Arm Stretch: The 12 Best Arm Stretches That Will Improve Your Workout

 Written by 

Julien Raby

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Regular stretching is vital whether or not you are an athlete. So, in this article, we are going to tell you why stretching is important for everyone. Also, we are going to provide you with our list of the 12 best arm stretches for better flexibility. Let’s get started.

Arm Anatomy and Functions

The muscles of the arm are a part of the upper limb. So, the muscles of the upper limb are divided into 4 parts according to their anatomical location. The first group is the muscles of the shoulder joint. Then we have the muscles of the arm, muscles of the forearm, and then the muscles of the hand. 

A man doing an arm stretch exercise
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The major muscles of the arm are what we’re going to focus on in this article. And they’re divided into two main groups. We have the Anterior group, which is also called flexor muscles, there are 3 muscles there. And the Posterior group, or the extensor muscles. These are two muscles here in the posterior region. 

The Anterior Group

So let’s do the anterior group first. The first muscle of the anterior group is the brachialis muscle. When this muscle contracts, it pulls the ulna upwards and flexes the lower arm. The next muscle is the coracobrachialis muscle. When the fibers of this muscle contract, it flexes the arm, adducts the arm, and also internally rotates the arm. 

The last muscle of the anterior group is the biceps brachii muscle. It’s called Bi-ceps, so it consists of two parts: a short head and a long head. This muscle is responsible for flexion and supination of the forearm, and also flexion and abduction of the arm. So, that was the three muscles of the flexor group. 

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The Posterior Group

Next, we have the Posterior or extensor group. The first muscle is the anconeus. When it contracts, it pulls the lower arm back to extend it. 

The last muscle is called the triceps brachii. It’s called Triceps, so it has three heads. It has a lateral head and a medial head. These two heads are located deep, next to the bone. The last head is called the long head, and it lies on top of the medial and lateral head. It’s called Long Head because it reaches even further than the other two. 

All three parts of the triceps brachii are going to unite and insert at the olecranon of the ulna. And the function of this muscle is to extend the forearm. As well as extend and adduct the arm.

A woman doing specific arm stretches outside
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Why Stretch Your Arms: Benefits of Stretching the Arms

1. Increased Flexibility

Many studies show that stretching improves flexibility. Better flexibility makes it easier for you to perform everyday tasks like taking something out of a high cupboard. Your body will be able to withstand more physical stress, and your posture will also improve. Better flexibility also reduces your chances of getting muscle cramps. 

2. Greater Range of Motion 

Different joints permit different levels of movement. The degree of movement depends upon the type of joints and the various tissues around them. Since stretching improves flexibility, it also improves your range of motion at different joints. This means that you can move your joints in different directions without pulling a muscle. 

What’s more, extending your muscles in different directions will also help improve your strength and balance. 

3. Better Strength

Many people believe that stretching is a light exercise, so it cannot improve your strength. This is a myth. When you stretch, you lengthen your muscles and become more flexible. This improved flexibility makes your strength training more effective by improving your range of movement. 

In addition, your muscles get microtears and lactic acid build up when you exercise. Stretching increases nutrient supply to muscles and helps remove waste products. This makes your muscles stronger and healthier. 

4. More Blood Flow to Muscles

Stretching improves circulation throughout your body. It is especially beneficial for heart and kidney health. 

5. Stress Relief

Arm stretches are an essential part of many stress-relief exercises, such as yoga. Yoga combines physical activity with mental discipline. It involves meditation, stretching, regulation of breathing, and physical poses. Yoga helps you slow down and become grounded in today’s fast-paced world. It is an exercise that relaxes both the mind and the body. 

Static and Dynamic Arm Stretches

When you do dynamic stretching exercises before a workout, your heart rate increases, and your body supplies oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. This helps prevent injuries when you start your upper-body workouts.

While dynamic stretching exercises before an exercise are important, static arm stretches during a hard workout are also helpful. Static arm stretching helps relieve tension in tight muscles.

How to Stretch Arms: The 12 Best Ways to Increase Upper-body Flexibility

We’re going to provide you with active upper arm stretches. Basically, you’re going to be using your muscle tissue to actually pull your body into the stretch. 

Biceps Stretches

1. Wall Bicep Stretch

The first muscle we’re going to be aiming to stretch out is the bicep. It is the muscle that flexes the elbow joint. However, the biceps muscle is responsible not only for elbow flexion but also for supination. Therefore, to get a stretch and lengthening through that muscle, you’re going to do the exact opposite movement. So, you’re going to go into extension and pronation.

You’re going to need a wall or a table. Stand against the wall. Raise your hand up to eye level. Your thumb is going to be facing down toward the ground. You’re lengthening your muscle by gently stepping forward. Hold that position for 20-30 seconds and repeat three or four times.

