Softball: 4 Simple Solutions to Help Improve Tight Lats

Main Takeaway: Strength coaches should assess before assuming that every athlete that walks through their door has the ability to work overhead safely. Learn how to detect and manage those athletes who have tight lats. 

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As a whole, college strength coaches have migrated away from performing individualized assessments. In result, coaches tend to miss contraindications that wind up hurting players due to poor exercise selection for specific individuals. 

It's no secret that a vast majority of college strength coaches use the Olympic lifts and overhead work to help build strength and power. However, there are times when some overhead athletes such as softball players don't have the adequate active nor passive shoulder flexion to perform work overhead. In my mind you need to EARN the right to work overhead. A lack of shoulder flexion combined with overhead work will almost always result in compensation patterns that end up injuring lower backs, shoulders and chewing up medial elbows overtime.  

How to Detect Lat Stiffness? 

To detect lat stiffness use these 2 simple tests. 

Test 1: Standing Shoulder Flexion (active) 

Good standing shoulder flexion: They can get full shoulder flexion without compensation and with good scapulohumeral rhythm. 

Poor standing shoulder flexion: The individual lacks full shoulder flexion with or without compensating


Test 2: Supine Shoulder Flexion (passive) 

Good supine shoulder flexion: The individual is able to get both of their arms down to the assessment table without compensating. 

Poor supine shoulder flexion: The individual is unable to get both of their arms down to the table. 

Check out this quick video to see if your athlete has tight lats. 
 

 

 

How can I manage tight lats? 

Action Step 1: Manual Therapy on the Latissimus dors and Teres Major

Seeing an experienced manual therapist at least (1-2x/week) and performing soft tissue work on yourself every day could be the difference maker in gaining full shoulder flexion back. 

When would I choose this option?  
Use this option if both test 1 and test 2 are poor 

Action Step 2: Breath and Stretch

A simple way to lengthen the lat is by adding more warm-up drills that place the lat on stretch. Here are some drills to consider. 

When would I choose this option? 
Choose this option if test 2 is poor. 


Action Step 3: Create good anterior core stiffness

By stiffness, I mean the ability to move your limbs (arms and legs) around a braced core. Performing simple anterior and rotary core drills such as these ones below will improve core control and give you more time away from being in a gross extension pattern. 

Note** have no clue what a extension based pattern looks like? Click this awesome article Tony Gentilcore wrote about it to learn more.

When would I choose this option?  
Use this option if test 1 is poor. Actually, use these drills EVERY DAY with your athletes. As a strength coach, you can't go wrong with having a rock solid core. 


Action Step 4: Improve Scapular Upward Rotation

Tight lats could be a long-term result of an athlete locking their shoulder blades down and back while training. This gross habit is not ideal for softball players because it limits shoulder flexion (like a lot). Pitchers specifically NEED to work on exercises that promote the scapula moving along the rib cage such as these ones below. 


When would I choose this option? 

If you're working with an overhead athlete you should always be programming movements that get the shoulder blade and humerus to work as a team. 

Check Those Lats! 

As a strength coach, taking the time to perform a short assessment (<10mins) on your athlete can help you as a coach make more informed exercise selections that will keep your players stronger and healthier.