10 Effective Latissimus Dorsi Pain Relief Exercises

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Latissimus Dorsi Pain Relief Exercises

These latissimus dorsi pain relief exercises aren’t solely focused on alleviating tightness, but also on developing upper body strength. 

I’ve included a mix of strengthening and passive stretching exercises to fortify and unlock the lats to discourage future pain and reduce muscle spasms.

Skip to the stretching exercises for now after you’ve been cleared by your healthcare provider if you’re dealing with an acute injury. 

Pre-Exercise Myofascial Release 

Myofascial release is a warm-up technique that increases short-term flexibility and can reduce soreness in the time following your workout.

Do this before or after the actual exercises on days you have spare time as it’s not the end all be all.

  • Lay on the tender side with a foam roller or tennis ball underneath your armpit.
  • Apply comfortable pressure onto the tool.
  • Roll over tight spots for up to 30 seconds each.

5 Lat Strengthening Exercises

Developing strong lats is a great way to prevent pain from returning or occurring in the first place. 

I’ve chosen to show you these specific exercises because they’re low impact enough to avoid worsening mild pain, yet challenging enough to build muscle over time. 

1. Reacher Row


  1. Lay on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you. 
  2. Pinch your shoulder blades and raise your elbows high off the ground.
  3. Bend your arms toward your ribs.
  4. Straighten your arms and repeat for 8-10 reps.


Keep your thoracic spine extended by lifting your chest off the ground and retracting your scapula to maximize lat engagement.

Why it works:

Your shoulders depress and adduct as you pull your elbows toward your ribs, which contracts the lats heavily.

2. Alternating Bring Backs


  1. Start by lying on your stomach with your elbows propped up. 
  2. Lift your elbows and bend your arms to 90 degrees with your palms facing the floor.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades back and down.
  4. Shoot your right elbow up so it’s higher than your hand and drive it back behind your body. 
  5. Return to the starting position and alternate to the left elbow.
  6. Do 10-15 reps on each side.


You can also perform all of the reps on one side at a time, starting with your weaker side first, if you have an imbalance. 

Why it works:

There’s a slight internal shoulder rotation combined with horizontal abduction when lifting the elbow up and back to hit your upper lats quite well. 

3. Baby Penguins


  1. Lay prone with your arms at your sides and your palms facing the ceiling.
  2. Press your palms upward as high as you can.
  3. Pinch your shoulders together and lift your chest. 
  4. Tilt your upper body to the left.
  5. Return to the front position.
  6. Tilt to the right and continue alternating for 10-15 reps. 


Squeeze your lat for 2-3 seconds on the tilted side. 

Why it works:

The side bending component emphasizes scapular depression and lateral flexion.

Plus, having your palms face up and arms raised promotes internal rotation and shoulder extension.

These all work the lower lats and abdominal muscles.

4. Reverse Snow Angels

This is the final strengthening exercise you have to lie down for I promise.


  1. Lay on your stomach with your hands by your sides and palms facing the ceiling. 
  2. Retract your scapula to lift your shoulders off the ground. 
  3. Move your arms overhead while simultaneously rotating your palms to face the floor. 
  4. Lower your hands back to your sides with your palms facing upwards. 
  5. Perform another 10-15 reps.


Push your palms behind your torso, towards the ceiling, during steps 2 and 4.

Why it works:

Reverse snow angles utilize shoulder adduction to move your arms down to your sides from overhead.

This is one of the motions you’d use when performing pull-ups to blast the back muscles.

5. Seated Straight Arm Pulldowns

Straight arm pulldowns provide constant tension on the lats and stabilizer muscles.

This provides more challenge after you’ve built starting strength with the formerly mentioned bodyweight options.

However, you will need resistance bands or a cable machine for maximum benefit.


  1. Anchor a band overhead.
  2. Sit on the floor or on a chair directly underneath the band anchor.
  3. Grip the handles with your thumbs facing inward.
  4. Position your arms straight in front of you.
  5. Arc the handles down toward your pockets without bending your arms.
  6. Stop and reverse once your upper arms reach your torso.
  7. Repeat 8-12 times. 


Switch between pulling down with your arms positioned straight in front of you and at your sides to hit the lat muscle fibers from different angles.

Watch my demonstration video underneath the main strengthening exercises heading to see both variations in action. 

Why it works:

The main variation isolates the lower lats via shoulder extension, so other major muscles won’t be too involved.

