My Favorite Stretch: Hip Flexor-Lat Stretch Combo

This is my favorite stretch. It hits two problematic areas: the hip flexors and the lats.

hips and lats

This stretch will hit your lats and hip flexors.

In order to do the stretch, I have to push my pelvis forward and then rotate in the direction of the front leg. You should feel a stretch in your lats and the front of the back leg.

While the hip flexors are well documented, the lats don’t get nearly as much attention.

Origins

The latissimus dorsi, colloquially known as the lats, are frequently overlooked in their role as postural distorters and associated aches and pains. The lats originate mainly on the lower six thoracic vertabrae (middle of the back), the lumbar vertabrae via the lumbar fascia (lower back), and some of the lower ribs. There is also an attachment at the bottom of the scapula and the illiac crest of the pelvis. It’s insertion point is your humerus (upper arm) right between the pec major and teres major.

With so many origins, the lats have a chance to exert a tremendous amount of influence on your shoulders (due to scapular attachment) middle and lower back (due to vertabral attachments) and even your pelvis.

Tight lats

Tight lats can wreak havoc on your shoulders, lower back, and pelvis.

The Visual

Men want them bigger while women don’t pay much attention to them at all.

In purely aesthetic terms, good lat development makes you more physically impressive while makeing your waist look smaller by giving you the coveted “V” look. Besides drawing the arms back, like for rowing movements, and in towards your body, as in pull-ups, the lats also function to draw the arms across the front of the body.

Tightness

The lats are often found to be tight along with the pec major and minor. Tight lats are often exhibited by poor posture and the inability to raise the shoulders directly above the head. Testing shortness of the lats is better done laying flat on the floor to prevent a common compensation pattern of lifting the rib cage to get more range of motion.

shortened lats

Short lats can be a player in increased lordosis and thus limited arm flexion

Tight lats occur probably due to our proclivity for working the beach muscles: chest, shoulders, and arms. Our back muscles are generally worked as an afterthought, and when this afterthought actually occurs, it’s usually in the form of lat pull-downs and lat dominant rows. Unfortunately, this just leads to reinforce poor posture.

There is nothing wrong with lat-pull downs and rows, but they need to be balanced out with rowing variations that train pure scapular retraction, largely leaving the lats out of the equation. Exercises like band pull-aparts, face-pulls, and rear flies all work well. This will help pull the shoulder blades back and improve posture.

Focusing on scapular muscle strength (rhomboids, middle and lower traps) and stretching the lats and chest is one of the most important changes I make to people’s training when I first meet them. Not only will it make you stand up straighter, but it will also reduce the risk of rotator cuff injuries as poor scapular muscle strength correlates closely with shoulder dysfunction.

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