How To Pectoral Stretch Exercise

Photo of sweaty man stretching with a towel.
You can use a towel or strap to improve flexibility.. Adrianna Williams/Getty Images

Tight pectoral muscles can be the result of poor posture, weight lifting, or other daily activities. An injury to one or both of your pecs may cause you to lose shoulder range of motion (ROM) and overall function around your arms or chest. If you are feeling tightness in your chest muscles - either as a result of postural neglect or pectoral injury - you may benefit from physical therapy to help you improve your pec flexibility.

What Do the Pectoral Muscles Do?

Your pectoral muscles, or chest muscles, attach at your sternum (breastbone) and then course to the front aspect of each shoulder. The muscles serve to help pull your shoulders in and across your body, a motion known as horizontal adduction.  Injury to your pec may cause you to lose the ability to fully adduct your arms, leading to difficulty with lifting and pushing activities. Stretching your pecs is one component of rehabbing your pecs to help you regain normal mobility.

One part of your pectoral rehab is to learn stretching exercises to improve the way your pec muscles move and function. Pectoral stretching exercises are simple things that your PT may prescribe for you to do to help improve the flexilbity of your pectoral muscles.

Here are a few ideas that you can use to help improve the flexibility of your chest muscles.

With the help of a doorway, you can easily stretch your pectoral muscles.

 Here's how to stretch your pecs in a doorway:

  1. Stand in the middle of a doorway with one foot in front of the other
  2. Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle and place your forearms on each side of the doorway
  3. Shift your weight onto your front leg, leaning forward, until you feel a stretch in your chest muscles
  1. Hold for 15 seconds
  2. Relax and return to starting position
  3. Repeat above 10 more times

You can also stretch your pectoral muscles of your chest using a towel or strap as part of your towel stretching routine. Here is how to perform the towel pec stretch:

  1. Stand with good posture and holding a towel behind your back.
  2. Lift the towel up behind, holding the ends with both hands
  3. Use the towel to gently pull your shoulders into extension
  4. You should feel a stretch in the front of your chest
  5. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, and then relax
  6. Repeat 10 times

Another simple way to stretch tight pectoral muscles is by simply lying down on your back with your fingers interlaced behind your head. Draw both elbows back to open up your shoulders and stretch your pecs. Hold the stretch position for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat 10 times.

Remember to check in with your doctor before starting this - or any other - exercise program to stretch your chest muscles. A few sessions with your physical therapist is also a good idea to learn which pectoral stretches are best for your condition.

Keeping your pec muscles flexible can help make it easier for your to attain and maintain proper posture. Since the pectoral muscles help to move your shoulder, flexible chest muscles can ensure that you maintain full mobility in your shoulder joints.

If you have suffered an injury to one or both pectoral muscles of your chest, or if your physical therapist recommends improving your chest muscle flexibility, you may benefit from incorporating pectoral stretches into your home exercise program. This can help you maintain appropriate mobility and posture and keep in moving in a pain-free manner.

This article has been carefully edited by Brett Sears, PT.

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