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2. Hands Behind The Back

You are going to clasp your hands behind the back. Press the palms of your hands together if you can and lift them up towards the ceiling. This is a great stretch for the biceps and the front of the tight shoulders. 

If you want more of a stretch, feel free to lean your body forward and bring your arms up toward the ceiling. The more that you lift your arms, the more of a stretch you will get.

3. Stick Bicep Stretch

A lot of people have a lot of tight biceps, so their elbows always stay flexed. Here’s a nice easy way to add some energy to the anterior kinetic chain of the arm and lengthen that. 

Set up with the stick into the base of the wall. When you set up here’s the most important part. Make sure that the arm is in line with the torso or the side of your body. You don’t want it to be in front. 

You are going to push the stick into the wall at about 30 to 40% tension. As you do you automatically start to feel that energy into the front arm line. You are going to maintain that tension as you slowly start to extend the arm down toward the floor. That anterior arm line is now lengthening and adding that kinetic chain energy. 

Hold that position for a few seconds and come back up maintaining that tension into the wall. Make sure you’re not leaning into the wall with your body weight. Imagine if you’re pushing forward into the wall, your mass should actually be going backwards a little bit. 

You are going to do about 3 or 4 reps. Hold the end range at the bottom for a little bit so that way you can get that tissue to actually lengthen and bring that neuromuscular control to that end range position.

Triceps Stretches

4. Overhead Tricep Stretch

The next stretch is going to be an overhead tricep stretch or an overhead shoulder stretch. You are doing one hand at a time. 

You want to lift your left hand over your head and bend your left elbow. Then reach behind yourself and see if you can grab your fingers and hold on to the fingers pulling your arm down your back. If that’s a little bit too intense, take the right hand and pull back on your elbow so that you can create that leverage and pull on your left tricep. 

To do the correct stretch, lift your chest and hold your abdominals in. Continue to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Keep your chin lifted. Hold this for about 30 seconds until you feel a nice pull in that tricep.

Gently release and go to the other side. You want to take the right arm above your head, bend the elbow, and stretch your hand back down towards your left shoulder.

Try to pull your arm back behind you as much as you can so constantly contract those muscles pulling that elbow back behind you as tightly as you possibly can. It’s going to activate your tricep, shoulder, rhomboid, and trapezius. But this is primarily focused on your tricep muscle.

This common shoulder stretch is a good way to increase flexibility by using your own muscle tissue without increasing the flexibility to the point where you can no longer control it. So you only get as flexible as your body can control. Just keep holding it and squeezing that arm back as tightly as you possibly can. 

Contract your bicep to pull your hand down to your shoulder nice and tight to stretch your tricep. Use your trapezius muscles as well as your rhomboid muscles to pull your elbow back behind you to stretch your shoulder joint. 

Just hold it back and keep breathing nice and normal. Keep your lungs open just constantly trying to pull that arm back more and more every single second. 

As you hold it, your muscles should actually be able to loosen up some of your tendons to give a little bit more range of motion. As you gain that range of motion, just pull a little bit harder with your muscles.

Do this comfortable stretch for one minute. Then have 30 seconds to rest and move into the next stretch.

5. Overhead Tricep Stretch With a Towel

The previous stretch may be a bit stronger if you grab a towel. You are going to hang it over the back and pull it down and through. You should be getting a stretch all the way up through the back side of your arm. Hold it for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times. Make sure you’re not dropping your elbow out.

6. Wall Tricep Stretch 

It stretches not only the triceps but also the subscapularis and the lat muscle. These muscles restrict your shoulder motion if they get sore and tight. It causes you to overuse your wrist and your elbow. 

You’re going to go to a wall and put your tricep muscle flat against it with your elbow bent. To feel that stretch in your tricep and the back of your shoulder, you want to move your body as close to the wall as possible. 

Holding for one minute each time, you’re going to do 2-3 sets. You can do this tricep stretch twice a day. Make sure there is no tingling or numbness into the hand.

Forearm and Wrist Stretches

The forearm muscles are grouped into two separate groups: forearm flexors and extensors. The flexors come off and insert onto the inside of your elbow. And the extensors are on the back side coming to the outside portion of your elbow. So, generally, you can do a stretch just with both arms.

7. Forearm Extensor Stretch

The next stretch we’re going to show you is a forearm extensor stretch. The extensors and flexors in your forearm may get overused in the gym, or from computer use. This also may put some pressure on your elbow. 

So for this stretch, you’re going to put your arm straight in front of you with your palm facing down and your elbow locked out. Grab your fingers. You’re going to pull them towards the floor. Hold this stretch for about 20 seconds. You want to feel a nice stretch in the extensors.

8. Forearm Flexor Stretch

Now, let’s do the flexor stretch. You’re going to put your arm into the same position straight up in front of your body. Flip your palm up and pull your fingers down. Stretch your hand down towards the ground. Hold this forearm stretch for 20 seconds. 

