The pectoralis minor muscle is situated on the front of the chest and attaches the scapula to the rib cage. When this muscle becomes chronically tight it can pull the scapula anteriorly, creating a posture where the shoulders are rounded forward. This posture is often seen in rock climbers and tightness of the pec minor muscle has been shown to be a contributing impairment to the development of shoulder impingement syndrome.
Stretching the pectoralis minor (snow angels on a foam roller or stretching in the doorway) seems to be a logical way to lengthen the muscle and restore a normal shoulder posture. But what does the research say about stretching pec minor? A study by Gutierrez-Espinoza and colleagues looked to see if adding pec minor stretching created additional benefit for lengthening the pec minor muscle and reducing pain in people with shoulder impingement syndrome. In the study one group completed a general shoulder/scapular strengthening exercises alone and the other group added pectoralis minor muscle stretching in addition to the general exercise program. The researchers found NO ADDITIONAL BENEFIT of adding pec minor stretching to the general exercise program.
So how do I fix my tight pec muscles?!
Muscular tightness is often caused by weakness of the muscle or motor control deficits which cause the muscle to development of trigger points. This is the most common reason that muscles get stuck in a shortened position, especially for rock climbers. Research shows that more effective ways to lengthen a muscle are:
· Progressive strengthening of the muscle
· Oppositional muscle strengthening
· Trigger point release or other soft tissue massage techniques
Next time you’re at the gym, instead of stretching your pec muscles, try these techniques instead.
Bent Over Row: targets oppositional muscle strength. Due to reciprocal inhibition of the nervous system, activating the scapular retractor muscles causes the pec minor muscle to relax and length. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps, 3 times per week of the Bent Over Row.
Push Up Plus: adding the “plus” portion to a push up targets the pec minor muscle directly. When the muscle is stronger it is less likely to have trigger points, thus improving its resting length. Perform 3 sets of 12 reps, 3 times per week of the Push Up Plus.
Lacrosse Ball Massage: direct pressure to trigger points within the muscle causes them to relax and lengthen. Apply pressure for 30 seconds on a tender spot, then move to the next tender spot and repeat for 3 to 10 minutes, 3-4 times per week.