Latissimus dorsi or lat refers to a wide muscle that covers the largest part of the lower back. The muscle starts from the pelvis and lumbar and then penetrates through the bone of the upper arm. Latissimus dorsi helps in moving your arms down and back. You can develop a V-shaped torso by building the lat in your back. A latissimus dorsi stretch does not add its bulk but improves your flexibility and performance in strength exercises.
10 Easy-to-Do Stretches to Build Your Latissimus Dorsi
1. Stretch with Ball
You can perform a Latissimus Dorsi stretch and shoulder stretch using a stability ball. This exercise allows the two parts to move many times and become elastic.
- Kneel while facing the stability ball and then touch its top while in a position of a karate chop.
- Breathe out and then bow while sitting on your heel and push the ball away. Hold the position and take two deep breaths before going back to original position.
- Repeat the exercise 8-19 times. You can do exercise while focusing on one side at a time. Add a rotation if you use one hand by placing your arm at your body’s center position. Ensure that your body remains still.
2. Overhead Stretch
You can do it while standing or sitting.
- Invert your palms as you interlace your fingers and then press your palms upwards while keeping your elbows straight. Move your arms backwards slowly in this position until you feel a moderate, painless stretch.
- To perform a side bending lat stretch, reach your right hand towards the ceiling and then side bend to your left. Hold the stretch for a while and then change to the right side.
3. Stretch with a Bar
Static lat stretches should be done after a light aerobic warm up or workout.
- To perform the bar stretch, stand a stride in front of horizontal bar that is chest high. Use an overhand grip to hold the bar and then lean forward such that the bar is directly above the back of your shoulders. Your forearms should be next to your head and your feet in their original position. Lean until you feel a stretch on the sides of the upper part of your back.
- A vertical bar will help you stretch your upper back including the lat. Hold the vertical bar with the right hand at waist high. Squat backward with your hand and feet in place until the right side of your back stretches. Your arm and thighs should be parallel to the floor and your torso angled toward the bar at your lowest position. Use both arms to do the bar stretch and hold all bar stretches for 30 seconds.
4. Wall Lat Stretch
- Stand while facing the wall and then place your hands on the wall at your waist level and at shoulder width.
- Step back while folding your hips until your torso and arms are in a straight line. Your back should remain flat.
- Control the arching on your lower back using abdominal muscles. Alternatively, bend your elbows downward while your forearms rest vertically on the wall. You can also perform the stretch with a table in place of the wall.
5. Stretch While Kneeling
You can do a Latissimus Dorsi stretch while kneeling on mat.
- Reach your arms to your front while your forearms rest on the floor at shoulder width. Move your hips toward the heels until your lat stretches.
- Alternatively, place your arms on a chair or bench in front of you while kneeling. Move your hips backwards to the point where they are above your knees. Make sure your upper body and arms form a straight line. Use your abdominal muscles to control your lower back.
6. Stretch with Foam Roller
- Place a foam roller below your lat as shown in the figure below. Move your entire body forward and backward using your legs in a way that the roller massages the upper part of your back. Keep the upper part of your body relaxed and your breath normal.
- You can repeat the exercise for 15 to 90 seconds if you are comfortable and do not feel any pain. You can do this exercise while placing your hands at the back of your head and arms across the chest.
7. Behind the Neck Stretch
- Stretch your right hand upwards while sitting or standing. Bend your right elbow in a way that the right hand is behind your neck.
- Pull your right elbow with your left hand behind your head and to the left until you experience a moderate stretch.
- Avoid over-stretching your arm. Repeat the stretch with the left hand behind your neck.
You can do a Latissimus Dorsi stretch without equipment.
- Sit up straight on the floor with your knees and ankles crossed directly in front of your groin.
- Reach back toward your left hip with your left palm on the floor for balance.
- Extend your right arm towards the ceiling in this position and then extend it over your head and as far to the left as you can.
- Bend you torso to your left side when you begin extending your arm and keep your butt in the right position on the floor. Hold the position until you feel a stretch on your back’s right side.
- Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds before repeating it on the other side. You can perform a similar stretch while standing with the non-extended hand on your hip and your feet wider apart than your shoulder width.
9. PNF Stretch
You need a partner or trainer to perform a PNF lat stretch.
- Sit on the floor and then stretch your legs straight in front of you. Raise your left arm and then bend the elbow until your upper arm is vertical and your hand behind your hand.
- Ask your partner to hold on to your left wrist as you pull your hand gently to your left shoulder and lean toward the right.
- Let your partner stretch it for about 10 seconds and then push your arm against your partner’s arm for about six seconds.
- Stop pushing and ask your partner to stretch your arm again for 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch with your right arm.
10. Stretch with Chair
To extend the spine, sit at the edge of a chair with your fingers laced.
- Breathe out as you raise you arms above your head and extend the power part of your back slowly. Hold the position as you take two deep breaths before bringing your arms to the original position. Repeat the exercise 8-10 times.
- To flex the spine, stretch your arms with fingers crossed together in front of you. Exhale while tilting your chin towards the chest and flexing the upper back. Hold the position as you take two deep breaths. Place your arms on your thighs and then lift your chest and head up. Repeat the exercise 8-10 times.
Caution When Doing Latissimus Dorsi Stretch
Avoid overstretching your lat or other muscles because it can cause a stretch reflex in your joints. Your body uses the reflex to protect itself from damages in the joints and tears associated with stretch. Too much stretching causes your muscles to contract fast and automatically. This makes them stiffer and highly sensitive to pressure and touch.