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

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: August 30, 2022

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.

Quick Summary

  • Starting training with tight chest muscles could reduce your performance levels and expose you to increased injury risks.
  • While there aren’t many different muscles in your chest, there are several different directions you should stretch those large sections.
  • Choosing the right combination of static and dynamic stretching can also have a positive impact on your overall range of motion.

Should You Stretch Your Chest Muscles Before a Workout?

A person stretching his chest

Yes, you should stretch your chest muscles before a workout that involves straining the pecs.

So, if you’re doing push-ups, pull-ups, bench presses, or chest flyers, then you don’t want to head into that training with tight pectoral muscles.

The main reason for this is that the tighter your muscles and tendons are, the lower your range of motion is [1].

And there’s also an increased risk of tearing connective tissue if you head straight into some heavy sets.

But it’s important to understand that static and dynamic stretching have a very different impact on your pec muscles, and you need to know how to use them correctly as part of your chest stretch routine.

Let’s take a closer look at these types of stretching and how they impact cold muscles.

What Kind of Stretching Should You Focus On?

A woman stretching her chest

You should mainly focus on a dynamic chest stretch before training. But there is also a good reason to introduce one or two static chest stretches. Read on to know the difference between static versus dynamic stretching.

Dynamic Chest Stretches

Dynamic stretches involve moving parts of your body to cause a short stretch of muscles.

The added bonus is that this gets the blood flowing, and your muscles will start to warm up [2].

Essentially, you’re easing your body into physical exercise without adding too much muscle strain that could cause micro-tears and other damage. 

So, always start with these and wait until you’re a bit more warmed up before you move on to static stretches.

Static Chest Stretches

With static stretching, you hold your body in a position where muscle fibers, tendons, and ligaments are stretched and cause slight discomfort [3].

You shouldn’t be clenching your teeth with pain.

But I would say that you should never stretch cold muscles in this way. It’s much too easy to cause minor damage at this stage, and you don’t want to start a chest workout with sore muscles.

Related Article: Should You Stretch Before or After Working Out?

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.

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 [4].

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 as this can all significantly add up to an improved range of motion and much better posture [5].

“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. McGill.ca

Learn More: How Long Should You Hold a Stretch?

Sample Chest Stretch Routine

A shot of a muscular man's chest

When you’re heading to the gym for general upper body training or a targeted chest workout, then aim to add these stretches to your warm-up.

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 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 the rounded shoulders.

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 elbow 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 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 out in front of you with elbows bent slightly.

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

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.

Start With the Right Chest Stretching Routines

Before you head into your next chest workout, make sure that you spend about five minutes warming up with dynamic and static stretches to prevent injuries and improve performance in the first few sets of your workout.

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

We’ve tested many of the top products ourselves, so make sure to check out our guides:

You’ll be surprised how even smaller performance improvements add up over time to get you to your goals faster.


References:

  1. https://www.sportsperformancebulletin.com/endurance-training/strength-conditioning-and-flexibility/flexibility-stretching-injury-risk/
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/dynamic-stretching
  3. https://www.hss.edu/article_static_dynamic_stretching.asp
  4. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-ideal-stretching-routine
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/everyday-stretching

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