Definition of Chest
Chest is the part of human body which is enclosed by the ribs and sternum. In human anatomy chest is known as Thorax. Construction wise Chest includes rib cage, lungs, heart and diaphragm. In other language we can say that assembly of above mentioned body parts is known as Chest. As well as Chest includes some muscles also with various other internal structures.
In human body Chest is located between the neck and the abdomen. There are various sensitive organs in Chest which is covered and protected by the Rib Cage. These are all the organs which work continuously for the human’s survival. In addition to these organs as mentioned earlier there are some muscles also. As some organs work on their own but muscles need some extra care for their utmost working. Extra care means we have to do some exercises or stretching to fulfill the need of these muscles so that they can work at their best.
Benefits of Chest Stretching
Stretching is a phenomenon where we twist and turn the body in order to elongate and compress the muscles for their efficient working. Chest also includes some muscles whose stretching is as important as of any other muscle of human body. Stretching of chest is a thing of feeling. One will feel positive vibes after performing stretching.
Muscles which are in chest are those one which are used more frequent than many other muscles. These muscles are involved in most of the activities of our body. As these muscles are involved in plenty of body movements, it means that there may be possibility of overuse of these muscles. So we have to make these muscles ready to be used so frequently. With the help of Stretching the Chest, this is the main benefit that when these muscles are overused there will be no chances of Back pain or Strain. In the same way lungs are designed in such a way that more and more oxygen is needed for optimum use of it. It means we can say that there should be plenty of space so that Lungs can expand at its maximum capacity. This required space can only be maintained or even generated by the stretching of Chest. One more very important need of Stretching the chest is to avoid Anxiety. If continuously we’ll work and muscles will not be stretched then Anxiety is the main instinct of human body. To avoid and overcome Anxiety Stretching of Chest is very much essential because many important body parts such as lungs, heart etc are involved in this phenomenon. In some cases Stretching of Chest is helpful in headaches also. If continuously chest stretching will be done then headaches will also be eliminated as well as headaches are soothed also. At last but not least if continuous chest stretching is done then it also improves body posture.
5 Main Variations of Chest Stretches
The following chest stretches provide various ways to open up the front body. You do not need to limit performing them to only after a workout. Executed regularly, you will start to see and feel continual improvements in chest and shoulder flexibility.
- Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds or 3-5 breath cycles. One inhale + one exhale = 1 breath cycle.
- Avoid bouncing. With each exhale, move into the stretch a little further, but only to the point of tension, never pain.Perform stretches 2-3 times.
- Bring focus to not just pulling the shoulder blades down and back, but shining your chest and heart forward to create length within the pectoral muscles.
Behind the Back-Elbow to Elbow Grip
This quick and easy stretch can be performed seated or standing. Simple to perform, it’s a great way to get a quick stretch anytime of the day.
- Seated or standing, begin with arms hanging by your sides and shoulders pressed down away from your ears.
- Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together, broaden the chest, and then bring the arms behind the back and grip elbow to elbow.
Above the Head Chest Stretch
This is another stretch that can be performed either seated or standing. Play around with the positioning of the hands to emphasize shoulders and/or chest.
- Seated or standing, interlock your fingers, bend your elbows and raise your arms above your head.
- Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together and move your elbows and hands backward.
- Vary the height of your hands to emphasize shoulders and/or chest (hands behind head, hands on top of head, hand a few inches above head).
Bent Arm Wall Stretch
This exercise allows you to stretch each side of your chest separately.
- In a split stance, left leg on the front and right leg on the back, stand at the end of a wall or in a doorway.
- Bring the right arm up to shoulder height and position the palm and inside of the arm on the wall surface or doorway.Your arm should look like a goal post.
- Gently press the chest through the open space to feel the stretch.
- Moving the arm higher or lower will allow you to stretch various sections of the chest.Repeat on the other side.
Extended Child’s Pose on Fingertips
In yoga, Child’s Pose is considered a resting exercise, but when the arms are extended, this exercise becomes very active in the upper body while still providing a stress relief to the low back.
- Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
- Bend forward from the hips and walk your hands out as far in front of you as possible. With the arms extended and palms facing down, come up onto the fingertips as if you have a ball underneath your palms and melt the chest toward the ground.
Side Lying Parallel Arm Chest Stretch
This exercise allows you to target each side of the chest separately and give special attention to the shoulders.
- Lying prone on your stomach, extend both arms out to the sides creating the letter “T”, palms facing down.
- Start to roll onto your right side by pushing yourself with your left hand.
- Lift the left leg, bend the knee and place the left foot behind you on the floor for stability.Rest your head on your right temple.
- Keep the left hand on the ground close to the chest for balance, or for an extra stretch, lift the left hand up toward the ceiling.
- Repeat on the other side.
When to Stretch
Most people understand the importance of chest stretching as part of a warm-up or cool-down, but when else should you perform chest stretch?
