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Upper Body Stretching

27 September 2018 chsw

Whilst most runners are aware of which leg muscles they should be stretching before and after running, there are a set of muscles, which although hugely important for correct posture, are frequently forgotten about. These are the Pectoral muscles or Pecs as they are more commonly known.

We find that office workers, mothers and runners often present with rounded shoulders, due to repeated hunching, which in turn shortens and tightens the Pecs. Without correction, this can cause issues with pelvic tilts and excessive tension in the trapezius muscles, which run along your back and shoulders. Plus tight pecs cause long term postural changes that can, in extreme cases, result in a hunchback.   

All is not lost though, a couple of simple stretches, done daily, will help lengthen the Pectoral muscles and reset the shoulders into their correct position.

Correcting postural work is all about breaking bad habits, so although hard in the beginning, once you get into a routine with it, you'll start to notice real changes in how your body looks and feels.

In addition to the below stretches,  ensure you repeat to yourself while running (and working at a desk, standing in a supermarket queue, sitting on a train, pushing a pram, watching tv (you get the idea) 'Lower your shoulders, open your chest. Lower your shoulders, open your chest.' While repeating this, roll back and drop each shoulder one at a time. At the same time, suck your stomach in and tighten your pelvic floor muscles to tighten and strengthen your core.  The more you can remember to do this, the more your body will respond, until standing correctly is your normal posture.

Try to do these two simple stretches everyday.

Bed stretch

Lie on a bed face up, with your head on the edge of a corner.

Hold a weight (or tin of beans ) in each hand then hang your arms off either sides of the bed.
You should feel a stretch at the front of your arm pits and into your chest, these are your Pecs. 

You can deepen the stretch by raising your arms and letting them drop at a higher angle.

Hold this for 30 seconds.

Ensure your back is flat and not arched and you're holding in your stomach muscles as you do this.

Door stretch

Stand opposite an open door, place both hands flat on the frame either side of the open door at shoulder height.

Lean forward so your body ends up in front, while your arms remain where they are. 

You should feel a stretch in your Pec muscles.

Hold for 30 seconds each time.

Abigail Park and Annie Johansen are co-founders of Chew Valley Wellbeing Centre.