However, pulling with the arms angled outward uses shoulder adduction to recruit the upper lats and pecs more.

5 Lat Stretching Exercises

A regular stretching protocol trains the nervous system to allow the lats to stretch further without releasing pain signals.

So, focus on 2-3 of the same stretches daily, using myofascial release beforehand if you notice extra tightness on a given day.

Make sure to take a deep breath in and out before deepening a stretch.

1. Child’s Pose (Bilateral & Unilateral)

Bilateral Directions:

  1. Kneel on the floor with your legs hip-width apart. 
  2. Press your palms against the floor with your arms straight.
  3. Lower your chest and hips toward the floor so that your upper arms are aligned next to your ears. 
  4. Hold for 15-30 seconds.

Unilateral Directions:

  1. Assume the same starting position as the bilateral version (steps 1-2).
  2. Reach your left arm over your right to expand the left side of your torso.
  3. Place your left hand on the floor to feel a gentle stretch.
  4. Tuck your chin toward your chest and sink your butt toward your heels to deepen the stretch.
  5. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  6. Release and switch. 

The unilateral version stretches the lower back and hips more too.


Twist your elbows up and down, round your lower back, and take deep exhales to relax your tight muscles while sinking further into this yoga pose.

Why it works:

The lats naturally lengthen when the arms lift overhead, and the floor acts as a stability point to safely overcome overhead mobility limitations. 

2. Door Frame Stretch


  1. Extend your arm overhead and grab the doorframe.
  2. Put your feet together and lean your hips away from your arm.
  3. Turn your hips so they’re square with the door frame. 
  4. Continue leaning your hips away as needed to feel a stretch for 15-30 seconds.


Try to angle your feet diagonally, pointing away from the arm that’s overhead.

Why it works:

The use of shoulder flexion and abduction while grabbing the frame and manipulating the hip position helps lengthen the lats under control. 

3. Eccentric Lengthening

These build eccentric strength and flexibility since the lats are actively lengthened from a shortened position under the load of your entire body. 

Alternatively, your legs can remain on the ground throughout the exercise if you aren’t able to handle your full body weight yet. 


  1. Underhand grip a pull-up bar with your hands shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Bend your elbows toward your ribcage to raise your chin to the bar.
  3. Lower yourself in a straight line using a 3-5-second count.
  4. Pause for 2-3 more seconds once your arms are fully extended. 
  5. Repeat 3-5 times. 


Set a box behind you to step onto when dismounting the bar because dropping yourself will re-compress your spine.

Why it works:

This movement starts with the lats flexed to perform an extension of the shoulder.

They then stretch and contract as the shoulders transfer into flexion and internal rotation.

The extra force from gravity also decompresses the entire spine to avert lower back pain. 

4. Banded Lat Stretch

This stretch has three stages to progressively elongate the lats.

Hold each one for 15-30 seconds. 


  1. Secure your band overhead and wrap the other end around your wrist.
  2. Turn and step away from the band and lean your upper body slightly forward.
  3. Stage 1: Raise your arm overhead with the elbow bent at 90 degrees.
  4. Stage 2: Take one step back and straighten your arm.
  5. Stage 3: Face the band and lean your upper body parallel to the floor with your arm extended.
    • Shift your hips and dynamically rotate your hand in both directions to maximize the stretch.


Keep your back flat when facing away from the band and slightly round your lower back when facing the band. 

Why it works:

Each stage increases the intensity of shoulder flexion to gradually improve flexibility. 

5. Overhead Side Bend


  1. Assume a standing position with the right foot and shoulder against the non-hinged side of a doorway.
  2. Overhand grip the door in front of your waist with your right hand.
  3. Reach your opposite arm behind your head toward the right side and grab the door with an underhand grip.
  4. Lean your hips to the left and hold for 15-30 seconds. 
  5. Turn around and perform it with your left foot against the door. 


Sit on the ground with your legs spread wide and lean diagonally over either thigh, clutching your ankle or foot to intensify the stretch.

Why it works:

The overhead side bend upwardly rotates the shoulder girdle and laterally extends the spine when the arm raises and the hip shifts, respectively. 

These motions relax the outer latissimus dorsi and core muscles. 

Description of the Lat Muscles

When translated from Latin, Musculus latissimus dorsi literally means “broadest muscles of the back” because of their massive coverage on the posterior chain. 

