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October 26, 2022 14 min read

Are you sometimes tempted to skip the warm-up and cool-down stretching because it is inconvenient and seems like a waste of valuable time? What happens when you start your car on a cold morning and immediately try to race it?

Like your car, your muscles, especially the latissimus dorsi, need a bit of warming up before you can expect peak performance from them.

Why focus on the lats?

The latissimus dorsi is a broad, superficial muscle with a triangular shape that covers most of the lower thorax, which is the area of the body between the neck and the abdomen. The latissimus dorsi, mostly referred to as the lats, is the largest upper body muscle and is responsible for many spinal and shoulder movements.

Latissimus Dorsi – Image from Shutterstock

The latissimus dorsi is a crucial muscle to focus on when strength training, not only because of its role in well-sculpted V-tapered backs but also for the many benefits offered by training the lats, including good posture, back and shoulder strength, and spinal stability.

Because the lats are activated in so many body movements, doing lat stretches will inevitably help other muscle groups like hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, lower back muscles, upper arms, shoulders, and more.

What are the causes of tight lats?

The lifestyles of most people involve many hours of sitting behind desks, slouched over computer keyboards. If that sounds like your type of day, you will probably have many other duties after leaving the office, and the only way to fit in a gym session is to squeeze it in immediately after work.

But rushing into your workout routine with tight lats after long hours behind your desk could increase injury risks.

However, just a few minutes of lat stretches will loosen them up, and increase your range of motion.

Post-workout stretching, aka maintenance stretching, is equally important. They assist in removing lactic acid from the muscles, reducing soreness. Lactic acid is created when the body turns glucose into energy.

The production of lactic acid occurs when oxygen levels are low, generally during high-intensity exercise.

Your body’s natural process of metabolism gets rid of lactic acid buildup, and stopping exercise is the surefire way to get rid of excess lactate. However, reducing exercise intensity, taking deep breaths, and staying hydrated are the best ways to maximize natural lactate clearance and reduce soreness.

Post-workout stretches can also increase blood flow and energy supply to return to a regulated pace. That will help your muscles regain their shape and improve your performance the next time you exercise.

Which movements are impaired by tight lats

The movements impaired by tight lat muscles are many because of the roles this large muscle plays in a range of body movements. Since it is so integral to movement and takes up a large portion of the upper back, tight lats can impair the following movements:

  • Spinal extension, lateral flexion, and ipsilateral rotation such as movements that involve bending your body sideways, and also moving your head toward your left or right shoulder.

  • Shoulder extension, adduction, and internal rotation such as performing chin-ups or reaching laterally or sideways to grab something.

  • Scapular depression, downward rotation, and retraction such as performing lat pull-downs.

If you have problems with any of these movements, you’d be wise to devise a warm-up and cool-down regime of latissimus dorsi stretches.

What are the benefits of stretching the Lats?

Stretching is essential to muscle health, and even more so if you are a gym-goer. Lifting weights causes tension accumulation because of the excessive force used to contract the lats. As this occurs, tension accumulates, typically leading to a more forceful contraction. That’s good news for your workout and muscle gains, but harmful to your muscles.

  1. Better Posture: Tight lat muscles typically cause upper body tension and rounded shoulders. Radiating aches in the neck area, along with upper back pain is likely to cause significant discomfort. Proper lat stretches will relieve upper-body stress by pulling the shoulders back.

Painful tight lats – Image from Shutterstock
  1. Better Mobility and Flexibility: Lats contribute to many major upper body movements, including the shoulder, scapula, and spine. Something as basic as reaching upward to get a sweatshirt off your closet shelf can cause discomfort when you have tight lats. 

  2. Improved Breathing: The latissimus dorsi helps any actions requiring forceful respiratory functions. Deep inhalation and even coughing can cause you to feel a twinge between your shoulder blades if your lats are tensed.

  3. Improved Recovery Time: Bodybuilding, strength building, and weight lifting stress muscle fibers. You can eliminate residual post-workout tension by doing lat stretches to lengthen the muscles. Stretching will also reduce soreness the day after, which means your muscles will recover and grow quicker, and they will be prepared for another tough workout sooner.

What are dynamic and static stretch exercises?

As their names indicate, stretches can consist of active movements or static stretches that involve holding a stretch for a period of time.

Dynamic stretches

Dynamic stretches are precisely what their name says, they are dynamic movements meant for waking up your muscles and preparing them for the hard work that will follow. These stretches are designed to take your muscles and joints through their range of motion.

