Use the Hug a Tree Pilates Exercise to Stretch Your Chest

Although Hug a tree isn’t a traditional Pilates mat exercise, it is part of both the Reformer and Cadillac regimen. When this exercise is done on your back, it allows gravity to help you stretch and strengthen your pectoralis major and pectoralis minor as you move your arms.

I use a foam roller for this exercise because I like how it lifts my pelvis, spine, and head off the floor. This allows my shoulder blades to move freely without friction against the mat.

Hug a Tree

  1. Use traditional Pilates breathing.
  2. Come onto your back. If you’re on the foam roller, make sure that you sit all the way at one end of the roller so that, as you lie down, you don’t run out of support. Your pelvis, spine, and head should all be supported by the roller. If your head is off the roller, you can either wiggle your way down so that you’re fully supported; or you can roll off and try again.
  3. If you are on a roller, ground through your feet and use your abdominals to keep you centered.
  4. hug a tree on the foam rollerBring your arms up toward the ceiling with your palms facing each other. Put a soft bend in your elbows so that your finger tips come toward each other and your arms resemble a hoop. Make sure your shoulders are out of your ears and your shoulder blades are in neutral.
  5. Keep your arms stable in this position as you move from the shoulders.
  6. Inhale to let your arms open to the side.
  7. Hug a tree on the foam rollerExhale to bring them back to your starting position.
  8. Do 10 repetitions. Pay particular attention to your shoulder placement throughout this exercise.

If you’re looking for a deeper stretch for the shoulders, make sure that your arms lower below your body’s midline. You don’t have to lose your form to do this, but there may be some changes that naturally happen at the shoulder to accomplish this movement.

For example, I notice that in order for me to get a deeper stretch, my shoulders rotate open. This puts my elbows lower than my wrists when they would normally be in the same plane.

Finding a Foam Roller

If you want to order a foam roller, I recommend the [easyazon_link identifier=”B001UI0C36″ locale=”US” tag=”custpilandyog-20″]OPTP brand foam roller[/easyazon_link]. Their foam rollers are firm and don’t dent or bend easily. It’s crucial for your foam roller to be firm and stay the same shape throughout its use.

Foam rollers are a great tool to elevate your Pilates mat work, but they’re also wonderful self-massage tools. Here’s a link to some foam roller stretches.

Hug a Tree Video

Here is a video for visual learners.

What is another way to stretch and strengthen your pec muscles? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.