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December 04, 2022 14 min read

Before getting started with your next chest workout, allow about five minutes to warm up with dynamic stretches to improve performance and prevent injuries in the first few sets of your workout. So, if your workout routine includes pull-ups, bench presses, push-ups, or chest flyers, you’d be advised not to get into that training with pectoral muscles that are cold and tight.

The tighter your tendons and muscles, the lower your range of motion.

Moreover, there’s also an increased risk of tearing connective tissue. Pre-workout stretches can loosen your muscles and warm up your body.

Chest Workout - Image from Shutterstock

Likewise, post-workout static stretching accomplishes both of those benefits while also increasing blood flow which helps with muscle recovery from either a light or intense chest exercise routine.

However, it’s important to understand that static and dynamic stretching has entirely unique impacts on your pec muscles, so you’ll know how to use them correctly as a part of your chest stretch routine. Let’s discuss how to do the two types of stretching and the benefits they offer.

Dynamic Chest Stretches

Dynamic stretches are those that involve body movement to activate the muscles you intend to use in your workout. You’ll be easing your body into the physical exercises without adding excessive muscle strain that could cause damage like micro-tears in the muscles. At the same time, pre-workout stretches will get your heart galloping and your blood flowing to warm up your chest muscles.

Many gym-rats disregard pre-workout stretching as time-consuming, yet, you need no more than 5 minutes to do three or four short sets of static warm-up stretches. And if you need another energy boost, try taking a pre-workout supplement that will give you maximum energy, enhanced focus, and explosive workouts without a crash.

Static Chest Stretches

Static stretching is done without a lot of movement, instead, you will move your body into a position that stretches muscle fibers, ligaments, and tendons, and then hold that position for a while. Static stretches typically cause slight discomfort, letting you know that you’re stretching the targeted muscle.

However, stretches should never cause you to clench your teeth with pain.

It is crucial to understand that cold muscles should never be stretched in this way because minor damage could have you doing a chest workout with sore and tender muscles. Instead, static stretches are ideal as post-workout stretches. Like warming up, you need no more than five minutes of stretching, but it is important to spend a suitable period holding each stretch. The rule of thumb is to hold each stretch for about 45 to 60 seconds, so you should select 5 to 8 different static chest stretches to make up the 5 minutes of cooling down.

Chest Muscles

Although chest stretches are essential before your chest workout, daily chest stretches can have significant benefits on the wellness of your entire body.

Chest Muscles - Image from Shutterstock

The chest area is the part of your body between your neck to your upper abdomen comprising a key muscle group if you want to build a lean, muscular physique.

The primary muscle making up the chest is the pectoralis major, a large superficial muscle running across the chest area at different angles.

This chest muscle — often called the hugging muscle —is the muscle that you would want to be strong and flexible with a full range of motion.

You’ll need it for things like hugging your friends and loved ones, tackling an opponent, pushing yourself up off the ground, and throwing or hitting with power. The pectoralis minor is located underneath your pec major, where it helps to stabilize and control your scapula (shoulder blades).

If either the pectoralis major or pectoralis minor is tight, your range of motion will be reduced, compromising your movements and strength performance

Stretching Basics to keep in mind

A well-performed stretching routine takes only 5 minutes to warm up and 5 minutes to cool down, but it is a key component of any workout routine.

Don’t stretch your chest muscles before doing a light cardio workout to activate and warm the muscles.

Maintain a good posture while doing stretches.

Breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose.

Keep movements smooth, never sudden or jerky.

Release the stretch as soon as you feel slight discomfort, never hold it until you feel pain.

Benefits of Stretching Your Chest Muscles

There are multiple benefits to performing pre- and post-workout chest stretches.

Improve flexibility: Research has shown that stretching can help improve flexibility.Chest stretches can also improve your performance in physical activities and reduce injury risks.

Improve range of motion: Doing warm-up stretches before your chest workout will help you extend further in the extension positions of the stretches, thereby improving your range of motion.

Improve posture: Overtraining the chest muscles could lead to rounded ape-like shoulders if you don’t work on stretching the chest muscles to their optimal length to prevent poor posture.

Better circulation: Chest stretches will improve your circulation and ease muscle recovery after your workout.

Reduce soreness of tight muscles: Post-workout chest stretches will help return your muscles to their resting length faster, thereby reducing soreness and preparing the muscles for the next workout.

