Can tight lats cause shoulder pain?

If you’ve landed on this page, there’s a good chance that you might be having shoulder pain and you’re wondering if your lats (aka those big wing shaped muscles on your back) are the culprit.

The answer? It’s possible.

Without deep diving on anatomy, your lats are important. You want strong lats. They’re helpful for all sorts of exercises, including pull-ups and deadlifts and if you ever found yourself needing to pull yourself up off the ground, your lats would be one of the muscle groups to get you there.

However, like all things in life, it is possible to over do lat engagement during exercises. Particularly if you are *always*thinking about pulling your shoulders back and down.

To elaborate, sometimes the lats get cued at the wrong time during exercise and THIS may cause shoulder pain. A great example of this? The overhead press. When you reach your arms overhead, you want your shoulder blades to be able to move upwards, because if they don’t, you can jam your upper arm bone into part of your shoulder blade and create something called impingement, which can be rather uncomfortable or even painful.

Beyond that, if you walk around with your shoulders pulled back and down at all times, it can create strain and tension patterns on your neck, shoulders, and lower back, because the shoulder blades are meant to move.

So that explains how “tight” lats can create back or shoulder pain, but let’s talk about how to identify if your lats are tight and what you can do about them.

What tight lats look like

Here’s a simple test for tight lats

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Slowly reach your arms up to the ceiling and overhead while trying to keep the back of your ribcage connected to the floor.
  3. Is it hard to keep the back of your ribs on the ground or does your back want to arch when you start to reach your arms overhead?

Then your lats might be tight.

If this is you, no big deal. Let’s discuss what to do about it.

Exercises for tight lats

Hand Knee Rocking.

When you do this, think about actively pushing through your hands. This allows the shoulders to glide upwards and creates a dynamic stretch of the lats.

Foam Roll Your Lats by Rolling Forward and Back

This may help them have a little more glide thus reducing upper body tension.

Overhead Band Reach

This is super similar to the “tight lats test” I described above. It works as a way to dynamically stretch that area too though!

Want some simple ways to troubleshoot upper body tension?

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