Stretching your pectoral muscles helps you recover from a workout, eases soreness and improves your posture. A chronically tight chest contributes to rounding of the shoulders and the upper back. This poor posture compromises your breathing — as it's hard to fully fill up your lungs when they're compressed — makes you look lacking in confidence and causes soreness, even pain, in your neck and shoulders. You may also find it hard to reach your arms overhead when your pecs are super tight, so you suffer from a compromised range of motion.
It just takes a few minutes per day to stretch your pectoral muscles, and you'll look and feel better as a result.
1. Wall Stretch
Stretching your pecs against a wall is simple and effective.
- Stand against the outer corner of a room or in a doorway. Bend your right elbow at a 90-degree angle so your upper arm is parallel to the floor at shoulder height.
- Place your right forearm against the corner of the wall with your left side open to the room.
- Gently press into your right forearm as you lean your left side into the open space of the doorway or room to feel a stretch in your right pec. Hold 15 to 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
2. Elbow Wrap Stretch
This is a simple, do-anywhere stretch. If your chest's tightness prevents you from reaching your forearms, hold a hand towel between the hands to make up the distance.
- Sit cross-legged on the floor, or stand with both feet firmly planted.
- Bring your arms behind your back and clasp each hand around the opposite elbow or forearm.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds. Focus on lifting your collarbones and squeezing your shoulder blades together.
3. Back Bend Stretch
Most back bends stretch the chest. This particular stretch can be performed from a standing or seated position.
- Sit or stand and bring your hands to the back of your head. Point your elbows to the sides of the room.
- Allow your head to fall back into your hands as you open your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
4. Lying Chest Stretch
This move can be quite intense, especially if your chest is extremely tight. Move slowly into it and stop when you feel a stretching sensation — never work a stretch to the point of pain.
- Lie flat on your abdomen on a workout mat. Reach your arms to the sides of the room to create a T shape with your body.
- Bring your left hand to your hip as you slowly begin to roll to the right — leaving your right arm extended on the floor.
- Pause when you feel the stretch in the right pec and hold for about 20 seconds. Repeat on the left side.
5. Standing Chest Expansion
This is another stretch that can benefit from the use of a hand towel. Use it to make up the space between your hands if your tight chest prevents you from clasping them.
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and soften your knees.
- Interweave your fingers together behind your tail bone.
- Press your knuckles toward the floor as you open your chest out and up. The farther you draw your clasped hands away from your tailbone, the greater the intensity.
6. Stability Ball Stretch
If you have access to a stability ball, also known as a Swiss ball, this passive stretch should be part of your routine.
- Lie with your back supported by the stability ball. Plant your feet firmly in the ground, hip-distance apart.
- Open your arms to the sides of the room and let them hang so you feel a stretch in your chest muscles. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
Basics of Stretching
Save these chest-specific moves for the end of your workout or after a hot shower. A warm muscle stretches more effectively and is at less risk of injury. Other ways to warm up for chest stretches are by doing a few minutes of arm circles, overhead reaches and torso twists.
Avoid bouncing in any of these stretches, and always breath normally as you stretch.