This makes sense since this large flat muscle attaches beneath the shoulder joint and spans way down to the hips.

Muscle Function

The lats help other parts of your body function properly (eg. shoulders, spine, hips) by flexing or relaxing to perform certain motions. 

They flex during shoulder extension and lengthen during flexion for instance. 

These responses happen simultaneously during lateral spinal flexion (side bending) as the bent lat flexes and the extended one relaxes. 

Causes of Latissimus Dorsi Muscle Pain

 Latissimus dorsi muscle pain is typically caused by overuse from:

  • Throwing a baseball or football.
  • Swinging a bat, tennis racquet, or axe.
  • Deadlifting heavy weights, pulling up, or swimming.
  • Moving or stagnating with poor posture for prolonged periods.


  • Restricted movement of the arm: 

Tight lats limit the range of motion in the arms, leading to other anatomical functions intervening to achieve the desired action. 

Spinal hyperextension and anterior pelvic tilt may be employed unintentionally during overhead activities like reaching to a high shelf if the lats can’t effectively assist the arm. 

  • Arm and upper back pain:

The back is a complex muscle group and latissimus dorsi injuries in the upper trigger point can affect nerves and muscles in the shoulder blades, arm, and fingers. 

  • Low back and shoulder pain:

Pain is felt above the hips and surprisingly the anterior (front) shoulder when the lower trigger point of the lats is aggravated.

Preventative Measures

  • Physical therapy: Work with a physical therapist to ensure you’re using the correct form and not exacerbating the affected area when exercising. 
  • Massage therapy: Occasional massages help maintain relaxation within the muscles. 
  • Dry needling: Increases blood flow and provides a relaxation response to the pain points. 
  • Electrotherapy treatment: Delivers pulses that contract and relax the muscles.

I don’t usually suggest deliberately paying to be electrocuted or stuck with needles but exceptions are made when the integrity of your lats is being tested.

How To Distinguish Lat Soreness From Injury

General lat soreness is a common issue that stems after exercise or movement.

Heck mine are sore right now from a few pull-ups. 

There’s a spread of tenderness and tightness when touching or moving them, but it’s manageable and usually gone within a few days. 

A latissimus dorsi injury occurs during activity with an onset of severe pulling pain in or around the muscle and it can feel like the wind is knocked out of you.

It may require medical treatment if it doesn’t go away within a few weeks.


How Long Does It Take for Latissimus Dorsi Pain To Heal?

It can take 2-4 weeks or 1-3 days for latissimus dorsi pain to heal when brought on by mild to moderate strains or muscle fiber breakdown from working out, respectively. 

What Does a Pulled Latissimus Dorsi Feel Like?

A pulled latissimus dorsi feels like there’s a tightness or sharp pain in the back of your shoulder, upper back, lower back, or inner arm when moving your arms and torso.

You can have trouble standing upright and taking deep breaths too. 

How Do You Loosen Your Latissimus Dorsi?

To loosen your latissimus dorsi, perform the kneeling lat stretch by:

– Keeling in front of a bench.
– Place the hand of the lat that’s tight on the bench.
– Sink your butt down and round your back by dropping your chest toward the floor.
– Shift your hips away from the side you’re stretching.
– Hold for 15-30 seconds while taking deep exhales for 2-3 sets. 

Where Is the Trigger Point for Latissimus Dorsi Pain?

The upper trigger point for latissimus dorsi pain is underneath the armpit and the back of the shoulder.

The lower trigger point is located on the outer low back and can be measured slightly above elbow height when the arms are resting by the body. 

How Do You Release Latissimus Dorsi Trigger Points?

The best way to release latissimus dorsi trigger points is to perform myofascial release using a tennis ball:

– Place the ball on your tender area and lay on the floor or lean against a wall. 
– Roll a few times to pinpoint the painful spot and gradually press your body weight onto the ball.
– Hold for 30 seconds.

Exercise Your Lats With Care

The lats are the largest muscles in the back so you need to make sure they’re fully functional and strong.

Perform a few of these strengthening and relaxed stretching exercises with proper form to promote good posture and healthy shoulder function.

This will help ease your pain and prevent its unwelcome return, rejuvenating your ability to execute everyday movements. 




Eric De Cremer
Eric De Cremer

Eric is an NCCA-accredited Certified Personal Trainer and competitively trained powerlifter. Feel free to contact him anytime at edecremer@wildnswole.com!