Chest-intensive exercises such as bench presses, flyes, pushups and chest dips may leave your chest feeling tight after a workout. In addition to a 10- to 15-minute cool-down, chest stretches help alleviate this tension. Always allow your chest muscles at least 24 hours of recovery before working this muscle group again to prevent soreness. If chest tightness persists or escalates into pain, contact your doctor.
Doorway Chest Stretch
To perform a stretch that targets the sternal muscles of the pectoralis major, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart about a foot away from a doorway, pole or other sturdy fixed object. Bend one arm at a 90-degree angle at the elbow with your hand firmly grasping or pressing against the fixed object. Turn your torso away from the object and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. For the basic stretch, your elbow should be at about shoulder-height. Lower your elbow to target the upper chest muscles or raise it to target the lower chest and pectoralis minor. Intensify the object-assisted chest stretch by staggering your feet, placing the leg on the side of the object slightly behind you.
Chest Stretch with Pole
You'll need a long pole, such as a broomstick, exercise bar or unloaded barbell, for this stretch. Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold the pole over your head, grasping it overhand with your hands at shoulders' width. Lower the pole behind your head, resting it on the base of your neck. Pull your elbows down until you feel your chest stretching. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds.
Behind-the-Head Chest Stretch
The behind-the-head chest stretch, another simple movement, also targets the sternal pectoralis major. Like the object-assisted stretch, its secondary focus lies on the pectoralis minor. To perform this stretch, place your hands behind your head - you can clasp them if that makes the pose more comfortable. With your head held upright, pull your elbows back away from your head and hold for about 30 seconds. For a deeper stretch, enlist a partner to pull your elbows back away from your head.
Lying Chest Stretch
For a low-intensity chest stretch, lie with your back flat on the ground - don't arch your back - and spread your arms out to your sides at 90-degree angles, keeping your palms flat on the floor. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and lower your arms to your sides. Raise your arms once more, this time to 120-degree angles. Hold once again and repeat.