TPI Test #7: The Lat Test

This is part of a series on the eight tests that a TPI-certified golf fitness professional will perform to evaluate your body’s readiness for golf.  This week, we’re going to talk about the Lat test.

The latissimus dorsi muscle group forms a large, roughly triangular slab starting from the top of your buttocks and extending up under your shoulder blades.  When we talk about exercising our “core”, most people think of abs, but the lats are equally important to think about where core strength is concerned.  Your lats aren’t just important to core stability, they’re also part of your arm strength, since they are connected to your humerus (upper arm bone.)

Here’s how to perform this test:

  • Put yourself in a “wall-sit” position, with your knees bent almost–but not quite–at a 90 degree angle.  Make sure you’re not on a slippery floor and you have good traction.
  • Hold your hands straight out in front of you, with your thumbs pointing up toward the ceiling and your elbows completely straight.
  • Start raising your arms up slowly.  Raise them until one of these four things happens: your elbows bend; your lower back starts to arch off the wall; you feel pain or discomfort; your arms touch the wall above your head.

If you have a trainer performing the test with you, they will measure the angle where you have to stop raising, and based on that measurement, they can determine the level of mobility in your lats.  For a less scientific way of measuring, have a friend look at you from the side.  If your arms don’t reach up high enough to block your nose from view, you have less than 120 degrees range of motion.  If your arms just cover your nose, then you have 120 degrees of motion.  If your hands pass your nose but don’t make it to the wall, you have somewhere between 120 and 169 degrees range of motion.  If you made it all the way to the wall, then you have at least 170 degrees range of motion, which is the PGA tour average.

Here are some good exercises to increase mobility in this test:

Floor Slides:

  • Lay on your back, with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor.
  • Reach your arms straight out from your body, then bend your elbows up at a 90 degree angle, like you’re doing a “field goal” pose.
  • Slide your arms up and down ten to twelve times, keeping your lower arms parallel to your torso.

Child’s pose:

  • Kneel on the floor.
  • Lean all the way forward and reach your arms out in front of you on the floor.
  • Lift your hips up and put your head down.
  • This is a yoga pose called “child’s pose.”  You should feel the stretch in your shoulders and your lower back.

Exercise Ball Reach:

  • Get on your knees with an exercise ball in front of you.
  • Reach forward on to the exercise ball with your right hand.
  • Roll the ball out as you reach with your hand, resting your arm on top and reaching across the ball to the left, so that your right hand is reaching on a diagonal to the left.
  • Repeat on the other side, with your left hand reaching across to the right.

These simple stretches can increase the mobility and flexibility of your lats, and therefore increase the power of your swing.

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