Foam Rolling The Latissimus Dorsi (Lats)

Tight lats can be painful, and can even make breathing difficult. Find out how to foam roll the lats for quick and easy pain relief.

The latissimus dorsi muscle, or more simply just called the lats, is a large triangle shaped muscle located in your back.  It is one of the largest muscles in the back, and, when well defined, is clearly visible.  Like most other muscles, it can become strained…sometimes to the point that it even hurts to breathe.  Foam rolling the lats provides quick and easy pain relief, and we’ll show you how to do it.

How Do We Use Our Lats?

Latissimus dorsi lats muscle descriptionThe lats are responsible for extension, adductions, transverse extension, flexion, and internal rotation of the shoulder joint.  Meaning that quite nearly every movement of the shoulder will involve your lat muscles.  The lats also connect to the lumbar spine, and assist with movements of the lower back.  Finally, and what might be a surprise, is that the lats also play a support role in the breathing process.  They’re referred to as an “accessory breathing muscle”, and enhance trunk movements during both inhalation and exhalation.

The latissimus muscles are often exercised through vertical pulling movements such as pull-ups and chin-ups.  They are also exercised through horizontal pulling movements, such as the bent-over row, and other rowing exercises.

Sore, tight, or injured lats might make it uncomfortable to take deep breaths.  It can also cause pain with shoulder movements, and pain in the lower back.

How To Foam Roll Your Lats

Foam rolling your lats is a simple process that can help alleviate tight, sore muscles.  Here’s a quick step-by-step:

  1. Place your foam roller on the ground, preferably on top of a yoga mat.
  2. Lie down on one side, with your foam roller underneath your armpit, and perpendicular to your body.
  3. Extend the arm that’s now on the bottom side, so that it forms a straight line with the rest of your body.
  4. You can keep both legs extended, or bring one in – bent at about 90 degrees – for additional support if needed.
  5. Tighten your core and lift, so that your weight it supported by your feet and the foam roller.
  6. Now start to roll slowly, down from your armpit, along your lats.  This motion should be fairly small, you don’t need to roll down your entire side.  After you’ve gone a few inches, roll back up towards the armpit.

That’s it!  Here’s a great video showing the proper technique:

An Alternate Foam Roller Lat Exercise

Another great lat exercise involving the foam roller can help you stretch and massage those tight muscles.  Follow the same basic setup described above.  Take the arm that’s extended, and place your hand behind your head.  Now, instead of rolling back and forth, you’re going to rotate your trunk.  Twist back and forth with your trunk, putting the focus on the outside portion of your back.  Watch this video for a quick look at the proper form:

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