As with every muscle group, the chest muscles have a tendency to shorten and tighten due to many reasons (sitting or standing in bad postures for long hours, engaging in strenuous work-out programs etc.). That kind of stiffness can, in turn, affect your upper body, limiting its range of motion and resulting in a sense of confinement and inconvenience, subsequently impeding the execution of even the most common daily activities. Therefore, a series of stretching exercises have been developed in order to help the affected individuals loosen up their chest muscles and improve their flexibility.
The chest area is a big sized muscle area which consists of two kinds of pectoral muscles, the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The former, beginning from the upper arm and resembling to a fan and consisting of 3 parts, covers the front part of the upper chest and helps in moving the upper arm forward; below that muscle, exists the pectoralis minor, a thinner one, whose function is to shrug the shoulder forward. Click the photo on the right for more information on the chest area
Chest Stretching Exercises
A very positive factor regarding chest stretches is that some of the simplest and more productive exercises of this kind can be performed in a small amount of time without requiring special equipment. Below are some of the most typical examples of chest stretch exercises. Before you try any of them you should first check our stretching guide!
- A typical passive/static chest stretching is to stand under a threshold of medium width with your back straightened, opening your forearms at a 90 degree angle to your arms and having your elbows at the level of your shoulders, holding the door frame; now, step forward with one leg without leaving your arms’ position on the door (doorway chest stretch, photo 1), feeling the pull in your pectoralis muscles, and hold it there; return to the initial position and repeat with the other side; also, you can move your hands higher or lower so as to achieve a more thorough chest stretching.
- Sit or stand up with your back straightened and put your hands behind your head without buckling your hands; lift your chest, pushing your elbows backwards and slightly raising your arms; you will feel the stretch across your chest, holding it. A passive version of this stretching is also very popular (photo 2)!
- Another passive chest stretch example involving a partner (photo 3) : Standing in an upright posture, let him / her assume a position behind you; push your arms behind you so that he / she grabs your forearms, pulling them together and raising them up at first and then away from your body until you sense the stretch which your partner holds, making sure you do not curve your shoulders and you do not lean forward.
- A typical dynamic chest stretch: Sit or stand upright, placing your hands behind your head, keeping your chest lifted and protruding; push your elbows backwards to the point of the slight stretch, returning to the initial position and pushing again for a repeated sequence of 10-15 times; relax and repeat for some more sets. Actually this is a dynamic version of the active/static stretch described in the second bullet! Another popular dynamic stretch is shown on photo 4 (starting and ending position of the stretch).
For the static exercises, hold the stretches for 20-30 seconds, performing 5-10 repetitions for each stretch; a 3-times per week routine of chest stretching exercises should be just fine. Like always you can apply various forms of a specific stretch. For example you can use an AIS (Active Isolated Stretching) version of the stretches mentioned above, Dynamic or PNF forms of the Static stretches, Active forms of the Passive stretches and the opposite!
Stretching your chest muscles as frequently as possible can be extremely beneficial. More specifically, chest stretching:
- Relaxes the thick muscles of that area, which are massively affected by curving forward (due to working habits) or by intensely pushing them in the gym
- Relieves from chest pain and discomfort
- Deals with muscle strain and inflamed muscles and tendons between the ribs
- Improves your posture
- Decompresses your shoulders and upper back
- Alleviates from discomfort
- Boosts your blood circulation and energy levels
What To Consider
Despite being a relatively easier muscle area to stretch, either actively or passively or dynamically (particularly compared to naturally more complicated exercises like groin or hamstring stretches), executing chest stretches demands substantial devotion and accuracy so as to deliver the maximum benefits without putting the trainee in danger. So:
- Do a brief but proper warm-up (brisk walking, arm swinging or shoulder circles) when performing static type stretches in order to increase blood flow to your muscles and reduce the chances of an injury
- Stretch carefully and gradually until you reach the point of mild uncomfortableness without engaging in motions or postures that trigger pain
- Breathe deeply and controllably to augment oxygenation and blood flow
- Avoid bouncing
- Focus on feeling the stretch on your pectoral muscles and not on putting pressure on your hands or fists, and of course your spine; if you feel the latter is happening, try to alter your position
- Maintain your abdomens tightened
- If you sense an acute pain on your chest muscles or numbness or tingling in your palms, stop for a while before attempting again
As it is rational, individuals who have encountered chest injuries are advised not to attempt those stretches without firstly seeking the advice of their physiotherapist; the nature of the chest area makes proper healing after an injury a time-consuming procedure, so performing stretches without leaving your body the appropriate amount of time to heal won’t benefit you in any way.
Photos & Videos
In order to better understand the chest stretching options you should watch the photos and the video below:
Chest is a major area of your body, and it needs proper and frequent stretching so as to maintain or increase its flexibility and force and allow you to perform ordinary movements with the greatest of ease. So, don’t neglect it, and you will definitely be rewarded!
Category: Stretching specific Body Areas