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The latissimus dorsi, or lat, is a broad muscle that covers much of the lower back. It originates at the pelvis and lumbar spine and inserts onto the upper arm bone. The lats draw your arms down and back. Reaching your arms overhead stretches them. You can stretch your lats while sitting, standing or kneeling. Using a wall or table can help intensify the stretch.
The pillar stretch is a simple lat stretch you can do sitting or standing. Interlace your fingers and invert your palms. Press your palms toward the ceiling, straightening your elbows. While continuing to reach up, slowly move your arms slightly backward until you feel a moderate stretch. Do not stretch to the point of pain. You can also perform side bending lat stretches while sitting or standing. With your right arm reaching toward the ceiling, side bend toward your left. Hold the stretch, then repeat with your left arm overhead.
Behind the Neck Stretch
The behind the neck stretch targets the triceps along with the lats. Begin either standing or sitting. Reach your right arm toward the ceiling. Bend your right elbow to bring your right hand behind your neck. Take hold of your right elbow with your left hand and pull it behind your head and toward the left until you feel a moderate stretch. Move slowly to avoid over-stretching. Hold, then repeat the stretch, dropping your left hand behind your neck.
Begin kneeling on a mat. Reach your arms in front of you, resting your forearms on the floor, shoulder width. Move your hips toward your heels until you feel a stretch in the lats. You can perform a similar stretch from a kneeling position by placing your hands on a bench or chair in front of you. Move your hips back until they are above your knees. Your arms and upper body should form a straight line. Engage your abdominal muscles to keep your lower back stable.
Wall Lat Stretch
For this stretch, stand facing a wall. Place your hands on the wall at waist height. Your hands should be shoulder width. Step back, folding at your hips, until your arms and torso form a straight line. Keep your back flat. Engage your abdominal muscles to prevent over-arching your lower back. For a variation of this stretch, bend your elbows and place your forearms vertically on the wall with the elbows pointing down. You can perform a similar stretch resting your arms on a table rather than the wall.