6 Best Chest Stretches Before a Workout (Tips From a Pro)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: December 28, 2023
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Our content is meticulously researched and reviewed by an expert team of fact checkers and medical professionals. They ensure accuracy, relevance, and timeliness using the latest reputable sources, which are cited within the text and listed at the end of the article. Before publication and upon significant updates, we confirm factual accuracy, committed to providing readers with well-informed content. Learn more.

For me, chest day is the best day, and I often add some chest exercises to my back and shoulder days as well.

But what many people don’t realize is that you can significantly limit the effectiveness of these exercises when you have a limited range of motion in your pecs.

I’ve also seen folks do just one single type of chest stretches, assuming this is more than enough.

To help you be better prepared, I teamed up with a physiotherapist to come up with the ideal chest muscle stretching routine.

And if you need another energy boost, try taking a pre-workout supplement on a regular basis.

Quick Summary

  • The best chest stretches include movements like dynamic double arm stretch, arm circles, kneeling chest opener stretch, etc.
  • A well-rounded stretching routine must encompass both dynamic and static stretches to thoroughly engage and activate the chest muscles.
  • According to Harvard Health, the recommended duration for each stretch is 45 to 60 seconds, with a total of 5-8 different stretches for a pre-workout warm-up.
  • From my experience, integrating a well-planned chest stretching routine is essential for enhancing workout performance and preventing muscle strains.

Sample Chest Stretch Routine

A shot of a muscular man's chest

I highly advise my clients to engage in stretching exercises for their muscle groups prior to commencing any weight-bearing activities.

This recommendation stems from the fact that muscles and tendons that are less flexible can significantly reduce your range of motion. Moreover, diving into intense workouts without proper stretching can heighten the risk of damaging connective tissues.

You could manage this with foam rolling, which increases blood flow and flexibility, making it a beneficial addition to chest stretching routines​​​.

However, a balanced approach to stretching, incorporating both static and dynamic stretching (emphasizing the dynamic type), is crucial.

So, when you're planning an upper-body training session or a focused chest workout at the gym, it's crucial to integrate these stretches into your warm-up routine.

 

Dynamic Double Arm Stretch

My first recommendation is this chest and shoulder stretch.

In the starting position, your feet will be shoulder-width apart, and you will raise your arms straight to the side until your hands are shoulder-height.

You then get into a hugging motion where you wrap your arms around your chest. Then you open them up again, all the way to the starting point.

At each end of the movement, you’ll feel a stretch either in your chest muscles or your rounded shoulders.

For further emphasis on strengthening your chest muscles, incorporating exercises like dumbbell bench presses and cable crossovers can yield great results.

Dumbbell bench presses involve lying on a bench and pushing weights up from your chest, while cable crossovers involve pulling cables across your body to target the chest. These exercises effectively target and develop your chest muscles, contributing to increased strength and definition.

Arm Circles

A woman raising her arms

This is another great way to loosen up a tight muscle in your chest. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your arms up above your head.

From here, let them fall straight down to the front and then circle them back up by going as far back as you can.

You’ll be creating a circular motion that causes a stretch in your pecs when your hands are behind you and you push your shoulder blades together.

It’s also a great way to loosen the shoulder joint and add mobility in preparation for a chest press.

You can also vary this pre-workout stretch by circling each arm in opposite directions.

Kneeling Chest Opener Stretch

This is the first one of our static stretches, and you’ll need a bench or chair to do this.

Kneel in front of the bench and place your hands on top of it. Now let your upper body dip below your hands and feel the stretch in your chest.

You can push your body down slightly to increase the chest stretch and hold it for about 45 seconds.

Reverse Chest Stretch

A person stretching his arms backward

With this chest stretch, you can either sit on a bench or stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

Place your hands together behind your back. Then gently squeeze your elbows together and try to raise your arms backward.

You’ll feel some pressure in your shoulder blades, and this also works well as a shoulder stretch.

Wall Stretch

Here’s another highly effective chest stretch where you focus on one side at a time.

With your feet shoulder-width apart, stand close to the corner of a wall or in a door frame.

Raise your arm closest to the wall with a 90-degree elbow and palms facing forward. Your elbow should touch the wall at about shoulder height, and you should gently press your body forward until you feel a stretch in your chest.

Child’s Pose

A yoga practitioner doing the Child's Pose

You can do this one on a yoga mat using the standard child’s pose and slightly adapting it with your arms.

Kneel down and push your buttocks onto your ankles.

Then lower your body forward until your head is on the mat and your arms are out in front of you with your elbows bent slightly.

Keep your fingers on the mat, but push your palms up slightly to add more stretch to your chest.

Keith Bilous, founder of the coaching website Bapl.ai, recommends doing the exercises slowly and steadily.

Your body isn't a machine – remember to switch up the bench angles and include some tricep workouts for a well-rounded session.

Also, it’s best to give your chest a little warm-up before you go hard on it.

How Long Should You Stretch?

A gym person looking at her watch

You should stretch for about five minutes before your workout. But it’s just as important to spend the right amount of time on each stretch movement.

According to Harvard Health, the general guideline is to spend 45 to 60 seconds on each one, so you’d want to pick 5-8 different types for your warm-up [1].

I’ll give you some examples shortly.  The other thing I would say is that it’s generally a good idea to do some gentle stretching on a daily basis.

I do five minutes every morning and evening before I go to bed, again following the Harvard Health suggestions, as this can all significantly add up to an improved range of motion and much better posture [2].

“The highly influential American College of Sports Medicine still, as of 2021, recommends daily stretching for each of the major muscle-tendon units.”

- Jonathan Jarry, M.Sc.

Related Articles:

 

FAQs

Can You Stretch Your Chest Muscles Too Much?

Yes, you can stretch your chest muscles too much. This is especially the case if they are cold and tight and you jump straight into static stretching.

Instead, start with dynamic chest stretching to ease your muscles in.

Do Chest Stretches Prevent Injuries?

Yes, chest stretches can prevent injury. They can help to loosen tendons and muscle fibers while also getting more blood flowing into the muscles. This should all help to reduce the risk of tears during training.


References:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-ideal-stretching-routine
  2. https://www.health.harvard.edu/everyday-stretching
Was this article helpful?
YesNo

About The Author

Senior Coach
Connor Sellers holds a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Rutgers University He is an author and personal trainer with the mission to inspire people to relentlessly pursue their fitness and lifestyle goals. He mantra is that staying fit has an overall positive effect on one’s body, mind, and spirit.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

You May Also Like

A woman in the gym using a StairMaster in her workout
By Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT 3 months ago
Best StairMaster Workout (12-Min Pro Routines)
A person doing outer chest workouts at the gym
By Tyler Sellers 4 months ago
Outer Chest Workout: Sculpt & Define
A person at the gym holding a kettlebell
By Christiana Mikesch, CPT 5 months ago
Best Kettlebell Workouts: Pro Techniques (Revealed)
Ronnie Coleman posing his chest and tricep muscles at the gym
By James Cunningham, BSc, CPT 2 days ago
Ronnie Coleman's Chest & Tricep Workout (Ironclad Routine)

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our scoring system is the result of objective testing data and subjective expert analysis by a team of fitness coaches and medical experts. Our scoring factors are weighted based on importance. For more information, see our product review guidelines.