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Why Stretch the Pectoral muscles?

Two good reasons to stretch your pectoral muscles are; 1) to decrease shoulder, neck and arm pain, and 2) to improve your posture. Do you remember being told to sit up or stand up straight? Can you relate to slouching? Tension in the front shoulder, and chest (pectoral ) muscles (aka pecs), is largely responsible for the common forward shoulder posture, which accompanies the slouching posture. The following stretches will help you straighten your posture and free up your shoulder function.

How to Stretch

  • Begin by facing a wall.
  • Stretch out your right arm – it should be a little below horizontal.
  • Place your right palm against the wall.
  • Rotate your trunk slowly to the left – just far enough to to begin to feel a stretch in the front of the right shoulder and/or upper arm.
  • Your feet should align parallel to the wall.
  • Place your left hand on the wall in front of your chest.
  • Keep your right shoulder blade down – i.e. don’t let the shoulder shrug upward.
  • Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat 3 times with each side

For both stretches discussed in this article, you should feel only a comfortable stretch in the front of your shoulder and/or in the upper arm. There should be no discomfort in the top or back of shoulder.

Alternate Stretchimage demonstrating the pectoral stretch in a doorway

  • Stand in a doorway.
  • Place your elbows and forearms against the the door jamb.
  • Your elbows should be at about a 90 degree angle.
  • Your upper arms a little below the horizontal position (i.e. elbows slightly below shoulder height). If there is any discomfort in the shoulders you should lower the arms to a comfortable position.
  • Next, take a small step forward, as if to walk through the doorway.
  • Gently lean forward aiming to go through the doorway.
  • It is important to maintain a straight spine. Tuck your chin. Keep your head over the shoulders and the shoulders over the hips.
  • Don’t arch your back.
  • Hold stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Rest your hands down for 30 seconds. Then repeat stretch with opposite leg stepping forward, holding again for 20 to 30 seconds.

With either of these stretches you may feel a tingling in your hands and fingers. To assure yourself that this is only temporary drop your arms to the side for one minute. The tingling should subside within one minute or less. If it doesn’t you should consult with a health care professional before continuing with this particular stretch. Always work within an easy level of comfort when stretching tense muscles.

For more about the importance of stretching click here. 

For stretching instructions related to other muscles and body parts click here.

Suggestions made in this publication are no substitute for medical advice. If you have any pain or difficulty performing the described stretches, seek advice from your appropriate health professional.

About the Author
Domenic Lopez B.Sc., Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Licensed Massage Therapist, is owner and operator of Healthy Moves, a private practice where massage therapy and movement education help you achieve better living.