You know those guys at the gym, the ones that grunt a lot, have no neck, and really big front half of their body? They don’t do any pec stretching!
I use them as an example because they are kinda funny but also because its easy to spot the imbalance because they have so much bulk. Imagine what is happening to their back muscles or to the space in the front of their shoulders. The muscles are getting stretched bringing upper back pain and the front is being compressed which equals nerve and vascular tissue could be compromised…pain!
Our Pectoralis major is a large fan shaped muscle that sits on the front of our body. It is responsible for moving our shoulder in flexion, internal rotation and adduction.
This picture makes me laugh, I think it might be the Hulk with no skin. You get the idea though, the red part is his pectoralis major.
Tight pecs can lead to the following problems.
- Upper back and neck pain
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
- Poor posture
When we run our pecs are doing little contractions every time we swing our arms. If you have a cadence of 180 that means you are contracting your pecs 90 times on each side every minute. Sounds like a lot right?
Tight pecs can inhibit our running in many ways.
- Its harder to maintain proper form which means we are working harder to get the job done.
- Makes it challenging to get nice full big breaths.
- Inhibits a proper arm swing instead of moving smoothly from front to back your arms with swing in front of your body.
There are many ways to stretch your pecs. I like to give stretches that people can do while watching tv, their more likely to do them! I’ll give you two options though.
Pec stretch #1
- Lay on your couch or bed.
- If you are stretching your right side, lay with your right shoulder on the edge of the couch.
- Support yourself so you don’t fly off the couch.
- Dangle arm off the edge of the couch with the elbow straight, palm up, and the arm at 90 degrees. Basically, make a straight line with your arm and elbow.
- Hold for a minimum of 1 minute and up to 4 minutes.
- Let gravity do the work for you, focus on your breath and really breath into the areas that are feeling the tightest.
- If you start getting tingling or numbness in the hands bring your arm down a couple of degrees closer to your body.
Pec stretch #2
- Stand in a door frame or corner of a wall.
- Place your forearm on the wall with your shoulder and elbow both bent at 90 degrees.
- Slowly lean forward until you feel a nice stretch to increase the stretch you can rotate your head in the opposite direction.
- Stretch both sides and hold a minimum of 45 seconds.
Spend the week stretching those tight pecs and chances are you will notice an improvement in posture, possibly fewer headaches, and running will likely feel a bit easier. Then we can look into some back activation exercises to balance out our shoulder girdle.
If you are having problems with this stretch or just feeling like you aren’t getting anywhere with it please don’t hesitate to email me or come in for a massage, we are always happy to help.