Tight Lats? 3 Ways To Stretch Tight Lat Dorsi Muscles

Want To Learn How To Stretch Tight Lat Muscles?

These 3 lat stretches can help prevent neck and shoulder pain

Watch the video to learn how to stretch tight lats, plus what mistakes to avoid.

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Why Should You Stretch Tight Lat Muscles?

The latissimus dorsi or “lats” are back muscles that attach to the back of your shoulders and shoulder blades, and even down into your lower back.

How to stretch tight lat muscles: The latissimus dorsi or 'lat' is a big muscle in your back

When your lats get stiff, they can cause:

  • shoulder pain
  • numbness/tingling down your arms
  • shoulder pain when doing your daily, work, and/or recreational activities
  • Difficulty lifting your arms overhead, working at your desk job, playing overhead sports or even working out at the gym

Can Tight Lats Cause Shoulder Pain?

Yes, having tight lats can cause shoulder pain.

Having tight lat muscles pulls and rotates your shoulder blades downwards. This decreases your rotator cuff muscles’ ability to stabilize your shoulder joint when you raise your arms overhead.

A lower shoulder blade can also compress the nerves that travel down to your arms and cause numbness/tingling.

As a result, tight lats can cause pain and limit your ability to bring your arms overhead to lift weights, play sports, or even just put away dishes in the cabinet.

How To Stretch Lat Muscles

Lat Foam Rolling Exercise

picture of how to stretch lat dorsi muscle by laying on your side on a foam roller

How to improve tight lats by foam rolling your lats:

  • Lie down on your side with the lat you want to stretch on the foam roll
  • The foam roll should be placed on the side of your shoulder blade underneath the armpit.
  • Roll the foam up and down the side of your back until you feel that your lats are less stiff.

This particular activity is not a stretch per se, but it helps decrease your lats’ stiffness. Note that this activity might be a little aggressive if your lats are really tender to the touch.

Standing Back To Wall Lat Stretch Exercise

Picture of how to stretch lat dorsi muscles standing back against wall.

Here's how to stretch tight lats with your back against the wall:

  • With your back flat against the wall, move your feet several inches off the wall, slightly bend your knees, and gently tuck your chin in towards your throat.
  • With your elbows bent and your forearms parallel, slowly raise your arms forward and up to 90 degrees.
  • Hold for 10 seconds. Slowly lower and repeat.

Make sure to maintain your back flat against the wall while keeping your forearms without your elbows flaring to the side. This will enable you to specifically stretch the lat muscles.

Only perform the stretch to the point where you feel a gentle pulling sensation behind your armpit but no pain.

Keeping your back flat against the bed/wall is really important in order to get good lat stretch. That's because your lats actually attach all the way down to your lower back.

When your back arches, you lose some of the stretch on your lats.

Additionally, since the lats turn your arm inwards, keeping your forearms parallel and preventing your elbows from flaring out is necessary to get a good lat stretch.

Doing so will limit how far upward you can reach, and that's OK!

It's more important to use good technique than to be able to stretch farther.

Child's Pose Lat Stretch

Child's Pose Lat Stretch

Child's pose, or kneeling on all 4's (like a child) is a stretch derived from yoga.  It's a great way to stretch your lats as well as lower back, upper back, and hips depending on the variation you do.  In fact, I think the Child's pose is one of the best exercises for lower back pain.

How to do the Child's pose lat stretch

  • Kneel on all 4's with your arms out in front of you.
  • To stretch your left lats (as shown in the picture), walk your hands over to the right side until you feel a stretch in your left lat muscle.
  • To make the Child's pose lat stretch even more intense, you can turn the palm of your left hand to face toward the ceiling. (not shown in picture)  This will put the lats on maximum stretch.

Will Stretching My Lat Muscles Help My Shoulder Pain?

Stretching your lat muscles might help your shoulder pain, if your shoulder pain is being caused by tight lat muscles.

Even if your tight lat muscles are one cause of your shoulder pain, there are usually a combination of factors that  contribute to shoulder pain.

Furthermore, WHY did your lat muscles get tight in the first place? And maybe why just on one side?

Stretching your lats might help your shoulder pain, but probably won't solve it.

In order to get rid of shoulder pain for good, you need to find out what's causing YOUR shoulder pain, and fix the root cause.

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