How to Stretch Out the Muscles of the Chest & Rib Cage


Stretching is often overlooked, but it plays an important role in improving your health, fitness and physical performance. Stretching your chest muscles helps improve your posture, and stretching your rib cage, specifically the intercostal muscles between your ribs, helps increase your lung capacity. Chest and rib cage stretches after exercise prevent tight muscles and reduce risk of injury.

Things You'll Need

  • Exercise mat
  • Stand with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart, and hold your arms to the front at shoulder-height with your palms touching. Keeping your arms straight, move your arms outward to your sides as far as you can, hold the position for a slow count of five, and move your arms back to their starting position. This movement stretches your chest muscles or pectorals. Repeat for five reps.

  • Place your hands behind your head and interlock your fingers. Bring both elbows inward so they are pointing forward with your arms alongside your head, then swing your elbows backward beyond your ears. Hold the position for a slow count of five, then move your elbows inward. Repeat for five reps. Keep your head upright throughout the movement. This stretch focuses on your lower pecs.

  • Place your hands on your hips with your elbows pointing outward. Pull your elbows backward as far as you can and thrust your chest forward. Hold the position for a slow count of five, relax and repeat for five reps. This stretch focuses on your upper pecs.

  • Stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart, place your right hand on your hip and your left arm over your head with elbow bent. Bend to your right and try to touch your right shoulder with your left hand. This stretches the intercostal muscles of your left ribs. Hold for a slow count of five and switch sides to stretch the intercostal muscles of your right ribs. Repeat five times.

  • Lie face down on an exercise mat with your legs and feet together. Place your hands flat on the floor under your shoulders with your elbows to your sides. Press your hips into the floor and inhale as you lift your chest toward the ceiling. Keep your head up and shoulders pulled back. This exercise opens your chest and stretches your front intercostals. Hold the position for a slow count of 10, then relax. Repeat three times.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always warm up before doing stretching exercises. Do a 15- to 20-minute brisk walk, bicycle ride or jump rope to elevate your heart rate, increase blood flow and warm your muscles so they stretch more readily. Perform your stretches in a controlled fashion while breathing slowly and evenly.
  • Don't stretch cold muscles or force your joints beyond their natural range of motion when you stretch. Stop immediately if you feel any pain when stretching.

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