8 Stretches for Pectus Excavatum that Helped Me the Most

Evidence Based This post has medical citations

Pectus Excavatum Stretching

There is a scientific publication about the benefits of stretching and strengthening to improve the pectus excavatum deformity. Over the years, a lot of patients were clinically examined to benefit from this non-surgical treatment method.

Even though stretching is proven to work in the short-term, it is still undiscovered how effective it would be in the long-term. In this article, I will write about the most effective stretches that can pull the concave breastbone outward.

I have achieved impressive results by doing them. The biggest concern of people suffering from pectus excavatum is how stretching and exercising can pull the indented sternum outward.

How Stretching Can Pull the Chest Out

Most people suffering from pectus excavatum are sceptical about the non-surgical correction of the deformity. Their biggest concern is how stretching and exercising can pull the indented sternum outward. 

Inspiratory Muscles

You must be aware that there is a set of muscles that help in pulling out the chest. They are called the inspiratory muscles (muscles that activate when a person is inhaling). They include:

  • Scalenus anterior
  • Scalenus medius
  • Sternocleidomastoid
  • Serratus anterior
  • Pectoralis minor

These muscles activate in the process of forced inhalation. This is a type of breathing that happens during exercising. While there is forced breathing, inhalation and exhalation both occur because of muscular contractions.

Can they Pull the Sunken Sternum?

The intercostal muscles (the muscles that are located between the ribs), can elevate the chest wall, only when the first ribs are fixed and raised.

Nevertheless, these muscles can’t pull the lower part of the breastbone, which is associated with pectus excavatum. Their pulling effect is restricted and can affect only the upper part of the chest wall.

Principle of Reversal of Muscle Action

There is some good news. If the arms are supported by grabbing an object, the pectoralis major muscles can elevate the sunken chest wall, because of their sternal origin.

When the arms are settled in an upwardly stretched position, the chest wall can be forcibly pulled throughout the muscle contraction.

The principle of “Reversal Of Muscle Action” is implemented. The path of pull, starting from the fixed arms, on to the sternocostal fibres of the major pectoral muscle, works amazingly on the sunken chest.

When the pectoralis major muscle is half-stretched, it activates a maximal number of fibres to generate a strong pulling force. The stretches I will show you below work based upon these principles.

If you combine these stretches with bodybuilding exercises created explicitly for repairing pectus excavatum, you will get an incredible muscular body with a less noticeable dent.


The principle of “Reversal of Muscle Action” has the power to pull the inverted chest outward. That can be achieved by implementing stretching techniques in your daily routine.

4 Steps Stretching Will Improve the Looks of Your Chest

exercise for breastbone flexiblity

If you do the stretches that I will mention below, you will benefit in 4 ways. Your pectus excavatum deformity and overall upper body appearance will be improved.

You will be amazed at how appealing your body will become just by utilizing some simple stretching exercises. You won’t be afraid to take off your shirt at the pool parties or the beach anymore. Your self-assurance will improve drastically.

  • Increase the flexibility of your chest wall and spine, through special stretching exercises
  • Stretch the stiff and shortened muscles that are restricting your natural breathing patterns
  • Strengthen the musculature that is meant to elevate and expand the sunken chest
  • Improve your pectus posture once and for all

The stretching will help you mobilize your tight joints and lengthen the shortened soft tissue around the sunken chest. This will lower the electrical impedance of muscle tissue, while the inverted chest is being elevated.

Do them as Warm-UP Before Exercising

If you have the time, you should do the stretches as a warm-up before doing more strenuous physical exercises. It will be ideal if you do them before doing a bodybuilding workout program.

For optimal results, the stretches should be done in combination with the exercises shown in the program above. That will help you strengthen the inspiratory muscles which are required to elevate the funnel chest.

The bodybuilding exercises in the program give special attention to the pectoralis major muscle, especially the sternocostal fibres. You must continue performing the stretches and exercises even after you see improvement in your chest wall appearance.


The stretches for pectus excavatum will improve your overall body functioning. They will help you loosen up the tight muscles in the chest that are worsening your deformity.

8 Stretches that Helped me The Most

Forward Arm Stretching In Prone Kneeling Position

You can perform this stretch by going in a prone kneeling position, with your arms forward, fixed on a chair. Gradually lower your upper body down to the floor, while keeping your arms straight, and fully extended. You will mostly feel the stretch in your shoulders, chest, and armpits.

This exercise is similar to the downward-facing dog in yoga.

  • Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds. Then, rest about 15 seconds. This resembles one set.
  • Try to get ten sets in the morning, and ten sets in the evening, before going to sleep.
  • This will result in a total of 600 seconds in a stretched-out position.

The goal of this is to stretch all anterior chest wall muscles, which are tight because of the pectus excavatum deformity. It will also help you lengthen your upper back.

