Both Sexes Take Care The Kneeling Chest Stretch

The official names for the muscles of your chest are pectoralis major and pectoralis minor — more commonly known as the pecs (pectoralis is pronounced pek-tuh-ral-is). Whether you exercise regularly or you're a perfect couch potato, if you don't stretch these muscles regularly, they can tighten and shorten, which cause your shoulders to round forward.

Most people already have weak upper back muscles, and this constant pulling from tight pecs weakens your back muscles even further, creating even more of an imbalance between your chest and upper back muscles. The end result is rounded shoulders and poor posture (and your mother shouting at you to stop slouching!).

The following stretch is designed to help increase the range of motion in your shoulders by lengthening and stretching the pectoralis major. To do this stretch, follow these steps:

1. Kneel on a carpeted floor or mat with your forearms crossed and resting on the seat of a sturdy chair (see Figure 4-11a).

2. Breathe in and as you exhale let your head and chest sink below the chair seat (see Figure 4-11b).

3. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and feel your shoulders and upper chest stretch, while you use deep breathing to help you sink gradually deeper into the stretch.

Figure 4-11:

Kneeling chest stretch.

Figure 4-11:

Kneeling chest stretch.

A few do's and don'ts for this stretch:

l Do start the stretch in the comfort zone and gradually progress into a deep stretch. l Do avoid arching or rounding your back. l Don't allow your pelvis to tilt back or tuck under.

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