Bend sideways to stretch your lats.
Building the latissimus dorsi muscles in your back helps you develop the coveted V-shaped torso. Although stretching your lats won't add bulk, it can improve your flexibility and allow you to perform more strength exercises such as pullups, lat pulldowns and bent-over rows. Stretching before and after your workouts may also help prevent injuries or muscle soreness, although the jury remains out on that point. If you stretch before your workout, warm up first with at least five minutes of light cardio activity to avoid stretching cold muscles.
Static Stretch With a Bar
Perform static latissimus dorsi stretches after a workout or a light aerobic warm-up. To do a bar stretch, stand about one long stride in front of a chest-high horizontal bar. Grasp the bar with an overhand grip and then lean forward so the bar is above the back of your shoulders and your forearms are next to your head. Keep your feet in their original position. Stop leaning when you feel the stretch on the sides of your upper back. You can also stretch your entire upper back, including the lats, with a vertical bar. Hold the bar with your right hand about waist high. Squat backward while keeping your hand and feet in place until you feel the stretch on the right side of your back. At your lowest point, your arm and thighs should be roughly parallel with the floor while your torso should be angled toward the vertical bar. Hold both bar stretches for 30 seconds. Do the vertical bar stretch with both arms.
Static Stretches With No Equipment
If you don't have any equipment handy to help you stretch, you can still perform a seated lat stretch. Sit up straight on the floor, bend your knees and cross your ankles directly in front of your groin area. Reach back and to the side of your left hip and place your left palm on the floor for balance. Raise your right arm straight up toward the ceiling and then extend your arm over your head and as far to your left as possible. As you begin extending your arm, bend your torso to the left while you keep your butt in place on the floor. Stop when you feel the stretch on the right side of your back. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat it to the opposite side. Perform a similar stretch while standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your non-extended hand on your hip.
Work with a trainer or a partner to perform a PNF lat stretch. Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Raise your left arm and bend your elbow so the upper arm is vertical and your hand is behind your head. Have your partner hold your left wrist and gently pull your hand toward your left shoulder while you lean toward your right. Have your partner hold the stretch for 10 seconds and then push your arm against his hand for six seconds. Stop pushing and let your partner hold the stretch for another 30 seconds. Repeat the process with your right arm.
Dynamic Lat Stretching
Perform dynamic stretches before a workout -- but after an aerobic warm-up -- to help loosen your muscles. Stretch your lats dynamically by standing straight and performing vertical arm swings or by moving your shoulders in circular, shrugging motions both forward and backward. Do 10 complete circles in both directions for each dynamic stretch.