The latissimus dorsi muscles, known as the lats, are the large V-shaped muscles that connect your arms to your vertebral column. They help protect and stabilize your spine while providing shoulder and back strength.
Your lats also help with shoulder and arm movement and support good posture. Strengthening and stretching your lats is essential in building upper-body strength, improving range of motion, and preventing injury.
Here are 10 simple and effective lat stretches you can incorporate into your daily or weekly exercise routine.
For maximum benefit, make sure you use proper form and technique while doing these exercises. Stretch only to the point that is comfortable. Never force yourself into a position that causes pain or discomfort.
Do these stretches when your muscles are warmed up, either after a short warmup or at the end of a workout. You can repeat each exercise several times or do them throughout the day.
For the best results, do these exercises at least three times per week.
- From a kneeling position, sink your hips back and place your right forearm along the floor.
- Lean your weight onto your right arm and stretch out your left arm, reaching out through your fingertips. You’ll feel a stretch along the side of your torso.
- Hold this position for a few seconds.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat 10 times. Repeat on the opposite side.
You can maximize the stretch by rounding your lower back. To deepen the stretch, rotate your chest and ribs toward the ceiling as you stretch.
You’ll need a foam roller for this exercise. Foam rolling can relieve soreness, increase your range of motion, and correct misalignments due to tightness or muscle knots.
While rolling, give some extra attention to any tight, tender, or sensitive areas you notice. Engage your opposite arm and lower leg to ensure you’re not putting too much pressure on your lat.
- Lie on your right side with the foam roller under your lat, maintaining a neutral spine.
- Keep your right leg straight and bend your left knee however is comfortable.
- Roll back and forth from your lower back up to your underarm, moving as slowly as possible.
- Roll from side to side.
- Continue for 1 minute. Repeat on the opposite side.
You’ll need an exercise ball or a chair for this stretch. This stretch helps lengthen the lats and improve overhead mobility. For a slightly different stretch, place your palm on the ball, facing up or down.
- Begin on all fours in a tabletop position, in front of an exercise ball.
- Place your right hand on the ball with your thumb facing the ceiling.
- Press into your grounded arm for stability and support.
- Engage your core muscles as you extend your arm straight out, rolling the ball forward.
- Sink deeper into the stretch as you hold this position for 20–30 seconds.
- Repeat on the opposite side. Do each side 2–3 times.
For a slightly different stretch, you can do this stretch while standing with the ball or the chair in front of you. Position your arm in the same way and hinge at your hips to roll the ball forward.
You can do a variation of the ball or chair stretch with your forearms and palms pressing into the wall.
- Stand about 2 feet from a wall, facing toward it.
- Hinge at your hips to bend forward.
- Place the palms of your hands on the wall at about hip height.
- Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
You can do a simple yoga routine that focuses on stretching and strengthening your lats. Pay attention to how your muscles are feeling as you do the poses.
Do this routine on its own or as part of a longer workout. These poses can help relieve stress, pain, and tension.
5. Upward Salute
Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana) is also called Raised Hands Pose or Palm Tree Pose. This pose stretches your lats along with the sides of your body, your spine, your shoulders, and your armpits.
- Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) with your heels slightly apart and your weight balanced evenly on both feet.
- Lift both arms up toward the ceiling.
- Engage your core and tuck in your tailbone slightly, keeping your spine in alignment.
- If it’s comfortable for you, bend backward slightly.
6. Eagle Pose
Eagle Pose (Garudasana) can be done while standing or sitting. This pose can help increase flexibility and range of motion in your shoulders and upper back.
- Stretch both arms straight forward, parallel to the floor.
- Cross your arms in front of your upper body so your right arm is above your left arm. Bend your elbows.
- Tuck your right elbow into the crook of your left elbow and raise both forearms so they’re perpendicular to the floor.
- Press your palms together and breathe deeply, focusing on releasing tension in your back and shoulders.
- Reverse your arms and repeat.
The spinal rolls of Cat-Cow (Chakravakasana) will help loosen up your lats.
- Begin on your hands and knees with a neutral spine.
- Inhale and move into Cow Pose by lifting your seat bones, pressing your chest forward, and allowing your belly to sink toward the floor.
- As you exhale, move into Cat Pose by rounding your spine outward and tucking in your tailbone.
- Allow your head to release toward the floor in a relaxed position.
- Press firmly into your arms throughout both movements and pay attention to how your shoulder blades change position.
8. Downward-Facing Dog
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) elongates your spine and helps build strength in your lats.
- Begin on all fours with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Tuck your toes under and lift your hips up off the floor.
- Straighten your legs and move your heels toward the floor (they do not have to be on the floor). If your hamstrings are tight, it’s OK to keep your knees slightly bent. You can also walk your hands forward if you need more length.
- Press firmly through your palms and focus on broadening across your collarbones and shoulders. Allow your chin to tuck into your chest.
9. Upward-Facing Dog
Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) is a backbending pose that can strengthen your lats.
- Lie on your stomach on the floor. Stretch your legs out behind you and rest the tops of your feet on the floor.
- Bend your elbows and place your palms on the floor beside your waist.
- Inhale and straighten your arms while lifting your upper body and your legs a few inches off the floor.
- Draw your shoulders back and down, away from your ears.
10. Child’s Pose
Child’s Pose (Balasana) is a restorative pose that can help you relax your spine, shoulders, and neck while also stretching your lats.
- From Downward Dog, take a deep breath and exhale. Release your knees onto the floor while pulling your hips back to your heels. Rest your forehead on the floor.
- You can also relax in this pose with your knees slightly wider than your hips.
- To deepen the stretch, walk your fingers as far forward as possible. Walk your fingers to each side before bringing them back to center and resting in this position.
Stretching your lats a few times per week can help you gain flexibility, reduce pain, and increase range of motion. This will help prevent injury and will leave you feeling better overall, allowing you to move with strength and ease.
Speak with your doctor if you experience pain while doing these exercises.