Coaching mostly overhead athletes, one thing I really noticed this past year was the majority of my athletes were almost always super aggressive with their lats and or their lats were “always turned on”.This observation, as I soon learned, correlates with the majority of overhead athletes living in extension (think of always being in an arched back posture).
The Problem: Positioning and movement of the scapulae
If your lats are always “turned on” ,the scaps will likely sit in more depression and you’re going to lose the ability to achieve good scapular upward rotation . Loosing this is not ideal considering overhead athletes need good upward rotation to keep shoulders and arms healthy. Active lats can also interfere and or overpower the low trap when the arms go overhead . This becomes important because the low trap provides a posterior tilt on the scap, essentially putting the scap in a better position to move and achieve good upward rotation. In a nut shell, when the lats overpower the low trap, it leads the scap on a bad path during throwing or overhead movements.
Do more horizontal pulling
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of pull ups and lat pull downs, but as I learned that they should be programmed at the right times ,when dealing with overhead athletes, respectively .The substitution of a horizontal pull (any rowing variation) in place of a vertical pull(pull ups and lat pull downs) can do wonders in helping “turn off lats”while at the same time promoting good scapular movement.
Short Lats=Active Lats
I use the word stretching loosely but something I started utilizing this past year was this T-spine mobilization that helps add some length to the lats. Check out the video below.
Positional breathing is something that I picked up from the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) this past year,check out their site HERE . One movement that I love, which derives off PRI, is the TRX deep squat with full exhale .Essentially this movement consists of holding an overhead squat in the down position while focusing on your exhales out. Doing this relaxes and adds some length to your lats .
In conclusion, don’t totally throw all vertical pull exercises to the curb, just understand how certain athletes present and what’s the best thing for them in terms of exercise selection.