This week I thought we would stretch the back of our shoulders and the sides of our back ... you guessed it - Our Latissimus Dorsi (aka Lats) and almost any muscle that connects to our Scapula bones but mainly the rotator Cuff Group, Serratus Anterior, the Rhomboids (Major & Minor) and the Middle Trapezius. The last couple of weeks we have done stretches where timing and breathing were not have as much focus as most stretches because they were very gentle and easy. However while todays stretch is quite similar to them in regard to being gentle and easy to hold, it will probably feel more comfortable (and you will possibly notice better results) if you follow the usual braething patterns for stretching - that is inhale before the stretch, and exhale as you stretch.
This stretch is also a particular favourite of mine because it is easy enough to do almost anywhere, and you can stretch either side singularly, or both sides together, whichever you like or need at the time ... it's your choice.
Stand infront of a stable and sturdy object that will safely handle your own body weight - it could be a door jamb, a post, a tree, almost anything that you can grip with your hand comfortably and strongly. You should be about an arms length from the supporting object, a little less could be good but you can play with the stretch to work out the best distance for you personally. Reach out to grip the supporting object with your hand at about waist height, and have your feet about shoulder width apart.
Take a deep breath in, then as you exhale gently bend into a squat position without letting your hand slip down the supporting object. It is frequently best to rest back with this stretch rather than pull against your supporting object. Resting back will not activate the muscles you are trying to stretch, where as pulling through your arm will, and you will get a better stretch if you can relax into a stretch and not activate your muscles. Your body weight will generally only put as much stretch on the target muscles as your body can handle, and this is considered a safe practice.
Hold this position for at least 15-20 seconds, but there is no problem or danger in hold thisposition for longer if you feel comfortable and want to hold it for a minute or two. If you do hold the stretch for a short period of time,be sure to breathe normally and stay relaxed to get the most out of your effort.
Changing the height of your grip on your supporting object will change the amount of stretch on different muscles, and indeed can feel like you are influencing different muscles. This could be a good way of achieving a good, thorough stretch for your posterior shoulder and Lats.
If you want to stretch both side together, it is as simple as gripping your supporting object with both hands at the same time. This can also give you a more centred and balanced feeling while you are stretching.
A lower or deeper squat will yield a greater stretch, but you need to be careful not to squat so low that you feelpain in your legs or knees. If you find that you do feelpain in your legs or knees, you will need to change your grip on your supporting object to resolve the pain ... it is all in the technique.
You can safely do this stretch with your back straight or arched, but it is always safest to make sure you do not flex or bend forward art the waist.
Always remember to relax into your stretches - don't fight against the stretch (it may cause more harm than good), and always do each stretch 3 times, at least twice each day.
Taken from "Stretching Anatomy" by A.G. Nelson and J.K. Kokkonen - pp18-19