Increase muscle strength: If you prepare for your chest workouts with dynamic stretches your range of motion will be more effective, which has a direct positive impact on strength building.

Reduce injury risks: Muscle strain or injury is a real risk when you neglect to ensure your muscles are supple and pliable, and ready for the workload by performing the necessary stretches.

Better breathing: Breathing techniques play a significant role in any type of exercise, from yoga to strength training. Your chest muscles play a crucial role in proper breathing because they are attached to the rib cage, and are responsible for the contraction and expansion of your rib cage.

10 Chest Stretches for Pre- and Post-Workout

There is an endless list of chest stretches to benefit your workouts. Here we will list 5 dynamic and 5 static stretches.

Pre-Workout Chest Stretches

1. Floor Angels

Floor Angels are regarded as one of the best chest stretches for improving posture by loosening the pectoral muscle fibers to work against rounding shoulders and improve overall body posture.

Starting position:

Lie face up, flat on your back, with your feet hip-width apart.

Place both your arms on the floor, stretched out at a 90-degree angle with your torso, and with your palms facing up.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. While keeping your body firmly on the floor or yoga mat throughout, slowly and in a controlled manner, slide your arms along the floor until your arms are fully stretched above your head.

  2. Being a dynamic stretch, you need not hold the position. Instead, slowly slide your arms back to the starting position.

  3. Repeat the movement for 10 reps or 30 seconds before moving on to the next stretch.

What Muscles Do the Floor Angel Stretch Work?

Along with opening your pecs, the Floor Angel also works your deltoids, making it an effective shoulder stretch as well.

TIP

Avoid moving your arms too fast — a common error that can harm cold muscles.

2. Double-Arm Stretch for Chest Muscles

In a single movement, this dynamic stretch activates the pecs along with other primary muscle groups.

Starting Position:

Stand up straight and place your feet shoulder-width apart.

Lift your arms to chest height, and stretch them out in front of you.

Bring your palms toward each other up in front of you until they almost touch.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. While keeping your arms at chest height, slowly open your arms until they are stretched out from your shoulders, forming a 90-degree angle with your body, your palms facing forward.

  2. Push both your outstretched arms backward to open your chest until you feel the stretch in your chest, and no more! It should not hurt.

  3. Release the stretch and slowly move your outstretched arms forward into the starting position where your hands almost touch.

  4. Repeat the movement by slowly moving your arms backward again, opening your chest.

  5. Do the number of reps you can fit into 30 seconds without rushing — slow and controlled are key.

What Muscles Do the Double-Arm Stretch Work?

While targeting your pecs, this chest stretch also loosens the deltoid muscles in your shoulders and the biceps in your upper arms. Three primary muscle groups in one.

TIP

Don’t overextend when pushing your arms backward.

3. Walk up the Wall

This stretch might be a bit too advanced for beginners, but if you have some experience the Walk Up the Wall with many benefits besides flexibility. Doing slow is key to safely performing this stretch exercise.

Starting Position:

You can use an exercise mat for this stretch, which must be close to a wall.

Go into a plank position as if you are going to do push-ups.

Your feet should be close to the wall, with your head and hands furthest away.

Place your hands beside your shoulders, flat on the floor.

Ensure your spine, shoulders, and head are neutral.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Press through your hands to extend your arms and lift your torso into a plank position.

  2. Brace your core and while balancing your weight on your arms and hands, press the soles of your feet against the wall.

  3. Walk your feet upward on the wall, while walking your hands closer to the wall.

  4. Continue to walk your feet up the wall and your hands closer until you are close enough to the wall to be in a handstand position.

  5. Maintain a tight core and keep your back straight.

  6. Reverse the movements in a slow and controlled manner. Walk your legs down and your hands away from the wall.

  7. While still balancing your weight on your arms and your feet on the wall, perform one press-up before repeating the full range of motion.

  8. Only do the number of reps you can comfortably manage while maintaining proper form.

What Muscles Do the Walk Up the Wall Stretch Work?

This stretch is a compound movement that activates your pecs, delts, abs, and triceps.

TIP

It is essential to remain in control throughout the entire movement to prevent injuries. Maintain straight arms, and focus to avoid arching your back. Also, don’t attempt too many reps of this chest stretch unless you are an experienced gym rat and able to do multiple reps correctly.

