Top 3 Pectoral Stretches for Improved Range of Motion and Movement Fluidity

Stretching out your pecs is key to long term correct posture, smooth movement and pain-free living.

We’re going to delve a little into yoga for this one. Though there are many (hundreds, if not thousands!) of perfectly good stretches you can do to open out sore joints, keep muscles moving fluidly and help your body to recover without too much soreness, there is something about yoga… it manages all these feats in style, making you a stronger athlete for just a small amount of investment.

Chest tightness is pretty common. Most people who experience will either (or both) be athletes or desk workers. Athletes, specifically bodybuilders and powerlifters, can develop tight pectorals and anterior deltoids from performing pressing movements under load, without stretching properly either before or after. Think bench presses, overhead press, push ups and the like. Desk workers, meanwhile, are often riddled with postural imbalances. Amongst these, rounded shoulders are common: this will result in tight pectorals over time, accompanied by pain and discomfort through the chest and upper back.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of three of the best yoga-inspired pectoral stretches that you can perform every day, before or after a heavy chest workout, or simply whenever your chest feels like it’s getting tight.

Three of the Best Chest Stretches for Tight Pecs

1. Chest opener

This chest opener can be performed statically either post-workout or during your normal day, or dynamically before a workout. It will stretch out your chest no matter how tight it is, increasing range of motion of the pecs, anterior delts and biceps.

To perform this chest opener:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
  • Place your hand on a bench or piece of equipment that stands between waist and chest height
  • Straighten your arm
  • Turn away from that hand (so, to the left if it’s your right hand, and vice versa) until you feel the stretch through the chest and biceps
  • Either hold here for thirty seconds for a static stretch, or rotate in and out of the movement for a more dynamic warm-up

2. Hands-behind-the-back chest stretch

This is a commonly used stretch in yoga and can be performed as part of most standing or seated postures, or from simply standing in a neutral position. It focuses on opening out the chest and the anterior deltoids and will represent the perfect antidote the hunched position many of us adopt when we’re at our desks.

It works best as a static stretch, for use throughout the day or after a chest/pressing workout.

To perform the hands-behind-the-back chest stretch:

  • Stand in a neutral position with your feet hip width apart
  • Begin with your hands hanging loosely at your sides
  • Keep your chest lifted and your chin slightly up throughout the movement
  • Clasp your hands behind your back, interlacing your fingers. Try to touch palm-to-palm, if this is available
  • Pull your shoulder blades down your back and straighten your arms. Try to lift your hands upwards, away from the backside
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds and then release. Remember to breathe throughout

3. Bow pose

This is an intermediate grounded yoga pose that will go deep into the hip flexors as well as the chest. This makes it perfect for anybody looking to recover from, or prepare for, exercise like the bench press, as it stretches out the whole front side of the body. It will mean greater range of motion through the chest and front of the hips, making the arched position used during the bench press much more comfortable and accessible.

Use it either at the end of a chest workout to stretch out, or at the beginning as a warm up.

To perform a bow pose:

  • Lie on the floor, face down
  • Begin with your hands beside your chest and your feet shoulder width apart
  • Pull your shoulder blades together, engage your core, and bend your knees
  • Reach back and take a hold of the tops of your feet with your hands, keeping your legs as parallel to the ground as possible
  • From here, put a little pressure in your hands from your feet and lift your chest as high as possible
  • Try to splay the chest by reaching the elbows towards one another
  • Hold for 5-10 seconds before lowering. Perform 5-10 reps of this

You need to include these kinds of stretches in your work outs and in everyday life. For a loose, mobile chest that reaches its full range of motion, make sure to dynamically work and open it pre-training. To stop it from tightening, or to open it up if it is chronically tight, statically stretch your chest as often as possible, particularly following a heavy chest workout.

Your posture, your performance, and your comfort levels will all benefit.

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Mike Julom, ACE CPT

Mike is an ACE Certified PT and a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. He is an avid lover of all sports. Basketball, tennis, athletics, volleyball, soccer, squash, golf, table tennis, even darts, you name it! He's a very active CrossFit athlete and has been WOD'ing for over 7 years. With such an intense fitness regime, Mike has learned to take care of his body physically, nutritionally, and spiritually. Mike founded ThisIsWhyImFit as a way to share his vast knowledge of exercises, diets, and general fitness advice.

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