A Physical Therapist Shows Off 4 Triceps Stretches to Keep Your Arms Loose

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YOUR TRICEPS ARE are mighty muscles—but when your arms are sore or tight, you might need to give them some extra attention by stretching them before you get to any pressing or front racking during your workouts.

Dan Giordano, PT, DPT, C.S.C.S. of Bespoke Treatments, takes us through the best triceps stretches to get our elbows and shoulders feeling loose.

What Is the Triceps Muscle?

The triceps is composed of three distinct muscles: the medial, lateral, and long heads. These three portions come together to create the muscle, which is located on the backside (posterior) of your upper arm. The triceps is the largest muscle on your upper arm—it’s bigger than the biceps.

What Does the Triceps Muscle Do?

The triceps muscle is responsible for all things elbow extension. The long head of the triceps also plays a role in extension of the shoulder, as it latches at the back of your shoulder blade. Because of these functions, the triceps serves as the support team on a lot of lifts, such as chest presses, pushups, and overhead presses. Strengthening this muscle can help improve your other lifts.

Strength is not the only important characteristic of the triceps. Many movements are dependent on mobility through the elbow and shoulder, which ultimately means mobility through the triceps.

Who Can Benefit From Triceps Stretches?

If you’re feeling tight and sore after a long arm day, you could benefit from a stretch session. Stretching will also help your range of motion making other movements and positions, like the front rack, easier.

If you’re big into barbell training, you are likely in the front rack position often. This is the starting position for lifts like front squats and overhead presses, and the ending position for movements like hang cleans. The extension of the elbow and the shoulder in that position are dependent on the mobility of the triceps. If you feel like getting into or holding that position for a period of time is difficult, it’s likely because you’re missing out on some of that mobility. Throw in some wrist mobility exercises and you’ll be front racking without as much discomfort.

What Style of Stretching Should You Do?

Before we get into the stretches, it’s important to understand the reason behind their execution. Stretching is important on both the front and back ends of a workout, but there are fundamental differences depending on where you put it.

Dynamic stretching that you typically see on the front end of a workout is best for promoting blood flow to the area to warm up the muscle before working sets. This kind of stretching means short, quick holds. Static stretching comes at the end of the working sets. These long, steady holds also promote blood flow, but in this case you’ll also help flush out the lactic acid build up created through the workout, which is what causes soreness. Post-workout stretching is the best time to sink deep into stretches to focus on range of motion.

If your goal is to warm up with some dynamic stretching, hold the pose for two to three seconds and alternate sides. If your goal is to cool down and work on mobility post workout, hold for three sets of 30 seconds, Giordano recommends.

4 Best Triceps Stretches

Overhead Triceps Stretch

This is a classic for a reason. This stretch promotes blood flow to all three portions of the tricep.

How to Do It:

  • Lift your hand over your head.
  • Bend the elbow to the point where your hand is flat on your upper back.
  • Use the other arm to push the elbow down and back.

Overhead Triceps Stretch with Towel Assist

If your range of motion with the above stretch is really lacking, adding a towel to the mix can help. If you’re still feeling a restriction through the shoulder blade, try it without a shirt on, or wet the towel to get it to stretch more.

How to Do It:

  • Lift your hand over your head with the towel in hand.
  • Bend the elbow down and back.
  • Use the other hand to grab the bottom of the towel, and pull it downward.

Cross-body Triceps Stretch

If you’re feeling tightness at the top portion of the triceps by the shoulder, this stretch is for you. It also gives a little extra love to the rear deltoid. Remember, only pull to where is comfortable. If it starts to hurt, you’ve gone too far.

How to Do It:

  • Cross your arm across your chest.
  • Put the opposite hand right behind the elbow.
  • Pull the crossed arm in towards the chest.

Overhead Tricep Wall Stretch

This stretch is great for opening up your triceps properly for that front rack position.

How to Do It:

  • Square up against a wall.
  • Put your elbow as high up on the wall as you can. The higher you go, the more of a stretch you’re going to get.
  • Bend the elbow down and back, with the palm facing away from you.
  • Take the other hand to push down on the outward facing palm.
  • Press your weight into the wall through the elbow to feel the stretch.

Remember, if you’re feeling significant pain running through your elbow or shoulder during these stretches, cut the tension down. It is never worth it to stretch through pain, so don’t hesitate to speak to a physical therapist or physician if needed.

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