This stretch will help you perform the overhead press without any pain in the shoulders. After some time, you’ll finally be able to fully extend the barbell or dumbbells over your head.

Standing Twist

Stand next to a wall. Put the arm that is closest to the wall, upon it. Put it higher than shoulder level. Then, slowly rotate your body away from your arm, to the point when you feel a gentle stretch.

You will feel the stretch in your anterior shoulders and the muscles of the upper chest wall.

  • Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Rest 15 seconds. This is one set.
  • Repeat this 20 times during the day.

This body rotation exercise will increase the range of motion in your thoracic vertebrae. It will also stretch the tight muscles, ligaments, and joints around the chest cavity.

They will stretch in all directions. If you haven’t played sports, your body probably isn’t used to this kind of movement. It is essential to start it slowly and progress gradually.

You’ll feel pleasurable sensation in your upper chest and shoulders. This exercise is terrific as a warm-up before doing workouts in which you’ll do a lot of pulling. When I first started going to the gym, I had trouble developing my back muscles.

Great Exercise for Back Activation

Back in the days, I felt the dumbbell rows and pull-ups only in my shoulders. My back musculature wasn’t developing as well as my shoulders and chest muscles.

Then, I searched across the internet for a solution. I found this Elliott Hulse video that explains why you must stretch the tight frontal musculature of your chest, before doing any back workouts.

In the video, he recommends this stretch. I tried it before my workout and felt the exercises just where they are supposed to be felt, in my back.

After that workout, I was very sore the next day, because these muscles couldn’t be activated when my chest was tight. After all, the tightness of my chest and arms were restraining the movement.

This stretch must be mandatory for all pectus excavatum patients who have poor posture and tightness in the frontal body musculature.

Sitting Bend to the Side

Begin this stretch sitting comfortably on a chair with both of your hands on either side. Lift your left arm to the ceiling, while standing upright.

Then, slowly bend your trunk and extend your arm over your head to the other side. If you want to add intensity to this stretch, you can get a full breath and hold it in. Then after 5 seconds, you can slowly exhale it, and get another breath in.

  • Just like the previous two, hold the stretch for about 30 seconds. Rest 15 seconds.
  • Repeat the same for the other hand.
  • In a day, aim to perform ten stretches with your left arm and 10 with your right.

The side bend is usually the least practised stretch. This is unfortunate because this will help you stretch and strengthen the muscles in your obliques, abs, ribs, and spine.

Your breath will also become lighter because you’ll stretch the muscles that are “blocking” your ability to inhale fully. For the next stretches, you will need minimal equipment.

You can get these from any sporting goods store, department store, Walmart, etc. I purchased mine from Amazon, and they were delivered to my house in a few days.

These items are very cheap, and you can have them in your house to help you with your daily pectus excavatum stretching routine.

Exercise Ball Stretch

chest stretching exercise

Lean back on an exercise ball and lower both of your arms above your head. Then, circularly move your arms, just like when you used to do a snow angel in the snow when you were a kid.

The only difference is that you should move the arms slowly, so you feel the stretch all around your chest and shoulders. This movement will feel amazing on your body.

The point of this exercise is to ease into the stretch. There is no point in rushing or straining. Simply allow your body weight to stretch out the musculature around your sunken breastbone.

Breathe deep and aim to fully expand your chest, while holding the breath in for about 5 seconds. Relax your hips and head.

  • Aim to stretch yourself for about 60 seconds. Then, rest 30 seconds.
  • Repeat until you do five sets.
  • Aim for a total of 300 seconds in an exercise ball stretched out position in a day.

This will help you expand the tightness of your sunken chest and ribcage. Laying on the ball will naturally arch your chest. Elliott Hulse uses a similar stretching exercise, which he calls “Bioenergetic release on a stool”.

The only difference is that he focuses entirely on the breath while stretching his body on a seat, in a similar fashion. You can check out his video here.

Advanced Exercise Ball Stretch

You can increase the intensity of the Exercise Ball stretch by grabbing 2-pound dumbbells. Even though it may sound silly, it will provide enough resistance to stretch out and strengthen the muscles around the funnel chest area.

You don’t want heavier dumbbells because you don’t want to create a lot of tension around the sternum. The purpose of this exercise isn’t for it to be intense.

It needs to be a light exercise that you can do daily. Frequency is the most important thing when it comes to this exercise. Gradually work on expanding and strengthening the chest daily. You’ll also be at risk of pulling or even tearing a muscle.

Shoulder Dislocations

This is a stretching exercise that helps with your overall shoulder mobility. It stretches the tight musculature around your chest and flared ribs.

It will help you with the pressing movements you’ll need to do in the gym to strengthen the upper body musculature. If you’re feeling shoulder and chest pain while you’re bench pressing and overhead pressing, this is the best exercise for you.

