Better flexibility in your lats and pecs will provide for more efficient workouts and better gains.
Our lats and pecs are two huge muscles in the body, and when it comes to our bodybuilding goals, these two muscles drive our physique and ability to seriously lift big weight. Either a pulling or pushing motion, these two muscle groups have the ability to seriously affect our output and overall range motion. Tight pecs can affect your shoulder mobility causing unwanted pain and injury and tight lats can cause back pain you just don’t need.
Let’s dive right into this because you deserve to see those gains really come to fruition. We’ll explore what flexibility is, why it matters, and the role that both your pecs and lats play when it comes to your bodybuilding goals. And of course, we’ll provide some great exercises to get you well on your way to having better flexibility.
What Is Flexibility?
Flexibility is the quality of bending easily without breaking. It is the range of motion in a joint or a group of joints to move through a complete range of motion effectively. This typically allows a movement to happen passively, thus allowing us to hold a certain stretch without any pain in that joint or the joints surrounding it. This could be anything from holding a static stretch to bending down for something or getting out of bed. Flexibility varies from person to person given the differences in muscle length and can increase with exercise and stretching (1).
Why It Matters
- Improved Posture: Increasing flexibility can allow proper alignment of your body and fix imbalances.
- Less Pain: By lengthening your muscles, you will alleviate pain and avoid injuries you don’t need.
- Increase Strength: Your muscles will have more room to find tension, thus increasing muscle growth.
- Enhance performance: Being more nimble will allow for quicker movements and better efficiency.
Benefits Of Strong, Flexible Lats
Your latissimus dorsi, or lats, are the biggest muscle in the back and spans the width of your entire back. It controls the movement of your shoulders and provides for that V-shape bodybuilders love. Your lats help maintain strength in the upper body, including your back, shoulders and arms and provides stability along with your core for better posture. Many pulling motions are enhanced with strong and flexible lats (2).
Benefits Of Strong, Flexible Pecs
Your pecs are two large muscles on both sides of your chest: the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. Your pectoralis major spans half of your upper chest and is comprised of two heads which attach to your upper arms. Your pectoralis minor lies beneath the pec major and helps control structures on your back side. It attaches to your core and helps pull the shoulders down and aids in breathing. Having a strong and flexible chest means better posture and better breathing which will improve exercise performance and your everyday lifestyle (3). Providing strength for big lifts and pushing motions, having a big chest is a draw for many bodybuilders to really improve confidence.
Best Exercises For Improving Flexibility In Your Lats & Pecs
Using a foam roller, lie on one side, keeping your spine neutral. Gently roll back and forth from your low back to your underarm. Stop on any spot that may be tight. Switch sides and repeat for your desired amount of reps.
Check out our list of the Best Foam Rollers here!
Standing a few feet from a wall, face the wall and hinge at the hips bending forward. With your palms on the wall about hip height, hold for around a minute and release. Repeat for desired number of reps.
Squat Lat Stretch
Find a fixed object, like a bar or sturdy chair. Grab the object and squat down, your feet around shoulder width apart. Relax the back and stay grounded as you lean into that squat. Go as low as possible without causing unwanted pain. Once in the bottom of the squat, your arms will be straight above your head. Breathe deep in and out as you relax deeper. Hold for a minute and release. Repeat for your desired number of reps.
Bent Arm Wall Stretch
This will allow you to stretch both sides. Place one leg in front of the other and place the opposite arm against a wall or another fixed point. Your arm will be roughly at a 90-degree angle. Lean gently into the stretch really feeling the stretch in your pecs. Moving your arm to different heights can target other areas of your chest as well. Hold for however long you would like and switch sides, repeating the same steps.
Above The Chest Stretch
This can be done seated or standing, whatever is comfortable. Choose your position and interlock your fingers, raising your arms above your head. Move your elbows down as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a moment and release, then continue for your desired amount of time.
Standing Chest Expansion
With your feet around hip-width apart, gently soften your knees and keep a flat back. Lace your fingers together behind your back and push your knuckles to the floor, opening your chest out and up as you do. Hold for your desired amount of time and release.
Your lats and pecs are two very important muscle groups for a host of reasons. Everything from better breathing, to enhanced posture, and breathing assistance can all work to improve strength and exercise performance. On top of that, both will aid in that desired physique you want most. Flexibility in both means a better quality of life both inside and out of the gym and is important for keeping you physically healthy as you partake in those grueling workouts. These exercises will help enhance flexibility in both your pecs and lats so you see that change you want. Don’t neglect these two muscle groups and really work to get them as flexible as possible for those desired gains to show.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- Bushman, Barbara A. (2016). “Flexibility Exercises and Performance”. (source)
- Naalla, Ravikiran; Raju, Pradeep; Sharma, Mukesh; Bhattacharya, Sameek; Jha, Manoj (2019). “Technique and Outcomes of Pedicled Latissimus Dorsi Myocutaneous Flap For Oncologic Defects Around the Clavicle”. (source)
- Takashima, S.; Nozoe, Masafumi; Ando, H. (2017). “Effects of posture on chest-wall configuration and motion during tidal breathing in normal men”. (source)