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Some stretches are already likely part of your routine: Maybe you do some neck rolls and overhead reaches first thing in the morning, or you loosen up your hamstrings before you head out for a run. But there’s another set of movements to put on your daily to-do list: chest stretches. Whether you’re tight and sore from hours in the aero position or find your shoulders slumping in in the final miles of a run, it’s likely you’re feeling the effects in your neck, shoulders, and chest. These can create mobility issues that are not just uncomfortable, but detrimental to your performance. Mobility issues in the chest and shoulders can affect everything from how fast a person runs to how well they breathe in the swim.
Chest stretches keep your pectoral and upper back muscles loose. They also can mitigate damage done by having less than perfect posture. This sequence will gradually stretch open the chest, as well as the shoulders, and upper back, contributing to good posture, longevity in the spine, and more comfort while training and racing.
Chest stretch with a strap
Stand with your feet hip-width distance and hold a strap or belt out in front of you with your hands about 3 feet apart. Pull the strap apart with your hands and hold it taut. Then bring your hands backward and over your head to the point where you feel a stretch in your arms, pecs, and chest muscles. Go back as far as feels comfortable. Return to the front and repeat.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
Start on all fours in Tabletop, then push up, making an upside-down V shape with your body. To fully stretch your chest, keep your armpits lifted while simultaneously softening your mid- to upper spine toward the floor. Hold for 3–5 breaths.
Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) with hands holding strap
Come into a Low Lunge with your back knee on the floor. Hold a strap shoulder-width apart with your hands behind your back. Pull your shoulder heads back and squeeze your shoulder blades toward each other. For a chest stretch, pull the strap away from your body while keeping a soft bend in your elbows. Hold for 3–5 breaths before releasing.
Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose) at the Wall
Come onto all fours on your mat with your forearms placed slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. Widen the elbows to shoulder width. Catch the flesh of your forearms on the mat, so they “stick” at shoulder width. Move your knees back behind your hips so you have extra space for your chest to integrate. Lift your armpits up toward the wall. Maintaining that lift, melt your mid-thoracic spine toward the floor so that your shoulder blades flatten on your back. Without losing that, slowly lift your knees, walk toward the wall and kick up into the pose against the wall.
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow / Wheel Pose)
Lie on your belly, with your hands by your side, palms at your sides. Bend your knees and take hold of the tops of your feet with your hands. On an inhalation, press your feet into your hands, and lift your chest and thighs off the floor to come up into Wheel. As you kick your feet back against your hands, feel the corresponding stretch in the chest. Hold for 3–5 breaths before releasing gently back to the mat.