To help you with the pectus excavatum deformity, I will recommend you do a slight variation of the exercise. In addition to the stretching benefit, this will also strengthen the weak postural muscles.

To start the exercise, you need to lay on your stomach, with the resistance band right in front of you. Then, lengthen your legs, with the feet pointed down on the floor.

Squeeze your quads and glutes. This may seem like a pointless point, but it will help you prevent lower back pain and hyperextension in your lower back while performing the exercise.

Grab the resistance band with an overhand grip. Then, bring it up, and around in a circular motion, until it touches your glutes. You’ll notice the thoracic extension (your chest needs to stay up to bring the band all the way around).

If you had the slouched over posture while doing this stretch, you wouldn’t be able to bring the band to the glutes.

This stretch will force you in a thoracic extension, which will stretch your tight chest, lats, and biceps, and strengthen the back muscles (rhomboids, rear delts, trapezius). Perform 15 repetitions of this exercise for three sets, every day.

You’ll notice how much your bench press and the overhead press will improve after implementing this movement.

Upward Facing Dog / Cobra Stretch

This is a fantastic stretch for your entire chest and abdominal musculature. The best advice I received for this stretch was to push my shoulder blades back to open my concave sternum out.

Ever since I did that, I felt the stretch around my dent. While you’re stretching during this exercise, you’ll feel like your concave chest is being fixed.

This is primarily used in yoga workouts. It is excellent for the pectus excavatum sufferers who have an office job, and tend to spend their days over a desk.Just like in the previous exercise, focus on squeezing your glutes.

That’ll prevent any chances of a lower back injury. To perform it, lay down with your hands underneath your shoulders, just like in a push-up position.

Take a deep breath, fully extend your arms, and elevate your upper body from the floor. Keep the hips down on the floor.

Tilt your head back, squeeze the shoulder blades together, and lift through your concave breastbone.

  • Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds.
  • If it feels good, and you don’t feel any pain in the lower back or chest, you can extend the duration until you feel uncomfortable.
  • Repeat this three times throughout the day.

Pec Minor Stretch

Put the front side of your shoulder against a wall (a door jamb or a squat cage would be ideal). Retract your shoulders blades back together.

This is important because it will eliminate the protraction action of your shoulders. Slide your arm up the wall, jamb or squat rack.

That will create an upper rotation of the scapula, which is extremely important for us, pectus excavatum sufferers. If you do this, you’ll feel a stretch in your pec minor that you’ve probably never felt before. Hold this position for at least 60 seconds.

Stretching Isn’t Quick Fix

If you do the stretches I listed above, you’ll definitely see an improvement in your deformity over several weeks, months or a year. This isn’t a quick fix solution.

You can’t just stretch once and get the deformity corrected. It is a slow and steady process that is worth it in the end. You’ll require to stretch daily, or at least every other day, so you get that frequency I talked about.

This process also teaches discipline, that you can transfer to other areas in your life, for example, your business, family, reading, etc.

Powerful Quote About Discipline

As the late rapper, Nipsey Hussle said, Instead of trying to build a brick wall at once, try to lay a brick every single day. In about a year, you’ll look up and see a brick wall.

Have faith in the stretches and exercises you’re about to do. Never take no as an answer. They are scientifically proven to work on many pectus excavatum sufferers.

There are tons of success stories of patients who fixed their deformity without undergoing a surgical procedure.


Improving your  deformity with stretching takes discipline. You won’t notice the results overnight. You must make pectus excavatum stretching a habit.

Stretching Benefits for Pectus

If you have pectus excavatum, you probably suffer from poor posture.Characteristics for this are hunched shoulders, unusual curvature of the upper back (kyphosis), anterior pelvic tilt (this forces your spine to curve) and forward head posture.

This will further worsen your bodily appearance by emphasizing your concave chest. Proper corrective stretching exercises will help you improve this. However, stretching is not enough.

You’ll Be conscious About Your Poor Posture

You also need to focus on how you carry yourself throughout the day. You must be constantly aware of your posture while you’re walking, running, exercising, laying, sitting, etc.

After some time, you’ll be able to recognize the exact point when you round your shoulders over, or when you tilt your head forward.

Mental awareness of your posture will also help you improve the deformity faster. Keeping your body upright and sturdy while you’re walking, has the potential to change the way others perceive you.

You’ll look very confident, which at the end of the day will help you with the psychological problems associated with the condition.


Stretching will help you correct your pectus posture. That will make you walk upright, with a good posture, which will increase your self-confidence.

Hold a Stretch If It Feels Tight

The stretches, as mentioned earlier, are proven to help you correct the funnel chest deformity and all other problems with the posture.

