Here’s an easy exercise for a heart opening chest stretch. Improve flexibility for the chest, arms, & shoulders. Enhance posture for Pilates, fitness, & daily life.
When we think about improving posture and avoiding that hunched over Quasimodo look. It’s important to balance out the upper body by increasing upper back strength (to help hold us vertical,) and stretching the front of the body to open the chest so we can stand up tall. In order to get the best benefits to balance this relationship between the upper back and front of the body, we’ve got to start by opening the chest.
Since 98% of what we do in life is in front of us, our chest muscles are naturally stronger. Lifting and carrying groceries, boxes, children, almost anything, and we’re using the front of our arms and chest. This repetitive action to the front causes our muscles to get stronger and tighter, which over time may start restricting our chest and arm flexibility. Then all of a sudden, you’re thinking about standing tall and to get there you might be just pinching your shoulder blades together, thinking that you’re standing taller, when in reality your chest didn’t really lift or open much at all.
If you sit in front of a computer all day, swim, lift weights, run with your arms held in tight to your body, or do any type of physical lifting heavy or light, this stretch is for you!
- Find a corner in your room where 2 walls come together. Be sure it’s clear of furniture and pictures hanging on the walls.
- Stand facing the corner and put your arms up on the walls at a ninety degree angle, elbows just a little lower than your shoulders. Palms of your hands and forearms on the wall.
There are a lot of different things I focus on and cue for my clients in this position for arm and shoulder strength and flexibility. Today I want you to really think about maintaining tall (or taller) posture with good lower abdominal support the whole time.
- Inhale and gently pull your shoulders down while pressing your forearms firmly against the wall. This should begin to reach the bottom of your shoulder blades towards your elbows, and elbows more firmly against the wall.
- Exhale and take a step forward with your right foot to lunge in towards the corner.
- Lift your chest and eye focus up a little higher as you bring your body forward through your arms.
- Stay here and breathe, Inhale shoulders down and wide, exhale lift your chest and reach it in towards the corner. Take 3-5 breaths, then step back and release.
- Repeat again, this time stepping forward with the left foot.
What To Watch For:
As you start to step forward, if you notice your shoulders elevate, your chest will not open. At this point the thing that’s probably leading to move you forward is your lower back and a relaxed belly. Be sure to keep your abdominals lifted and shoulders down so as you move forward into the corner you feel your breastbone sliding up while the upper back moves forward between your shoulders and arms, leading the way to a bigger chest stretch.
How Many Repetitions?
Sometimes, I’ll just do this once stepping in on the right, and once on the left. If you know you need it… Repeat another 2 times on each side to help improve your flexibility and open the chest.
A Helpful Hint…
Never force yourself into any position. Go along with your breath. If your chest muscles relax, they will allow you to move forward into a deeper stretch. If your chest muscles are really tight and fighting against you, hold the position you’re in and just keep breathing until you feel things start to let go and relax. Then if you want a little more stretch you can ride the exhale and release to move forward. This Corner Wall Stretch will really help to improve the flexibility of your chest, arms, and shoulders.
When To Stretch
Use this Corner Wall Chest Opening Stretch during or after your workouts, at the end of your day, or anytime you’re feeling the need to sit and stand taller with less muscle stress. If you watch your animals, cats and dogs stretch every time they get up. How often are you stretching? Take just a moment every now and then throughout your day to stretch and it will go a long way to keeping your body flexible and fit!
Looking for more Pilates, Health, & Fitness Tips? Check out ALL the video’s I’ve got posted on my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/centerworks