Chest stretches can improve your upright posture and stop your shoulders from rolling forwards.
These 2 physical therapist chest stretches lengthen the pectoral muscles that sit at the front of your chest and shoulders.
Tight chest muscles can contribute to poor posture by causing your shoulders to roll forwards, increasing the risk of shoulder and neck problems.
Slumped forwards posture also contributes to pelvic floor problems in some women by increasing the load of the abdomen onto the pelvic floor.
Suitability – General flexibility exercise
Video duration – 3.5 minutes
Please scroll down below this video for more information on static chest stretches for good posture.
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Chest Stretch Muscles
These chest stretches are directed at increasing the flexibility of your chest muscles that can cause the shoulders to have a rounded forwards appearance. The stretching technique used in this exercise video is known as a static stretching which involves slowly lengthening the muscles to improve flexibility 1.
1. Chest Stretch for Pectoralis Major
Pec Major is the large chest muscle that sits at the front of the chest beneath breast tissue in women (see below).
- Start with your elbow and forearm resting against a wall or a bar and raised to approximately ninety degrees (i.e. right angle)
- Lean your trunk forwards
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and breathe out
- Maintain the stretch for 30-45 seconds and repeat this stretch
Where is this Stretch Felt?
You should feel this stretch across the front of your chest and shoulder on the same side as your raised arm.
When holding the stretch rotate your head away from the wall and direct your nose down towards your opposite armpit. You should notice the intensity of the stretch across your chest increase.
2. Chest Stretch for Pectoralis Minor
Pec Minor is the smaller pectoral muscle that sits beneath pectoralis major. This muscle can tighten and cause the shoulder to roll forwards.
- Start with your elbow and forearm resting against a wall or a bar and raised slightly higher than the starting position for stretching pec major i.e. approximately 120-130 degrees elevation.
- Lean your trunk and chest forwards
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and breathe out as you perform this stretch
- Maintain the chest stretch for approximately 30-45 seconds and repeat this stretch a couple of times in a row keeping your breathing relaxed throughout
Where is this Stretch Felt?
You should feel this stretch in the upper part of your chest and shoulder on the same side as your raised arm.
Chest Stretching Tips
- Never bounce your chest stretches
- Avoid popping your shoulder forwards during this exercise
- Keep these stretches within your range of personal comfort
- Maintain relaxed regular breathing while stretching
- If you suffer from sore shoulders you may be able to start this stretch by positioning your elbow lower than 90 degrees
How Often to Repeat Chest Stretches?
Aim to do 2-4 consecutive stretches of the same muscle group for muscle lengthening 1. Chest stretches can be performed at intervals throughout the day.
Perform flexibility exercises on at least 2-3 days of the week however daily stretching will result in optimal muscle lengthening and flexibility 1.
How Long to Maintain Chest Stretches?
Try to maintain each stretch for at least 10-30 seconds for optimal muscle lengthening. Older adults benefit from maintaining stretches for longer 30-60 second duration 1.
Aim for at least 60 seconds of accumulated chest stretching doing the same stretch on the days that you do these exercises.
You should notice improved chest flexibility to assist with better posture after 3-12 weeks of chest stretching.
1. ACSM Position Stand (2011) Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: Volume 43 – Issue 7 – p 1334-1359. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/fulltext/2011/07000/Quantity_and_Quality_of_Exercise_for_Developing.26.aspx