This muscle which takes up most of your back, is the second biggest muscle in the body after the glutes. It attaches on your arm bone and controls the movement of the arm out in front of you; out to the side; up above your head and facilitates external rotation (turning outward). There are several other attachment sites… The inferior surface of the scapula (shoulder blade), the outer third of the iliac crest (top of your pelvis) and all along the spinous processes (sticky out bits) of thoracic spine from T7 to T12 and it wraps around your back to join your ribs.
Because the muscle is often overactive and tight, we experience a restriction of the elevation of the arm; a restriction in side bending as well as low back pain as a result of it pulling tight on the iliac crest. Our classes this week will be especially beneficial to you if you have suffered a shoulder injury (like a rotator cuff impingement) or have low back pain. Although some of the release work isn’t very comfortable, the results can be stunning if you have restriction in the muscle.
As you will see demonstrated in class, when the muscle is lengthened, the arm is up, forward and externally rotated as well as abducted. The shoulder blade is elevated; the spine flexed and bent to the side away from the side you are lengthening. It is further lengthened if the hip is tilted down and the upper body tilted away from that side. The opposite is true in terms of shortening the muscle. Lets say we are wanting to contract the Lats on the right side. The right arm will be down, back, coming in toward the body and internally rotated. The R scapular will be depressed. The right side will be bending backwards, the tailbone lifted on the right. There will be a tilt to the right and a rotation of the upper body to the right.
The class will involve some pandiculation where we first voluntarily contract the muscle by shortening the distance between where the muscle attaches in the arm bone to where it attaches at the hip and then we slowly elongate it, bringing the two parts further away from each other. This trains the brain to learn to let go (we call it re-patterning) of chronic tightness all along the muscle length. The aim is to help you gain flexibility in the shoulders and mobilise the joint as well as releasing tension and tightness all the way up the side body and helping to soften the grip of this muscle on the hip so that your back can be released. I hope you enjoy the class!