4. Dumbbell Chest Fly Stretch

The dumbbell chest fly is ideal if you want to add some weight to your warm-up on chest day? Provided you use a light pair of dumbbells, the chest fly stretches will add just enough pressure to prepare your chest and triceps for benches and other hard work to follow. Heavy dumbbells will increase injury risks.

Starting Position:

Lie flat on your back on a flat or incline bench.

Ensure your feet are firmly placed on the floor on either side of the bench.

Press your back and head firmly onto the bench throughout the full range of motion.

Hold a dumbbell in each hand.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. With slightly bent elbows, lift your arms up and above your chest with your palms holding the dumbbells facing each other.

  2. Inhale while you slowly lower the dumbbells in an arc motion until your arms are extended sideways, but in line with your chest. Take care not to drop your arms lower than shoulder height.

  3. Exhale and slowly press the dumbbells up in the same arc motion.

  4. You are doing the dumbbell flys as stretches; therefore, you can do only 10 reps in slow and controlled movements.

What Muscles Do the Dumbbell Fly Stretch Work?

The dumbbell fly targets the pectoral muscles, specifically the sternal head of the pectoralis major; it also activates the anterior deltoid muscles in your shoulder and the biceps brachii muscles in your arms as stabilizers

TIP

As stretches, dumbbell flys are simple enough to get your heart going and increase your body temperature without tiring you out before your chest workout routine.

5. Cross-body Arm Swing Stretch

Dynamic stretches like Arm Swings can activate chest muscles and other key upper body muscles and prepare them for their full range of movement.

Arm swings get the blood flowing in your pecs, arms, shoulders, and upper back and increase flexibility.

Starting position:

Start arm swings by standing with a straight back, your arms reaching forward, and your feet shoulder-width apart.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Swing your arms open with your palms supinated (facing up) and retract your shoulder blades while you get a stretch in your pecs.

  1. When the arms are fully stretched, flex your pecs and allow your arms to swing forward, flip your hands to the pronated position (facing down) allowing them to cross in front of your body.

  2. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

What Muscles Do the Cross-Body Arm Swing Stretch Work?

This exercise warms up and stretches the chest, upper back, arms, and shoulders and prepares the muscles, tendons, and joints for a workout.

TIP

Alternate which arm is on top with each rep to help promote a symmetrical stretch. Keep in mind that this is a stretch to warm up, so, hold back on the speed to avoid being exhausted when the main workout begins.

Post-Workout Chest Stretches

1. Camel Pose

The Camel Pose is a popular yoga pose utilized across all forms of fitness, mainly due to the number of muscle groups this stretch works simultaneously.

Starting position: This chest muscle stretch is best performed on an exercise or yoga mat,

Kneel on the mat, with your feet flat, your body upright, and your hips directly above your knees.

Slowly reach back with your right hand and grasp the heel of your right foot, and then grasp your left heel with your left hand.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Check that your hips are still positioned over your knees.

  2. Bring your head backward slowly, opening your throat.

  3. Lift your chest towards the ceiling and softly push through your fully extended arms to lift your chest upwards and open the stretch further.

  4. Hold this position for 30 to 45 seconds.

  5. Return to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner by bringing your chin back toward your chest.

  6. Draw your hands into your hips to support your lower back as you slowly bring your body to the upright position.

What Muscles Do the Camel Pose Stretch Work?

Pectorals, Abdominals, Quadriceps

TIP:Keep your thighs upright — allowing them to slant backward will reduce or even eliminate any benefit of the Camel Pose for your chest muscles.

2. Reverse Chest Stretch

The Reverse Chest Stretch is an effective and simple stretch to incorporate into your post-workout stretch routine.

Starting position:

You will require a chair or bench to perform this stretch.

Sit on the edge of the chair, and place your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.

Place your hands, palms down, beside your hips over the edge of the chair, palms facing down with your fingers gripping the front of the seat.

Ensure your head is kept upright, facing forward throughout the entire stretch.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Push through your arms to lift your hips off the chair.

  2. Lower your body off the chair until your back is positioned in front of the seat — your legs bent and your elbows forming a 90-degree angle.

  3. Once lowered into the dip, extend your posture by pushing your chest forward until you feel a good stretch in your chest and biceps,

  4. Hold this position for 30 to 45 seconds.

  5. Using the strength of your arms, return to the starting position.

What Muscles Do the Reverse Chest Stretch Work?

