The Lat Test
- The Lat Test evaluates shoulder flexion which includes the flexibility of the latissimus dorsi muscle group, shoulder joint restrictions and scapular motion limitations.

The lat muscle spans the entire back and inserts onto the arm. Tightness in the lat can lead to loss of spinal posture anytime the arms are elevated, such as during the backswing. Also, the lat muscle can limit the ability of the player to rotate their shoulders on the backswing or the follow-through. The lat muscle is a powerful internal rotator and adductor of the humerus. Therefore, it is a major contributor to power in the golf swing.

Lack of lat mobility can cause many swing faults such as loss of posture, reverse spine angle, limited arm heights, and over-the-top, most of which have been covered in previous articles. It is crazy that something as simple as a tight lat can wreak havoc on your swing!

lat_test_startHow to Perform the Lat Test

Leaning your back against a sturdy wall, get into a modified wall-sit position with your knees just short of a 90-degree angle. You should be in a half-sitting position against the wall. Make sure that the feet are shoulder width apart and directly below the knees, not too close to the wall. In addition, make sure that the lower back is flush against the wall.

Once in the proper half-sitting position, begin the test by extending both arms out in front so they are parallel with the floor. Thumbs should be pointing upward and elbows should be locked. The distance between the arms/hands should be no wider than your shoulders. Begin raising the arms up in front without bending the elbows as far as you can go, keeping the thumbs in the same direction. The test concludes when:

     Your elbows bend (creates the field goal look).

     The arch in your lower back increases off the wall.

     You reach pain or discomfort.

     The arms reach the wall.


Once you have reached the apex of the arm raise (seen by the bending of elbows, arching of the lower back, arrival of pain/discomfort, or touching of the wall) take a general measurement by where your arms stop, placing you into one of four categories:

     Below 120 degrees - Below the nose

     Equal to 120 degrees - Covers the nose

     Between 121-169 degrees - Between nose and the wall

     Greater than 169 degrees - Touches the wall

This will give a measurement of the mobility of the latissimus and the shoulder joint. Be sure to take the same measurement on the opposite side to rule out any side-to-side differences. The PGA Tour average is 170 degrees. Ideally, we want to touch the wall without any compensation.  Anything less than touching the wall is considered limited.

We are also looking for how limitations in shoulder flexion presents itself; elbows bending, back arching or pain and discomfort. Players will usually sacrifice width in their swing to get more length if they stop the test with bending of the elbows. This can also be a sign of lat muscle insertion issues. If the player stops the test with the lower back beginning to arch off of the wall, then we may have a muscle origin issue. These players will sacrifice core stability to gain more length in the backswing. Knowing the difference between the two will help us construct a corrective exercise routine more effectively.

Dr. Nick Curry is a chiropractor that is also certified through the highly esteemed Titleist Performance Institute as a medical, fitness, and junior golf wellness professional.  He is the owner of Integrative Health and Sports Performance in Bellbrook and serves at the Team Chiropractor to Wright State and Miami Universities.  To Visit their Website 
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