The latissimus dorsi muscle is important in baseball players.
The lats can be a baseball player’s best friend as well as their worst enemy at times. The lats are an expansive muscle group originating in the low back and ending up at the humerus and sometimes also attaching to the scapula.
When the lats are given free reign without control from opposing musculature, gross extension patterns in player’s lumbar spines may begin to show up.
This can then lead to players letting their coaches know of nagging arm and back pain.
With the three exercises below, players can regain control of certain opposition muscles such as the serratus anterior, the internal oblique and the transversus abdominis to help restore balance.
Bear Position Step Up
The combination of bear position hold and a “step up” can be a great integrative exercise for abdominal control as well as shoulder stability and mobility.
Players need their serratus anterior properly engaged to maintain their ability to repeatedly throw gas over an entire game. This exercise helps players find their abs and serratus while gaining control over their lats. This can then allow them to demonstrate scapular control in a slightly challenging position.
This exercise can be coupled with the next two exercises to help ingrain this new position.
Cues I use:
- Reach your arms as long as you can throughout the whole movement.
- Keep your belt buckle towards your chin
- Breathe going in through your nose and out through your mouth while trying to fill the middle part of your back instead of your neck and upper chest.
L-Sit Vertical Pull Progressions
This exercise can actually be a good starting point for some players because they can use the bench to take away or add more body weight as needed.
Coaches can also use this progression to help players struggling with getting a proper pull-up or to increase their pull up total. This exercise also teaches players what better lat engagement feels like.
I often use two variations, a dead stop from the floor (left video) and the full hang position (right video).
Starting from the floor helps teach players to better engage lats and drive upward with authority. You can also have someone hook their heels and exhale to make them engage their abs to help counteract too much spinal extension.
This full hang progresses the exercise because there is no rest between reps. Again get the person to engage their abdominals by hooking the bench.
Intensity can be increased via external load (weights or weight vest), increases in sets or reps, or an increase in total time through varying the tempo up/down/or at the top of the repetition.
Single Arm Short Seated Lat Pull-down
Lats love to keep us in an extended position, especially in overhead athletes who repetitively go overhead in their sport. This can be a common reason why players can have shoulder trouble and neck pain.
Short seated lat pull downs are based on postural restoration techniques of getting your deeper abs working to help counteract the extension of the lats and to help restore a more optimal balance between the two!
Cues I use:
- Inhale as you bring one arm down and slightly crunch to that side while reaching long toward the ceiling with your other hand. Think of your elbow going into your front pocket, this will help you feel your abdominal wall on that side engaging.
- Exhale fully on the way up bringing yourself back to midline and repeat on other side
- Tuck your belt buckle to chin to help get a neutral pelvis throughout the motion.
Gain Control of Your Lats
Gaining control of the lats is vital in ensuring players can handle the rigors of a baseball season with minimal back and neck issues. Try incorporating these exercises into your programming to help players improve and recover faster but restoring balance.