Have you ever seen one of those MASSIVE bodybuilders whose chest is so big that they can't reach their own head? I once saw a man scratching his nose on a door frame because he couldn't get his hand to his face.
The shoulder restriction that occurs with super-extreme pecs is pretty obvious, but even mild-moderate pec tightness will decrease the range of motion of the shoulder. That will impacts sports performance, and might lead to chronic, rotator cuff injuries and/or frozen shoulder.
The size and location of the pecs means that it can be difficult to release, but it is possible. There are three effective ways to release the pecs, and you should try all three next time you do any chest exercise.
Dynamic stretching isn't the "reach and hold" type of stretches that you might be familiar with. Dynamic stretches, as the name suggests, involves constant movement. This allows the muscle to stretch while also keeping the joint mobile.
There are a few different dynamic pec stretches you can do, but these are my favourite:
Heavy compression is a kind of stretch, but instead of moving the body into different positions, you use a foam roller or a ball to compress the muscle using gravity and your own body-weight. This compresses a muscle transversely, as opposed to a regular stretch which works longitudinally. Using the two types of stretching together, you can get much better results.
To use a ball on the pecs, stand against a wall with the ball between the wall and the meatiest bit of your chest. Drive your body against the ball and feel the compression through the pecs. (See picture below)
Muscle Energy Technique (MET)
MET is a little more complicated that the previous two releasing techniques. You will need a bed and a light (500g — 2kg) dumbbell/kettlebell. Lie on your back with your whole arm dangling over the edge of the bed. Keep the weight in your hand, and your elbow straight. You should feel a mild stretch through your pec, and it will look like this:
Hold this first position for 3-5sec, then very gently contract your pecs against the resistance of your dumbbell. The contraction should be just strong enough to feel it in your chest, but not strong enough to move the dumbbell. Hold this contracted position for 5sec, then relax the pecs. You should feel your arm drop a little further towards the floor as you relax. Do this 3 times on each side.
If you want more information on mobility, email me directly via the contact page. If you want specific information about your own injury or if you're after treatment for an injury, contact one of my clinics directly to make an appointment. Details of those clinics can be found here.
Dr Mitch Clark