Increase upper body strength. Prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and elbow pain. Pec Minor Stretch.

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Life style leads to the shoulders rolling forwards.  In order for the upper body to be strong, the shoulders must be stable and when the shoulders are rolled forwards, the major stabilisers of the shoulder, the lower trapezius, the serratus anterior and the external rotator cuff, cannot fire up properly.  Shoulders rolled forwards also contribute to a stooped posture as we age. They can also lead to carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis or golfers elbow.  When the shoulder rolls forwards, it usually migrates upwards as well1 and we get compression where the upper arm bone joins the shoulder girdle.  Most wrist and elbow problems stem from poor shoulder positioning.  Common activities causing this problem include sitting at a desk working on the computer or writing; driving; pushing buggys; carrying bags in the hands or on one shoulder. So here is a picture of the pec minor:

It attaches to the inside of the shoulder blade and runs down to ribs 3 – 5.  It has 2 actions: to help lift the ribs when breathing in and to pull the shoulder girdle forwards and down.

A quick way to find if you have a problem here is to give yourself a good prod in the upper chest – roughly where you think the muscle may be. If you press in firmly and hold, most people will find some very tender spots, especially on the dominant arm side.  Actually you can keep on pressing and this becomes trigger point therapy – after a few seconds, you may feel the muscle jump which is a sign it is letting go.

So to stretch this muscle using the swiss ball, position yourself as in the video – knelt down, arm bent and the front of shoulder on the swiss ball.

  1. GENTLY roll the shoulder into the swiss ball for 5 seconds – you should feel as if you are rounding the shoulder a bit. This activates the muscle.  Press GENTLY.  Use less pressure than you would expect to.
  2. Relax briefly.  With any luck, the muscle now lets go.
  3. Exhale and drop down a bit, letting the shoulder slightly roll back.  This movement is critical.  We are trying to unroll the shoulder here.
  4. Hopefully you feel a nice stretch down the chest.
  5. Hold for 5 seconds.
  6. Relax again.
  7. Repeat twice more.

If you feel no stretch, it probably means the muscle is extremely tight and is not letting go.  A good massage therapist should be able help loosen it off.

It is a good idea to do this stretch just before activity – be it sports or a gym workout.  Shoulders in a good position means the muscles can contract properly.  Whatever your goal with your upper body, from improving sporting performance, to gaining better muscle mass or definition, to reducing elbow or wrist pain, to just being able to stand up straighter, this is one of the key stretches.

  1. An over tight pec minor most certainly leads to problems with the upper trapezius (trap) as the upper trap is no longer balanced by the lower trap, and rolled forward shoulders also encourage the head to move forwards, further straining the upper traps as they hold the weight of the head []

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