Stretching & Myofascial Release for Tight Pecs
In aerial arts and pole there is no denying we use our pecs and then some. The pectoral muscles are easily overdeveloped and frequently get tight. Many of us in aerial arts know the pain of having large pecs. The pecs are composed of the pectoralis major and minor, they tie in with other muscles of course, but lets focus on the pecs. This group of muscles fans out from the sternum to the shoulder and eventually meet the bicep. Every pull-up we do, we engage the chest. If the pecs get overdeveloped they shorten and pull the shoulders forward.
How can you tell if you have over developed pecs?
This describes the shoulders rolled inward and forward stance of half the people who body build or lift heavy, many aerialist and lots the girls who pole dance. Ironic that we end up all looking the same.
Pain in the Bicep
The pecs connect into the biceps and sometimes if the pec is too tight, aka too shortened it will pull on the bicep muscle. Pain will radiate up the bicep into the shoulder and chest, it does not feel great.
Pain in the Shoulders, Upper Back and Neck
The shortened pec can pull the shoulders inward and down and may cause pain in the upper shoulders and back. Some people find they also get soreness in the neck.
What Can We Do to Fix It?
Do corrective weight lifting
The important thing to realize is that muscles imbalances can be corrected. You can stretch all you want but if you do not correct the imbalance by building the opposing muscle groups, the stretching will not help you. The average gym goer needs lat work, but the training aerialist can get lat work from their apparatus. Very simply put aerialists need to do rows. Every weight lifting session should include rows, you may need more in the beginning to correct the imbalanced rhomboids and traps. Check out the post on corrective exercises. We usually also need corrective shoulder work, check out our Post on shoulder work.
Self Myofascial Release
Using a tennis ball or lacrosse ball you can roll out the tightness in the pecs. You can use a wall or roll out on the floor, the floor is pretty intense FYI. Begin at the point of origin ( the sternum) and roll slowly outward to the shoulder (the insertion point). During myofacisal release we do not want to roll over joints, stop before the joint. If you need a few lighter releasing rolls first that is fine, then you want to roll the ball slowly, if you find a tight spot, hold the ball there until the pressure eases. This may be 30 to 90 seconds. Then slowly continuing rolling toward the shoulder connector stopping at any tight spots to release. Let the pressure be strong enough to feel the tight spots but not so strong you in pain.
The push-up and pull-up are awesome exercises and most of the population should be doing them. If you are training aerial arts or pole three times a week or more you should not being doing either. Tight pecs and lats will pull on underdeveloped rhomboids, traps and levator scapulae ( in the neck). Pain may also crop in the biceps and shoulder connectors.
Chest opener with the pole.
Chest opener Dynamic Series