Stretch periodically throughout the entire day. It is a great way to stay loose and to help ease the stress of everyday life. One of the most productive ways to utilize time is to stretch while watching television. Start with five minutes of marching or jogging on the spot then take a seat on the floor in front of the television and start stretching.
Stretching before exercise or as part of your warm-up is great, but pre-exercise stretching is not meant to improve your flexibility; its purpose is simply to prepare you for exercise. So if you want to improve your range of motion, when is the best time to stretch? One of the best times to stretch is after your work out, as part of your cool-down. This is when your muscles are most warm and pliable, which makes it much easier to stretch and reach new levels of flexibility.
Another great time to stretch is just before going to bed. This works at a neuro-muscular level, as the increased muscle length is the last thing your nervous system remembers before going to sleep. Sleep, is also the time when your muscles and soft tissues heal, which means your muscles are healing in an elongated, or stretched position.
Should you stretch before exercise ?
Misconceptions and misinformation are rampant when it comes to stretching and flexibility training. One such area of confusion relates to stretching before exercise. The confusion comes from a misinterpretation of a number of research studies that tested the effects of stretching prior to exercise. A number of these studies concluded that doing stretching before exercise resulted in decreased athletic performance… or did they?
The short answer is yes, but with most things the devil is in the detail. What a number of these studies found was that doing long-hold (15 – 30 seconds or more) static stretches immediately before power based activities like running, jumping and sprinting may have a detrimental effect on maximum strength, explosive power and speed.
In other words: Doing a very specific type of stretching, in a specific way, IMMEDIATELY before another specific activity, may have a negative effect on athletic performance.
Some people have misinterpreted this to mean that you shouldn’t do ANY stretching before ANY activity, which has unfortunately manifested into the “any stretching before exercise is bad” mantra that I hear frequently.
So… is it beneficial to use static (or PNF) stretching before exercise or as part of a warm up?
Yes, as long as the static stretching isn’t the last thing you do before doing an activity that requires maximum strength, explosive power or speed. In fact, further research has determined that no negative effects are observed when static stretching is conducted early in the warm-up and followed by sport specific drills or dynamic stretching.
Variety of Stretches
Including a variety of stretches in your training program is very important for avoiding muscle imbalances. While an athlete may go to the gym every day, no intelligent athlete would do the same set of exercises every day, day after day. The same approach applies to flexibility training; while it is okay to do flexibility training every day; it’s not a good idea to do the same stretches every day, day after day .
Hold, Count, Repeat ?
For Static and Passive stretching, some text will say that holding a stretch for as little as 10 seconds is enough. This is a bare minimum. 10 seconds is only just enough time for the muscles to relax and start to lengthen. For any real improvement to flexibility, each stretch should be held for at least 30 to 60 seconds, and repeated at least two or three times.
Proper breathing is also essential for good flexibility. Not to mention good health. But most people have no idea that they’re breathing the wrong way. Here’s what I mean…
Go ahead and take a big, deep breath in: As deep as you can. Now let me guess… Your shoulders have risen; your chest has expanded; and your waist has shrunk a little. Am I right? This is the way most people breathe, but what if I told you… You’re breathing the wrong way!
Breathing with your chest is the WRONG way to breath: It puts strain on your neck and shoulder muscles, causes shallow breathing and doesn’t allow for the full expansion of your lungs. So how should you be breathing? Take a look at the video below for an explanation of the right way to breathe.
Disadvantages of performing over chest stretching
Many people believe that to get the most out of their flexibility training they need to push their stretching to the extreme. This may work with strength training and even cardiovascular training, but not with stretching. Let me explain why.
When the muscles are stretched too hard or to the point of pain, the body employs a defence mechanism called the stretch reflex. This is the body’s safety measure to prevent serious damage occurring to the muscles, tendons and joints. The stretch reflex protects the muscles and tendons by contracting them, thereby preventing them from being stretched.
So to avoid the stretch reflex, avoid pain. Never push the stretch beyond what is comfortable. Only stretch to the point where tension can be felt in the muscles. This way, injury will be avoided and you’ll get the most from stretching.
BASIC CHEST STRETCHING EXERCISE
1.) STANDING INCLINE PUSH-UP
This is one of the best stretching exercises for your chest. It makes your chest muscles fully stretchable & ready for your working sets. It's like total warm-up or stretching for your chest. You can do this exercise before or even after the workout. It's good both the ways.
2.) CLOSE-GRIP INCLINE PUSH-UP
Now this exercise basically is all about the contraction. In this movement the stretch is less but the contraction is 100%. So, i really suggest to add this exercise before your chest routine so that every muscle in your chest gets ready to do some work. It make your muscles contract which will help in beginning your chest workout.
3.) BASIC ARM STRETCH FOR CHEST
This is the very basic exercise for your chest. It's way too simple & can be done by any age group. What i like about this exercise is that it not only involves your chest but also involves your shoulder little bit. Which will definitely help in improve your shoulder mobility. Remember to perform this exercise before your chest workout as a stretching movement & warm-up.