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  • Writer's pictureKeep It Moving PT & Wellness

Week 17: PRI Sternal Positional Stretch

Purpose: To open the chest without compromising the lumbar spine, and to promote extension at the level of T1 (first thoracic vertebra)

What It Targets: Stretching of the Anterior Chest Muscles: Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, Intercostals; Expansion of the anterior ribcage; Extension at the first thoracic vertebra (T1)


  1. Lay on your back with your legs supported on an elevated surface, and upper back supported on a 2 inch foam pad or pillow

  2. Your neck should not be supported but should remain in a neutral alignment with about 30 degrees of lordosis

  3. Bring your arms out to the side at shoulder height and let them hang over the foam pad/pillow with palms facing towards the ceiling. You should feel a strong but comfortable stretch through the front of your chest wall

  4. Breathe with intent, in through your nose and sighing long and slow out through your mouth

  5. Pause for 4-6 seconds before each inhale without using your neck to breathe

  6. Hold for up to 5 minutes, or longer if you can tolerate it, while repeating this breath sequence

Main Cues:

  • A strong but comfortable stretch should be felt across your chest and arms

  • You should be as relaxed as possible throughout the entirety of the stretch

  • Breathing should be slow and full but with minimal effort, especially on the inhale

Common Compensations/Adverse Effects:

  • Pain in front of shoulders

Correction: Be sure the palms are facing the ceiling; if pain is still present, rest your palms on a towel roll or yoga block to decrease the range of motion. Slowly decrease size of support as you gain more length in the chest

  • Excessive tension in the neck

Correction: Support your neck with a small towel roll; decrease intensity of breathing slowly and easily, utilizing a sigh during the exhale

  • Pain in hip(s) or low back

Correction: Change the angle of hip flexion by sliding your feet forwards or backwards onto the surface they are resting on; Remove object all together and place feet flat on the table or floor

Why We Love It:

  • Opens and stretches an area that is often compressed due to our tech-driven world and excessive time spent sitting/looking down

  • Inhibits pecs which are often shortened and overused, particularly on the left side

  • Improves breathing mechanics to avoid using accessory muscles in the neck

  • Restores natural curvature of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine

*Disclaimer: Not all exercises are suitable for everyone, and participation in novel activities may increase the risk of adverse effects such as pain, soreness, or injury. Please consult with your Physician or a local Physical Therapist prior to attempting any exercise you feel uncomfortable performing. If adverse reactions occur, discontinue performance of the exercise and consult your physician or trusted clinician for evaluation.


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