bent with the soul of your foot against the opposing thigh, the other leg extended fully out in front of you), lift the arm that corresponds to the bent leg straight overhead and reach toward the straight leg side. Do not reach or lean forward, instead bend directly to the side to get the greatest possible stretch of the lat.
Child's pose, taken from yoga, is a gentle stretch that emphasizes the connections in the lower back. Kneel on a mat with your feet tucked under your butt, lean forward and reach your arms out in front of you. Allow your head to rest on the floor and let your hips sink back as far as you can without letting your hands move from their original position. To increase the stretch, you can push one side of your hips back and lean into it a little, just be sure to stretch both sides equally.
Stability Ball Single Arm Lat Stretch
The stability ball single arm lat stretch is an effective stretch for the entire muscle. Kneel behind a stability ball and place your right fist, thumb pointing up, on the ball. Slowly roll the ball toward the right side of your body, away from you while keeping the abdominal muscles engaged. When your arm is in line with the side of your body, gently lean into your right shoulder to stretch the lats. Hold the stretch for t 30 seconds then switch arms.