The primary goal of dynamic stretching is the prevention of injury by increasing muscle temperature to reduce stiffness and improve performance. Properly performed dynamic stretches will boost speed, acceleration, and agility as you work out, which is a great way to reach your fitness goals sooner.

Static Stretches

Static stretches, aka post-workout stretches, or cooldown stretches, aim to help constricted and tired muscles return to a relaxed state. By holding stretches for 30 to 60 seconds, you allow your muscles to cool down gradually, increasing flexibility and limiting injury risks.

When it comes to lat stretches for weight lifters, strength trainers, and bodybuilders, many of them are dual-purpose. With a few adjustments, they are suitable as pre- and post-workout stretches.

The 10 Best Lat Stretches for pre- and post-workouts

Note that these stretches are not limited to pre- and post-workouts for upper-body workouts. You can do them whenever your lats feel tight.

1. HANGING LAT STRETCH

This stretch and the more advanced one at number 2 are great latissimus dorsi stretches for improving shoulder mobility and strengthening your grip for lifting heavier weights. It is also ideal for improving your posture.

Hanging Lat stretch – Image from Shutterstock 

How to do the static version of the hanging lat stretch

Starting position: Grab a secured bar with both hands, using an overhand grip. The bar must be high enough for you to hang with your arms overhead and your feet off the ground.

  1. Relax your shoulder and latissimus dorsi muscles.

  2. Your shoulders must be near your ears during this lat stretch.

  3. Breathe deeply and hold the relaxed hanging position for 30 to 60 seconds.

  4. Repeat 2 or 3 times, taking short breaks in between reps.

How to do the dynamic version of the hanging lat stretch

The dynamic version of this stretch is great for pulling down tight ligaments and tendons when you have shoulder pain.

Starting position: Same as for the static version.

  1. While in the static hang position, retract your shoulder blades toward your spine, and push them down and away from your ears.

  2. Begin in the static hang position, and then retract the shoulder blades so your shoulders are pushed down and no longer near your ears.

  3. Push your shoulders down until your ears and your elbows are at the same level.

  4. Hold that position for as long as possible.

  5. Return to the start position and repeat 2 or 3 times.

2. ONE-ARM HANGING LAT STRETCH

This stretch is the advanced version of number 1, and you are advised not to attempt the one-arm hang before you have mastered the two-arm version and are able to hold that for at least 60 seconds without discomfort. This stretch has only a static version.

One-arm Hanging lat stretch – Image from Shutterstock

How to do the one-arm hanging lat stretch

Starting position: Grab a secured bar with both hands, using an overhand grip. The bar must be high enough for you to hang with your arms overhead and your feet off the ground.

  1. Once hanging, slowly let go of the bar with your left hand and lower your left arm to hang beside you.

  2. You are now hanging by your right arm only.

  3. Keep your shoulder and lat muscles relaxed.

  4. Breathe deeply and hold that position for 30 to 60 seconds.

  5. Bring the left arm back up, grab the bar and repeat the stretch by removing the right hand and hanging by the left arm.

3. UNILATERAL FIXED BAR LAT STRETCH

This is one of the most comprehensive lat stretches because it will fully loosen and lengthen your upper back. For this stretch, you need a secure, immovable vertical bar.

How to do the static version of the unilateral fixed bar lat stretch

Starting position: Grab the bar with your right hand, and sink into a squat with your legs bent at the knees to 90 degrees.

  1. Place your left hand on your left knee while keeping your right arm straight.

  2. Without bending your right arm, retract your right shoulder blade as if you are attempting to pull the vertical bar toward you.

  3. While stretching, push down with your left hand on your knee for a deeper lat stretch. You should feel your right-side lats stretch as you retract your shoulder blade toward your spine.

  4. The deeper your squat and the stronger your left-hand pushes down on your knee, the more effective will be the lat stretch.

  5. Breathing deeply while holding this stretch encourages your tight lats to relax even more.

  6. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before switching to grab the bar with your left hand and repeating the stretch.

  7. Do 3 reps on each side, each stretch deeper than the previous one.

How to do the dynamic version of the unilateral fixed bar lat stretch

Starting position: Same as for the static version.

  1. While maintaining pressure on one knee, and retracting the shoulder blade of the opposite side, flex the arm holding onto the bar at the elbow, and extend it again.

