How to Stretch Your Pectoral Muscles

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Photo of sweaty man stretching with a towel.
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Also Known As: Chest muscle stretch

Targets: Pectoral muscles

Equipment Needed: Towel or strap

Level: Beginner

You can stretch your pectoral muscles of your chest using a towel or strap or use other variations. Tight pectoral muscles can be the result of poor posture, weight lifting, or simple daily activities. These stretches can help you keep your pecs flexible. 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. One part of your pectoral rehab may be to learn stretching exercises.

Benefits

Keeping your pec muscles flexible can help make it easier for you 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 with no limitations.

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.

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Watch Now: How to Stretch Your Pectoral Muscles With a Towel

Step-by-Step Instructions

Have the towel or strap handy. Breathe normally as you stretch.

  1. Stand with good posture 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. You should feel a stretch in the front of your chest
  4. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, and then relax.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Common Mistakes

The pulling motion should be gentle, not a jerking motion. Don't stretch cold muscles. It is best to stretch after a warmup, after getting out of a warm bath or shower, or at the end of an exercise routine.

If you are feeling the stretch more in your shoulder joint than in your chest muscles, you should change your arm position so you feel it in the chest muscles instead.

Modifications and Variations

Doorway Pectoral Stretch

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

  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
  4. Hold for 15 seconds
  5. Relax and return to starting position
  6. Repeat above 10 more times

Lying Pectoral Stretch

Another simple way to stretch tight pectoral muscles can be done while lying down.

  1. Lay on your back with your fingers interlaced behind your head.
  2. Draw both elbows back to open up your shoulders and stretch your pecs.
  3. Hold the stretch position for 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Safety and Precautions

You should feel the stretch in your chest muscles but you should not feel any pain. If the stretch causes any lasting pain, stop it immediately and see your doctor.

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.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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Article Sources
  • Roddey, T. S., Olson, S. L., & Grant, S. E. (2002). The effect of pectoralis muscle stretching on the resting position of the scapula in persons with varying degrees of forward head/rounded shoulder posture. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy10(3), 124-128.