Stretching Series: Latissimus Dorsi


Latissimus Dorsi Photo Credit Wikipedia Commons
Stretching the Latissimus Dorsi is important to include in any stretching regimen. Not only does it allow for increased shoulder flexion and mobility, but it can also be important with gaining mobility in the thoracic spine, mainly extension. We are going to use the ability of the shoulder to move the insertion of this muscle to do our main lengthening. In order to maximize our stretch, we will use the thoracic and lumbar spine to move the origin. In other words, we will tension the muscle from both directions.

The Stretch

  • Begin by placing your hands on the back of a chair, shoulder width apart.
  • Lean forward, flexing at the hips keeping your arms straight and allowing your shoulders to extend over the head. The stretch should be felt on the underside of the shoulder and into the thoracic spine. (please excuse my poor attempt at flexibility) 
  • To lengthen the tissue further and stretch a specific side, slide the arm on the side being stretched more medially and even past the mid-line if desired. Lean your body to the same side being stretched.
  • To maximize the stretch, elevate your opposite hip and drop your same-sided hip to move the origin of latissimus dorsi inferiorly and thus increase the lengthening.

  • Repeat the stretch on the opposite side.

Note: The Latissimus Dorsi can be very hypertonic on clients who do a lot of weight training. Bodybuilders, especially, can have overdeveloped lats which can really limit their shoulder extension and lead to shoulder injuries.

Another Note: Hypertonic and overdeveloped Lats can also limit rotation of the spine. We will sometimes see this in baseball players and golfers where rotation is key to performance.

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