  2. Continue flexing and extending, bending and straightening one arm for 30 seconds before switching to the other arm.

4. BENT ARM WALL STRETCH

You might find one side’s lats to feel tighter than the other side, and this version of the lat stretch is ideal to focus on one side at a time. You might not even be aware until you start stretching and feeling upper-back pain or tension on one side. You can then do more reps on the upper back side that feels tighter, or prolong the stretch on that side.

How to do the static version of the bent arm wall lat stretch

Starting position: Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, facing a wall.

  1. Lean forward against the wall with your legs slightly bent at the knees.

  2. Bend your right arm at the elbow, lift it overhead, and place that forearm against the wall.

  3. Lean into your bent right arm, protracting your right shoulder blade away from your spine, as you push into the wall.

  4. Once you feel your right-side lats stretching, hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.

  5. Return to the starting position and repeat the stretch with your left forearm against the wall.

Do at least two reps on each side.

How to do the dynamic version of the bent arm wall lat stretch

Starting position: Same as for the static version of this stretch. Repeat steps 1 and 2 of the static version.

  1. Lean into your bent right arm, and alternate between protracting and retracting your right shoulder blade as you push into the wall.

  2. With each protraction of your shoulder blade, hold it there for 5 seconds before retracting it.

  3. Continue moving your shoulder blade to and from your spine 12 to 15 times before switching to do the reps with your left arm.

5. BENCH KNEELING LAT STRETCH

This stretch is done using a gym bench, but if you’re doing some stretches at home, a kitchen chair will do. You’ll be kneeling on the floor, and laying a towel or yoga mat down will be more comfortable.

How to do the static version of the bench kneeling lat stretch

Starting position: Kneel on the floor with your knees hip-width apart, facing a bench or chair which is an outstretched arm’s length away from you.

  1. Bending from your hips, brace your abs and keep your back straight as you reach forward with straight arms and elbows extended to put your hands on the bench.

  2. Your shoulders and extended arms should form one straight line. Stabilize your cervical spine by tucking your chin in.

  3. While holding your hands palms-down on the bench, and your knees under your hips, lean back in your hips, feeling the lats stretching in your upper back.

  4. By pushing your hips back further you can intensify the stretch. You can intensify the stretch by pushing your hips further back.

  5. While breathing deeply, hold the stretched position for 30 to 60 seconds.

  6. Repeat the stretch 2 or 3 times, trying to lean back a bit more with each stretch.

How to do the dynamic version of the bench kneeling lat stretch

Repeat all the steps of the static version, but instead of holding the hip stretch, sink the hips onto your heels and then return to the upright kneeling position.

When you are in the upright kneeling position, move your arms back to your sides, and extend them back to the bench every time you sink your hips to your heels.

Continue alternating the upright kneeling and sinking movements 10 to 12 times.

6. BENT OVER LAT STRETCH

For this stretch, you will need something sturdy and anchored to grab onto with your arms shoulder-width apart. Most gyms have equipment primarily used for triceps dips and pull-ups, with poles on each side, ideal for this stretch.

How to do the static version of the bent-over lat stretch

Starting position: From a position about 2 feet away from the bars, hinge at your hips as you bend forward and grab onto the vertical bars with your arms fully extended, palms facing each other.

  1. Protract your shoulders and lean back as if you are pushing the bars away from you, using shoulder force only.

  2. Hold this stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, doing 2 or 3 reps.

How to do the dynamic version of the bent-over lat stretch

Starting position: Same as for the static version of this stretch.

  1. Follow the steps for the static stretch, but instead of holding the stretch, follow the protraction of your shoulder blades with their retraction.

  2. Look downward to the floor while your shoulders perform the protraction, and lift your head to look forward while performing the retraction movement.

  3. Repeat this movement for 30 to 60 seconds.

7. STANDING LATERAL STRETCH

Without the need for any equipment, this stretch is great for improving the mobility and flexibility of the lats.

Standing lateral lat stretch – Image from Shutterstock

 How to do the static version of the standing lateral lat stretch

Starting position: Stand up straight with your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart.

  1. Place your left hand on your hip and the right hand behind your head with your elbow lateral to your head.

  1. While keeping your knees slightly bent so they don’t lock, and your right arm behind your head, raise the bent arm until the right elbow points up.

  2. Hold that position for 30 to 60 seconds while feeling the stretch down your side.

  3. Return to the starting position before repeating the movement with the left hand behind your head.

  4. Repeat 2 or 3 times on each side.

How to do the dynamic version of the standing lateral lat stretch

Starting position: Same as for the static version of this stretch.

Follow the first two steps of the static version.

