It is common to assess clients with latissimus tightness. This is often manifested as limited shoulder flexion mobility. Diminished range of motion can be particularly detrimental for overhead athletes and when training the Olympic lifts. The following single arm stretch is an effective way to address tightness and asymmetry.
Execution: Begin in a tall kneeling and position with the right hand palm down on top of an exercise ball. Next, slowly roll the ball forward as the head and trunk and shoulder move into flexion. Additionally, move the arm and trunk diagonally to the left to introduce a more isolated stretch on that side. You may opt for a sustained stretch or perform 5-10 repetitions holding for 3-5 seconds at the end range of motion and cycling through various positions. Repeat on the left side in the same manner.
Application: This stretch is useful for maximizing shoulder flexion and latissimus mobility. It may be necessary to use soft tissue mobilization prior to the stretch if trigger points are present. I use this exercise in rehab and shoulder mobility programs for my athletes. Maximizing shoulder mobility (flexion) will help reduce excessive extension and/or rotation in the spine that appears as compensatory motion in order to complete overhead activities such as snatches, overhead squats, throwing and serving motions.
This stretch is very useful when working with overhead athletes such as pitchers, tennis players, swimmers, volleyball players, etc. who often have asymmetry. The ball allows for a specific and directional stretch that the client can control and easily tweak to find the right stretch for him/her with ease.
Precautions: Use caution with clients experiencing rotator cuff pathology, tendonitis, arthritis, labral pathology, or shoulder instability. Forcing the shoulder into end range elevation can cause shoulder impingement. Any pain felt in the shoulder as opposed to a stretch along the latissimus would be an indication to stop the exercise and refer the client for further evaluation by a medical professional.