- Stretches out tight chest muscles
- Good for the “shoulders back” aspect of posture
- Looser bodies feel better
If you have any injuries, problems or any other concerns with your arms, chest, shoulders, or upper back, or if your chest is particularly tight, check with your physio before trying any new exercises. Even if you don’t have any problems, don’t do anything that causes pain or aggravates your joints and muscles.
The pectorals (or pecs) are the big muscles across your chest. There’s actually two sets of muscles here, the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor.
If these muscles become too tight, or, if they are held in a contracted position for long periods, you might experience pain in your chest. You may also experience shoulder problems too, because tightness in the pecs can pull the shoulders forward.
Tight pecs are pretty common in people who do a lot of upper-body pushing exercises (such as push ups, or the bench press), without balancing this with upper body pulling exercises along the same plane (such as seated rows, or bent over rows).
They are also common in desk workers – especially people who use laptops – because they sit in a hunched over position, with the shoulders pushed forward. If you work in this posture, you’re basically spending 8+ hours a day with the pectorals in a contracted position.
Static stretches and mobility exercises are good ways to relieve the feelings of tightness in the pecs, and loosen up the muscles.
The doorway stretch
- Stand in a doorway.
- Put your elbows on the door frame, parallel with the ground.
- Take a step forward with one foot, just far enough to feel a gentle stretch in the chest muscles. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat with the other foot.
- Move your elbow up a bit.
- Step forward with each leg again, 15 seconds each.
- Move your elbow up a bit more.
- Step forward with each leg one final time, 15 seconds each.
You don’t need to take a Giant Leap For Mankind here. Don’t over stretch – your goal is just to remove the feeling of tightness, not to become a circus contortionist.
Mobility exercise for the chest
Static stretching is good for relieving the feeling of tightness, but it’s not ideal by itself. Muscles and joints need movement, so you’ll probably get better results by doing some active, mobility work too, where you’re moving the muscle through a wide range of motion.
- Stand up, hunch forward and wrap your arms around your chest. Give yourself a nice big hug.
- In one movement, swing both arms back, and straighten your upper back. Think about the classic stretch people do when they first wake up on a morning – head back, arms out to the side and pulled back.
- Swing your arms back and forth between these two positions 20-30 times (so from hunchback to morning position is one rep).
Little and often is the key, doing these a few times throughout the day is better than a longer session once a day.