4 Lat Mobility Exercises

// Mobility Exercises to Loosen up Your Tight Lats

Mobilizing your lower body seems pretty straightforward, right? Roll out those crazy tight quads, smash those sore hamstrings, and give those poor aching calves some attention. But when it comes to upper body mobility, it can be a bit of a crapshoot, can’t it? The temptation is just to go after what’s most sore, whether that’s locked up shoulders, pecs that might explode if you so much as attempt one more rep, or triceps that feel like they’re on fire. But yet it’s all too easy to pass over a true workhouse: your lats. 

These big bands of muscle come into play in just about every upper body exercise, from the obvious ones like pull-ups and bent-over rows in which they’re a prime mover to those in which they play more of a secondary role push and bench presses. They’re also involved as stabilizers in moves that you might not consider, such as deadlifts and squats. And if, like me, you’re into kettlebell swings and snatches, then your lats are likely too tight most of the time.

Sore and tight Lats

 

Such stiffness doesn’t exist in isolation and isn’t confined to the lats themselves. As my Waterman 2.0 co-author and co-founder of The Ready State Dr. Kelly Starrett often tells athletes, excess tightness travels upstream and downstream. This can mean that if you don’t take mobilize your lats when they’re all bunched up, they could cause pain in the ribs and side of the chest wall, alter mechanics in several major movement patterns (see: vertical push and pull, hang, horizontal push and pull) and even be a contributor to that shoulder and hip issues that have been bugging you for so long (even though the most prominent part of the lats is at the top in that fan or V-shape bodybuilders are targeting, the bottom insertion point is much lower down). 

Fortunately, as Kelly would say, slack also moves upstream and downstream. So if you clean up your lats, you can positively impact the range of motion, tone, and neuromuscular control of tissues and joints above and below your lats. With that in mind, here are a few exercises to incorporate into your mobility routine. Even doing them for two to five minutes a side twice a week will make a big difference.

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Exercise 1: Banded Bully with Extension Bias
  1. Loop one end of a medium (green) resistance mobility band around a squat rack pole or similar anchor
  2. Hook the other end of the band around your left elbow
  3. Facing away from the anchor, place your left hand behind your back, using your right hand to keep it there
  4. Take a big step forward with your left foot and turn your torso to the right
  5. As you do so, pull your left elbow forward
  6. Shift your foot position to the right several times to emphasize the soft tissue in your t-spine
  7. Switch sides

Exercise 2: Bar Hang
  1. Grip a pullup bar with an overhand grip, with your hands shoulder width apart
  2. Let your arms fully extend
  3. Hang for 30 to 45 seconds, rest for 10 to 20 seconds, then repeat
  4. Accumulate 2 minutes
  5. To vary the stimulus, try making your grip narrower or wider, or switch to an underhand chin-up grip
  6. Switch sides

Exercise 3: Lateral Opener
  1. Hook one end of a medium (green) resistance mobility band around a squat rack pole or similar anchor just above shoulder height
  2. Loop your left wrist through the other end of the band
  3. With your back to the anchor, take a step forward with your right foot
  4. Turn your torso to the right. You can alter the stimulus by moving the band down the pole and can also turn your head up and away. 
  5. Switch sides

Exercise 4: Lat Smash
  1. Lie on your left side on the ground
  2. Extend your left arm above your head
  3. Place an MWOD Supernova below your left armpit
  4. Slowly roll side to side across the ball
  5. Move the ball down and continue rolling side to side across it. Stop where the lat muscle inserts into the ribcage.
  6. Switch sides

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