Torso Stretches: The Chest Stretch

What is this muscle?

The chest muscle, also know as the pectoral muscle (pecs), is one one the largest muscles in our torso. We have 2 pecs one either side at the front of our torso (highlighted in on the diagram), they originate from the sternum (chest bone) and insert into the tops of our arms.

What do we use them for?

Our pecs’ primary movements are for: pushing away from the body, moving our arms horizontally together in front of our body and down against the side of our body. There are many other secondary movements that the pecs are also involved in.

Good examples of exercises that use the chest as a primary muscle are press ups, bench press, chest flyes and any other variant of these e.g. inclined and declined.

Is stretching them important?

Of course stretching them is important, as is stretching any muscle in our body. By not stretching our pecs the chest muscle naturally becomes shorter, and this greatly effects one’s posture. The shortened muscle brings our shoulders forwards resulting in a rounded shoulder effect. Whilst on its own it is not overly bad, it can in certain cases lead to neck and spine problems.

How to tell if your pecs are too tight

It is quite easy to spot if you have a tight chest, you will have rounded shoulders to the front, where your shoulders come much further forwards than they should, and secondly whilst standing as upright as you can and relaxed – the palms of your hands will be facing slightly more backwards, rather than to the sides of your body as they should.

Stretch Those Pecs

For the stretch you will need yourself and a sturdy doorway.

Standing sideways next to a doorway, raise your right arm up onto the inside of the doorway so that it is approx 45 degrees above horizontal, with your palm also against the doorway. The diagram shows the silhouette facing towards us.

As a side note we look for the 45 degree angle because this is the approximate angle that the muscle fibres in the chest travel from the sternum to the arm. Thus using the 45 degree in the stretch will stretch a larger portion of the muscle.

Now slowly and gently rotate your whole body to the left, away from the doorway (leaving your arm stuck behind the door frame). You should feel a pull within the chest muscle, hold the stretch for at least 20 seconds but preferably longer. Repeat the process, using the left arm and turning your body away from the doorway, but this time to the right. Remember to breathe throughout the stretch as this will help the muscle to truly relax.

How much to stretch

Using the perceived rate of exertion (PRE) which is a scale ranging from 1 – 10, 1 = very light, hardly felt, 10 = a very painful. We want the stretch to be a feeling of 7 out of 10. This should be a strongish pull in the middle of the muscle. However if you feel a pain or a pull inside your shoulder joint or at the sternum (chest bone) then it is likely you are stretching too hard and you need to ease the stretch slightly by rotating out less.

Summary

There are many other ways to stretch the pectoral muscle, which we will get into at a later date, but for now this is one of the best ones you can do to get a well stretched chest.

If you have any questions or additional ideas about stretching your chest muscle then please do leave a comment or send us a message at the contact us section, please remember to keep up your stretching as it is an important part of your health, fitness and well being.