Try to stretch your fingers back down towards your body as much as you can. Keep your hand open as wide as you can. Try to stretch your thumb muscles as well. You should feel stretching in your flexor muscles. You can do this exercise twice a day.

9. Table Forearm Flexor Stretch

You can also make the previous stretch slightly stronger by using a table and using your body weight. You are going to stand with the palms of your hands flat on a table, fingers pointing towards your body, and elbows straight. Lean towards the table until a gentle stretch is felt in the forearm. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times twice per day.

10. Table Forearm Extensor Stretch

You are going to apply gentle downward pressure to create a stretch on the outside of your forearm. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 repetitions twice per day.

11. Wall Standing Stretch

Starting Position: stand facing a wall with your palms facing up and arms outstretched. Place your fingers on the wall pointing downwards. While keeping your elbows straight, slowly try to place your whole palm flat on the wall.

12. Wrist Eccentric Stretch With Dumbbells

The next stretch we’re going to show you is a wrist eccentric stretch with dumbbells. The extensors, or the muscles on the back of the forearm, may get weak, tired, and overused from repetitive motions. It may put some tension on the elbow. Therefore, you’re going to strengthen your tendon so it can handle the work you put it through.

To do this, you need to grab either a 2-pound dumbbell or a can of food. You want to put your arm straight in front of you. Grab that weight. You’re going to help with the other hand lifting your wrist up toward the ceiling. Then pulling your wrist down towards the floor you’re going to slowly resist the dumbbell and gravity. 

And then again, you want to assist with the other hand and pull your wrist up towards the ceiling. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 6 reps working up to 4 sets of 8. You can do this twice a day.

If there’s any pain or this wrist stretch becomes too difficult, you can do the same exercise with your elbow bent at your side. With the other hand, you are going to pull your wrist up letting it slowly drop.

Our Tips for Arm Stretches

1. Warm Up

Stretching is most effective when you warm up the muscles by performing light cardiovascular exercise.

2. Relax

After the tissues are warm, the muscle being stretched must be relaxed. All voluntary and reflex muscle resistance must be eliminated. 

3. No Bouncing

You want to hold your stretch with constant steady pressure avoiding ballistic or bouncing and tugging movements. Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds and perform it 1-3 times.

4. Gradually Release

At the completion of the stretch, gradually release the stretch force as you return to a relaxed position. 

5. Maintain a Good Body Position

Lastly, maintain proper body mechanics so you don’t injure the surrounding muscles or joints.

A man doing specific arm stretches at the gym
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Common Mistakes

Let’s talk about some common stretching mistakes that you might be doing during your flexibility training. 

It is obvious that if you don’t perform your exercises in a correct way, you will end up hurting your muscles and nothing else. If you are aware of these common mistakes, it’s very good for you. But if you’re a beginner, you should check out all these mistakes and try to amend them. 

1. Not Warming Up

The first common mistake made by people is that they generally don’t warm up before performing the stretching exercises. No matter whether you’re a beginner or an expert at stretching, you should warm up before performing the arms stretches.

Stretching warm-up will help you to raise your body’s core temperature to make your muscles more flexible. It also improves blood flow to the connective tissue and muscles.  Your warm-up should be accompanied by dynamic as well as static arm exercises. 

2. Holding Your Breath While Stretching

You might have seen many people who will recommend you to hold your breath while stretching. Actually, you should not do that because conscious breathing makes stretching more effective. 

A lot of people involuntarily hold their breath while stretching. It can cause muscles to become resistant and tense. Also, it may happen that you may feel dizziness in your head. So, it’s not advisable to hold your breath while stretching.

Arm Stretches: FAQs

What are some arm stretches?

Basic arm muscle stretches are movements that expand the arm muscles and joints. For example, wall bicep stretch, stick bicep stretch, overhead tricep stretch with a towel, or table forearm extensor stretch.

Is it good to stretch your arms?

Arm stretching allows you to move your joint a little bit more efficiently as well as burns a few extra calories. 

What are the best stretches for arm pain?

Table forearm flexor stretch, wall tricep stretch, and wall bicep stretch are the best basic stretches for arm pain and sore muscles. Talk to your physical therapist if you are not sure how to do these exercises.

What do arm stretches help with?

Arm stretches are great for opening up your back, lengthening your biceps, reducing muscle soreness, relieving muscle tightness, and creating more flexibility in your arms.

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About

Julien Raby is the owner of BoxLife. He owns a bachelor in literature and a certificate in marketing from Concordia. He's Crossfit Level 1 certified and has been involved in Crossfit since 2010. In 2023 he finally made it to Crossfit Open Quarterfinals for the first time. LinkedIn Instagram Facebook

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