Although research is contradictory on the benefits of stretching, many personal trainers, exercise physiologists, and even the Mayo Clinic are in strong support of it. According to MayoClinic.com, stretching can improve athletic performance as well as reduce the risk of injury. You may think of your legs when you think of stretching, but upper body stretches can be equally as important. One area that is commonly overlooked is the chest. Performing chest stretches regularly, though, may reduce muscle soreness, improve range of motion for exercises and sports, and decrease the chance of injuring a muscle or joint in that region of your body.
You may see people performing a wall chest stretch when you are at the gym. It is a common stretch because it is easy to perform when you do not have a partner or trainer to help. Place your right palm flat against a wall, door facing, or vertical pole. Fully extend your right arm, and turn your torso to the left until you feel a stretch in your chest, shoulders, and biceps.
To take the biceps out of the stretch and focus more on the chest, perform the same stretch with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle rather than straight. Your palm, forearm, and elbow will be flat against the wall, door facing, or pole, as you turn your body away from your arm to create the stretch.
This wall stretch is often used after performing bench press, fly, cable crossovers, push-ups, or other chest resistance exercises with large amounts of resistance. As the muscles tighten after the exercise, the wall stretch helps loosen them to aid in recovery.
Hands Behind Back Stretch
Another chest stretch that may be performed alone is executed by clasping your hands together behind your back. Fully extend your elbows, and then slowly retract your shoulders, pushing your chest forward. You should feel a stretch in your chest, shoulders, and arms. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, relax, and repeat.
Partner Chest Stretch
Deeper stretches may be reached with the assistance of a partner. Have your partner stand behind you. Raise your arms to the side until they are parallel to the floor. Your partner will hold your arms, slowly pulling them backward until you feel a stretch. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, relax, and repeat.
To explore more chest stretching options, try various forms of yoga. Gentle, yet effective, chest stretches can be found in many yoga poses. Some may require the use of bands or block, while others may be performed without assistance.
Never stretch when your muscles are cold. This applies to all stretches, whether they are for the lower body or upper body. To warm up your muscles before performing chest stretches, slowly swing your arms back at shoulder level, and then forward so they cross in front of your body. Repeat this exercise for one or two minutes. Performing push-ups will give you a more specific resistance warm-up, decreasing the risk of injury even further. As with exercise, start slow on stretches. Hold the stretch for 10 to 15 seconds, and gradually increase until you can hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Finally, never bounce or jerk while stretching, as this may dramatically increase your chance of injury.