Stretches for Lat Muscles

The lats, or latissimus dorsi, are one of the biggest muscles that move your upper body. These powerful muscles help pull your arms closer to your sides in exercises like the pull-up or chin-up. If they become too tight they can make your posture worse by pulling your shoulders down or curving your lower back.

Lat stretches don't require a lot of equipment.
Credit: ljubaphoto/iStock/GettyImages

Stretching your lats is easy and requires little equipment. Concentrating on the correct form during lat stretches will help you specifically target this big back muscle.

Know Your Anatomy

Your lats start in the vertebrae in your lower back. They go all the way up into the middle of your spine and extend out to your shoulder, inserting into a groove in the humerus, or your upper arm bone.

Read more: Lat Exercises Without a Chin Up Bar

The lats pull your arms down towards your body. They also rotate your arms in (the motion that you would use to give a "thumbs down" gesture). In order to stretch these impressive muscles you need to move your arms in the opposite direction that the lats would move them in. This means that lat stretches should include either moving your arms up, turning them out or both.

Hold your lat stretches for 20 to 30 seconds, and repeat three times on each arm.

1. Band Lat Stretch

This exercise involves a resistance band to help you get a better stretch in your lats.

  1. Tie a resistance band around a fixed object. The band should be anchored below knee-height.
  2. Grab the band with your right hand and step forward until you feel tension in the band.
  3. Face forward with the band still in your right hand. Put your left foot in front of your right.
  4. Raise your right arm up and reach over the right side of your back with your right hand. Imagine you are trying to scratch your upper back.
  5. If you want to feel the stretch more, simply walk forward and let the band pull your arm farther back.

Read more: Alternative Exercises to Replace Pullups & Chinups

2. Squat Lat Stretch

Physical therapist Mike Cantrell explains that stretching out your lats and breathing deeply in a squatting position forces them to relax.

  1. Find a fixed object, about waist-height, that you can hold onto.
  2. Grab the fixed object and squat down. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  3. When you squat down, allow your back to relax and keep your heels on the ground. Squat as low as possible.
  4. At the bottom of the squat, your arms should be straight above your head with your hands still gripping the fixed object.
  5. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth five times. Continue to let your back relax and round.

3. Bench Lat Stretch

For this stretch, you need a workout bench and a dowel or broomstick.

  1. Kneel down on the ground at the side of your workout bench.
  2. Put your elbows on the bench while holding your dowel in both hands that are shoulder-width apart. Your palms should be facing up and your elbows bent at 90 degrees.
  3. Sink your butt back towards your heels and lower your upper body down towards the bench. Try to touch your forehead to the bench. To make the stretch harder, move your hands further apart on the dowel.
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