Stretches help maintain length of both the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor specially when talking about people who lift weights on a regular basis. While weight training is often a good thing if done correctly, you have to learn to balance your exercise routines and quite frankly, everyone presses too much and pulls too little.
One of the major muscles involved in both pulling and pushing is called the pectoralis major muscle and this article will help you stretch this muscle out safely and effectively.
Stretching the Pecs
The pectoralis major muscle fans out from your arm, reaching your clavicle, the ribs and the sternum. It helps with rotating the shoulders, throwing and breathing. Because it is a very thick muscle, if can easily become tight if you hunch forward or overuse the pectoralis muscles during exercise. If you find it hard to sit up straight, your chest muscles may be tight without causing acute pain.
While there are great ways to stretch your pecs, not all of them are safe since some of them might actually risk injury such as the ever popular doorway stretch as seen below.
What few people realize is that in the process of stretching out the pecs (particularly pectoralis major) in this fashion, you run the risk of irritating the anterior shoulder capsule, particularly if the shoulder blades aren’t stabilized.
As the picture below shows, the attachment point of the pectoralis major is further down the humerus.
As a result, the pectoralis major doesn’t have pinpoint control over the movement of the head of the humerus. It’s the movement of the humeral head (the “ball” in the “ball-and-socket” joint) that directly impacts the demands placed on the shoulder capsule or the Glenohumeral Capsule.
Without being too technical, this capsule encompasses multiple ligaments and determines the tautness of each one. The shoulder capsule is also involved in numerous chronic conditions such as having a frozen shoulder. This is where stretching your pecs comes in.
Stretching your pecs not only prevents injury but also improves overall mobility and can lead to a boost in performance. We’ve compiled a list of five exercises you can do to stretch your pecs properly and safely.
1. Pec Minor Stretch
How to do it:
- Start lying face up on surface with arms 90? to side and with elbows flexed to 90? this should resemble a goal post sign.
- The head should be aligned so that a slight chin tuck is maintained through the next motion.
- Slide arms up the table towards your head, keeping the back flat on the table.
- Only move until a mild stretch is felt. Do not push through pain or push beyond a mild stretch.
- Breathe while holding the stretch for 10 seconds and return. Make sure to maintain slight chin tuck during the entire motion.
2. One Arm Doorway/Pole Pec Stretch
How to do it:
- Step forward twice through where the door or pole is.
- Reach your right arm back, so that your fingers grasp the outside edge of the door frame. Keep your arm straight and keep it at or just under shoulder level.
- Turn your body to the left until you feel a pull in your chest muscles. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the left side, by holding onto the left side of the door frame and turning right.
3. Office Chest Stretch
How to do it:
- Place your hands behind your head, while sitting at your desk. Do not clasp your hands together.
- Pull your shoulder blades together and bring your elbows back as far as possible.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Release the stretch and relax your arms at your sides.
- Wait 10 seconds and then repeat the stretch.
These static stretches are all well and good, but what you may not have considered is that each time you do a horizontal pressing movement such as a push up, you’re also stretching your pecs on the eccentric (lowering) phase of the movement.
So in doing good push-ups, you want to think about pulling yourself down to the ground with your upper back (imagine pre-tensioning all your scapular stabilizers).
Another great way to stretch your pecs is by incorporating yoga into your daily routine. It can be in the form of a warm up or a cool down. The wonderful thing about yoga is how it made stretching one of its main appeals so by taking a few yoga classes actually guarantees holistic body stretching specially when it comes to your pecs.