Physical Science

Lack of flexibility in the Lats

The Latissimus Dorsi muscle (referred to as the “Lats”) originates from the vertebrae in the lumbar spine and inserts onto the medial aspect of the Humerus (bone of the upper arm).  When a muscle contracts, the movement is always from the insertion towards the origin of the muscle.  Therefore, when the Lats contract, it moves the upper arm towards the torso.  Examples of exercises for the Lats are Lat Pull Downs, Seated Rowing and the 1-Arm Dumbbell Row.


Because of poor general posture and incorrect technique and alignment during training, one can end up with a lack of flexibility in the Lats.  Inflexible Lats will prevent free release or movement of the upper arm away from the torso.  This includes movement of the arm to the front (shoulder flexion) and to the side (shoulder abduction).

Tight Lats will also lead to internal rotation of the Humerus in the standing posture at rest.  This can easily be identified when a person is standing with the back of the hands facing forward.  This is normally accompanied by protracted shoulders.

The following is a Test to determine the amount of flexibility in the Lats:

  • Stand with your back up against the wall, feet about 30cm away from the wall.
  • Slide down into a half squat position and lock elbows to ensure arms are straight.
  • Raise straight arms to the front and all the way up to try and touch the wall at the top (180º).  Maintain the neutral spinal curvature.
  • If the person can’t reach the wall with arms absolutely straight, it is an indication of inflexibility in the Lats.  The range of movement can be measured, and compared, when doing a follow-up assessment.


The best way to improve your Lat flexibility is to do movements of the Lats (refer to the above mentioned exercises) through a full range of motion, focusing especially on the eccentric (stretch) part of the movement.  Once the muscles are warmed up, you can also do the following stretch:

  • Kneel down on a mat, bum on the heels.  Stretch arms out to the front, with hands on the floor and head down between the arms.
  • Reach over to the Right corner of the mat, stretching your left hand out as far forward as you can.  Hold for 3 counts and the repeat to the opposite side.


Jan Fourie