Keep in mind that the postural problems are all caused by different factors. Some may spend a lot of time at their desk; others tend to practice improper posture while performing bodybuilding exercises, etc.

However, all of you need to perform the above-mentioned stretches to correct pectus excavatum. Some may need to hold a particular stretch more than other stretches.

Listen to Your Body

If you feel tight and uncomfortable during the stretch, that is a sign that you need to focus on that particular pose more. That’s your body telling you where you need to improve, and what causes your postural problems.

That is why I involved many different exercises in this stretching routine, with a focus to release all possible muscular tensions in your body. Try all stretches, and spend more time on those where you feel uncomfortable.

Focus on Stretching for a Year

Frequency is the most crucial thing if you’re willing to change your chest structure permanently. Stick to this stretching program for about a year.

Don’t focus on what workout program other people are doing. They’re doing what is best for them.

What is best for you is to correct the unattractive dent that forces you to slump your shoulders, and make you look like a weak, unconfident person.

You will do this by stretching frequently and doing the right exercises for pectus excavatum.


The moment you feel extreme tightness in a particular stretch, please hold that position. Don’t hop to another stretch. The tightness is a sign that you have muscular restriction that affects your chest.

Importance of Stretching Pecs

Serious problems can occur when your pectoralis minor and major get tight. Their flexibility is essential if you want to maintain a healthy upper body while you’re doing the pectus excavatum exercises at the gym.

Don’t Let it Ruin Your Posture

The tightness of these muscles can ruin your shoulders. Stretching these muscles will also help you improve your pectus excavatum deformity.

When they get tight, your shoulders will rotate internally, which will cause rounded shoulders and poor posture. That will worsen your condition.

Don’t Ignore the Pectoralis Minor Muscle

Stretching the pec minor is usually ignored. That is why we must pay special attention on how to stretch this muscle. If this is tight, you’ll get an anterior tilt of the scapula. Your shoulders will be forced to go down, and toward your chest.

If this happens, you won’t be able to properly activate your back muscles when you’re trying to correct your pectus posture, which as you may already know, is crucial in correcting the deformity.

You’ll also struggle to extend your arms above your head thoroughly. That can mess up your shoulders, which will slow down the non-surgical treatment correction process.


When the pec minor and major get tight, you will probably have rounded shoulders, poor posture and shoulder pain.

Who will benefit the most from these stretches

Generally, these stretches will help anyone, regardless of age. If you’re physically inactive, and your whole musculature is tight, I recommend you start with yoga for about 30 days.

That will help you loosen up your body. Don’t worry about motivation. You’ll fall in love with the peaceful yoga movements that will make you feel great after your workout.

Also, if you’re still playing sports or going to the gym, please don’t use it as an excuse for being active. I’ve seen a lot of athletes still suffering from poor posture.

If you want to correct your funnel chest deformity, you should still do your homework, and in our case, that is stretching.


Anyone can benefit from these stretches. People who are the very tight in their chest area will notice the benefits the quickest.

Tips for Parents

Some kids who suffer from pectus excavatum, can’t perform the stretches mentioned above. However, it is critically important for those kids to start stretching and strengthening the postural muscles from an early age.

The stretching exercises should be kept within your kid’s physical limits. You can modify the parameters of the stretches, based on your kid’s capabilities.

Consult with a Doctor

If you’re unsure about this, you can always consult with doctors, paediatricians or physiotherapists about this.

You can help your kids passively stretch their arms and legs, in a similar motion like the stretches I previously mentioned. Also, swimming can benefit them greatly.

The freestyle and backstroke swim technique will both lengthen and strengthen their musculature in the chest and back. After a month or two of training, they would be physically able to do the stretches by themselves.

It is scientifically proven that the bone structure can be reshaped more efficiently when the patient is under 25 years of age. The same rule applies to the malformed bones caused by the pectus excavatum deformity.

The optimal age to correct the condition non-surgically is childhood.


If your kid has trouble performing the stretches, you can help. After a few weeks, the kid will get used to the movements and can perform them by itself.


Here’s the bottom line. Whether you have a minor, or a severe case of pectus excavatum, stretching will do wonders for your deformity.

Don’t ever let the deformity make you self-conscious. It can’t define you as a person. Other than your chest, don’t forget to develop the rest of your body. That will take the attention away from your dent.

Every single person on this planet has something that holds them back. For you, the problem is probably in your chest appearance. Use it as a motivation.

Use the deformity to build a better and more structurally healthy body than the rest who used to make fun of you. Forget about doing only bodybuilding exercises.

That alone won’t help you correct the deformity. Stretching is just as important. When you combine the two, you’ll notice a fantastic improvement in your anterior chest wall.

Last but not least, you must execute the stretches correctly. The only way to do this is to try them. Your body will sense if you’re doing something wrong. I can’t stress that enough.


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