Tightness in the latissimus dorsi (lats) muscles is one of the most common dysfunctions I see in athletes. Lat tightness contributes to both decreased overhead mobility and excessive arching of the lower back (as a compensation). Testing lat flexibility is very easy. Compare the amount of shoulder flexion an athlete has while lying with their hips extended and hips flexed. The hips flexed position lengthens the lats at their more distal attachment points as well as its attachment to the arm (humerus). If flexing the hips decreases the amount of overhead mobility the athlete has, lat tightness is present.
Keys to performance:
- Keep the arms parallel when they are raised overhead. Outward travel decreases the mobility demands on the lats.
- Maintain a neutral lumbar spine when assessing overhead mobility with the hips extended. Excessive arching in this position will make shoulder mobility appear better than it is.