  1. Instead of holding the stretch with the elbow pointing up, bring it down to the lateral starting position.

  2. Continue moving the elbow up and down in a fluid motion, trying to deepen the stretch each time it goes up.

  3. Continue for 30 seconds before switching to the other arm.

8. STANDING SIDE LAT STRETCH

You can choose anything from a piece of gym equipment to a doorframe for this stretch. Not only will this lat stretch loosen tight muscles, but it is also great for improving everyday mobility.

How to do the static version of the standing side lat stretch

Starting position: Stand with your body sideways to the frame or other equipment of your choice, feet only slightly apart.

  1. Raise your arms overhead and bend laterally to grab the equipment with your arms still almost straight, and your hands right next to each other.

  2. As you hold the equipment laterally, push your contralateral hip outward in the direction opposite to your arms.

  3. As your hip kicks out, you’ll feel the stretch on your side. 

  4. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds before turning to do the same stretch with the opposite side of your body. Aim twice on each side.

How to do the dynamic version of the standing side lat stretch

Starting position: Same as for the static version of this stretch.

Repeat steps 1 and 2 of the static version.

  1. Instead of pushing the hips out contralaterally and holding that movement, bring them back to the midline and out again.

  2. Continue rotating the hips in that manner for 30 to 60 seconds before switching to repeat the stretching on the opposite side.

9. DYNAMIC BACK & SHOULDER STRETCH 

This is a great pre-workout stretch for your back exercise day. Furthermore, this lat stretch is also excellent for shoulder muscle warm-up because it improves flexion, flexibility, and extension movements.

How to do the static version of the dynamic back and shoulder stretch

Starting position: Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms by your side.

  1. Keep your arms straight with your elbows in extension.

  2. Swing your extended arms straight up and overhead with your shoulders in flexion and your fingers pointing up.

  3. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and stretch them upward to feel your lats stretching before bringing your arms down.

  4. Repeat the stretch 2 or 3 times.

How to do the dynamic back and shoulder stretch

Starting position: The same as for the static version of this stretch.

  1. Keep your arms straight with your elbows in extension.

  2. Swing your extended arms straight up and overhead with your shoulders in flexion and your fingers pointing up.

  3. You should feel a stretch in your upper back as you swing your arms up.

  4. Bring your arms down and immediately up again.

  5. Repeat these movements 10 times.

10. LYING WHOLE BODY LAT STRETCH

As the name indicates, this lat stretch will have you lying flat on the ground, which could be difficult if your lats are overly tight. Not to worry, go down as far as you can manage, and work to get closer to the floor every time you do this stretch.

Face up lat stretch - Image from Shutterstock

How to do the static version of the lying whole body lat stretch

Starting position: Lay down on the floor facing up with your legs close together and extended. Lay your arms by your side.

  1. Increase your mobility by arching your lower back.

  2. Swing both your arms upward and overhead, and let your arms lay with their backs resting on the floor and your palms facing up. If you can’t get them all the way down to the floor, go as far as you can as you work away the tightness of your lats.

  3. Point your toes and stretch your arms up as far as you can, experiencing that deep stretch in your lats.

  4. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat 2 or 3 times.

How to do the dynamic version of the lying whole body lat stretch

Starting position: The same as for the static version of this stretch.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 of the static stretch

  1. Instead of holding the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds, hold it for a few seconds before bringing your arms back to your sides.

  2. Continue swinging your arms overhead and back to your sides while using the few seconds at the top of the movement to stretch your arms and legs.

  3. Repeat these movements for 30 seconds, and try to get your arms closer to the floor each time.

Recovery aid

If you want to further optimize your performance you might want to consider ADABOLIC. It is a must-have recovery aid for any fitness enthusiast seeking increased performance and recovery to blast through plateaus and transform their body.

Exhausted after workout session – Image from Shutterstock

 

Benefits of ADABOLIC

  • Stimulant free pre-workout

  • Restores muscle glycogen

  • Increases muscle tone & hardness

  • Recovery time accelerator

  • Maximizes endurance & power

  • Reduce overall fatigue

CONCLUSION

Stretches for lats will enable you to perform movements seamlessly and with complete mobility when exercising, whether you do the child’s pose in yoga, use a foam roller, or do the heavy stuff that involves dumbbells, deadlifts, and chin-ups.

It’s almost impossible to use proper form and go through the entire range of motion when muscle tension impacts your mobility, flexibility, and posture. A chin-up performed with scapular tension and rounded shoulders will not yield the best results.