Triceps Brachii, Latissimus Dorsi, Anterior Delts, and Pectoralis Major

TIP: Focus on proper breathing.

3. Pec Release Stretch

The Pec Release is a deep-impact chest stretch strongly recommended for very tight chest muscles.

Starting position:

You will need a tennis ball or similar-sized ball for this chest stretch exercise.

Stand facing a wall, only a few centimeters away from a wall.

Place the tennis ball on your right side, leaning your pectoral muscle on it close to your armpit, and leaning your body forward to keep the ball in place.

Bring your right arm up against the wall with your elbow flexed at a 90-degree angle, with your right hand level with your head.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lean your right pectoral (chest muscle) into the ball.

  2. Proceed to slowly move your right arm upward against the wall until it is straight up above your head.

  3. Slowly move your arm back down to the right-angle position.

  4. Repeat moving your arm back up toward the ceiling and back down for about 30 seconds.

  5. This should be a flowing movement with no pauses or holds.

  6. Repeat the same sequence on the opposite side placing the tennis ball on your left pectoral muscle.

What Muscles Do the Pec Release Stretch Work?

Pectorals

TIP: The pressure against the ball should feel uncomfortable but not painful. Also, don’t flare your elbows away from the wall, your arm should be against the wall throughout the range of motion.

4. Bow Pose Stretch

The bow pose is another popular yoga pose that serves as an effective cool-down chest stretch. The Bow Pose works to strengthen your upper back and improve your posture, both of which directly affect chest muscle tightness. By improving both posture and strength, you’ll directly improve the flexibility of your chest muscles and your overall health.

Starting position:

Lie face-down on your exercise mat, keeping your chin on the mat and your hands at your sides with your palms facing up.

With your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees and bring your lower left leg and right leg up to get your heels as close to your butt as you comfortably can, pointing your toes.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lift your hands behind you, grabbing hold of your ankles by gripping them by wrapping your fingers around your ankles and not the tops of your feet.

  2. Inhale, press your pubic bone down and draw your lower belly in and up. Lift your heels away from your butt while keeping a firm hold of your ankles.

  3. Simultaneously, lift your chest, thighs, and head away from the mat with only your core touching the floor.

  4. While in the bow position, open your chest by sliding your shoulder blades down toward each other.

  5. Looking straight ahead, hold the pose for approximately 20-30 seconds, focusing on your breathing, balance, and the stretch.

  6. Exhale and slowly release the pose in a controlled manner by lowering your head, chest, and thighs back toward the mat. Let go of your ankles, and allow your feet to return to the mat and your hands back to your side.

  7. Rest for a few seconds before repeating the pose several times.

What Muscles Do the Bow Pose Stretch Work?

This is a true compound stretch that activates the entire front of your body, ankles, thighs and groins, abdomen and chest, throat, and the deep hip flexors (psoas).

TIP: If you hold on to your feet instead of your ankles your hands could slip, putting you at risk of injury.

5. Kneeling Chest Stretch

The Kneeling Chest Stretch is another highly effective compound stretch that works not just one, but five muscle groups! A great addition to your pre-and post-workout chest stretches.

Starting position:

Take a kneeling position on an exercise mat or another comfortable surface.

Lean back, rest your glutes on your heels and place your palms flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Press your hands firmly into the ground to lift your chest higher, arching your back.

  2. Let your head go along with the movement, lowering it back to stretch through your throat and your chest.

  3. Hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds before returning to the starting position and repeat several times.

What Muscles Do the Pec Release Stretch Work?

Pecs, Abs, Quads, Hamstrings, and Deltoids.

TIP: Make sure your neck is not over or under-extended, but comfortably leaned back to avoid strain or injury.

Along with static stretches to help your muscles recover after workouts, you can also benefit from muscle recovery supplements. They are designed to help your muscles recover and refuel from damage done during workouts.

There are many types of recovery supplements from those that help you get better sleep to those that feed your muscles the nutrients necessary for continued growth.

Bottom Line

Remember to only stretch warm muscles. Always keep the stretch slow and controlled, never jerky or sudden. If you are new to stretching routines, start very slowly and do not push the stretch. Ease into the routine, as injury prevention, and build on it each day. You do not need to perform every stretch shown above to achieve an effective stretch – choose your favorite 2 or 3 that work for you.

Furthermore, never attempt to stretch injured or painful muscles without consulting your physician or physical therapist.