Correct poor upper body posture and rounded shoulders by stretching the chest muscles. The strong pectoralis muscles of the chest attach to the front of the shoulder. When contracted, these muscles bring the arm across the front of the body by pulling the shoulder forward and turning it inward. The chest muscles have a structural advantage and are used much more frequently than the opposing rotator cuff muscles, thus leading to unequal strength and unequal pull on the shoulder and the creation of forward-rounded shoulders. In his book, "Muscle Function Testing," Vladimir Janda, M.D., emphasizes that stretching the tight muscles is the first step in correcting poor posture.
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Standing Chest Stretch
Stand near a doorway or wall, lift your right upper arm parallel to the floor and bend your elbow into a right angle. Place your right forearm with your palm facing front on the door frame or wall. Exhale, lean forward a little, and twist your body to the left. You should feel a comfortable stretch in the right pectoralis muscles. Hold this stretch for 40 to 60 seconds, then relax. Take a small step to your left and remove your forearm from the wall. Maintain the 90 degrees angle in your right elbow and place your right hand on the wall at shoulder height with your elbow lower than your shoulder and hand. Exhale, lean forward slightly and twist your body to the left. Hold a comfortable stretch in your right chest muscles for 40 to 60 seconds, then relax. Step to your left and straighten your elbow. Grab the wall with your right hand a little below shoulder height. Exhale, lean forward slightly and twist your body to the left. Maintain a comfortable stretch in the right side of your chest for 40 to 60 seconds. Relax and repeat with the left arm.
Supine Chest Stretch
Lie face-up on a sturdy narrow table or exercise bench with your spine and head supported on the bench. Place both arms out to the sides at right angles from the body with your palms facing up. Exhale and stretch your arms toward the floor until you feel a comfortable stretch in your chest muscles. Hold this position for 40 to 60 seconds. Relax and place both arms overhead with your palms facing each other. Exhale and stretch your arms toward the floor until you feel a relaxing stretch in your chest, shoulders and armpits. Hold this position for 40 to 60 seconds. Repeat both exercises two to three times.
Behind the Back Stretch
Stand up straight and clasp your fingers behind your back. Exhale, straighten your elbows, pinch your shoulder blades together and stick chest out. You should fell a comfortable stretch in your chest, anterior ribcage and front of your shoulders. Hold for 40 to 60 seconds and repeat for two or three reps.