The triceps brachii is the muscle that makes up the back of your upper arms. Its primary function is elbow extension (straightening the arm).
Though most people only care about strengthening their muscles, introducing some tricep stretches can improve your mobility, training performance, and health.
The good news is that stretching the triceps isn’t challenging, complex, or time-consuming, and the benefits are tremendous.
Why Do My Triceps Feel Tight?
One reason for experiencing tightness in the tricep could be tendonitis: inflammation of the tricep tendon (the connective tissue that attaches the muscle to the elbow joint). People with tendonitis often experience pain around their elbows, especially when moving.
A more common cause of tight and sore arm muscles is resistance training. Activities like lifting weights cause fiber damage and metabolic stress––the accumulation of metabolic by-products like ions, phosphate, lactic acid, etc. (1, 2). Muscle damage and metabolic stress can create the sensation of stiffness in a specific area of your body.
Muscle soreness is often the result of exercise-induced tissue damage and temporary metabolic disruptions in the muscles you train.
Including tricep stretches in your exercise program is a beneficial way to release muscle tightness, possibly speed up recovery, and reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Research shows that static stretching promotes blood flow to our muscles (3). As a result, more oxygen and nutrients can travel to the affected area, promoting recovery. Additionally, improved blood flow to your triceps can help you flush out metabolic waste more quickly and experience relief.
If you are looking for some killer tricep workouts, try Incredible Tricep Dumbbell Workouts to Grow the Back of Your Arms or 2 Beginner Upper Body Workouts and 12 Essential Exercises
5 of the Best Tricep Stretches You Can Start Doing Right Now
Here are five tricep stretches you can start doing today. Each of these activities will stretch your triceps through an extended range of motion, and you should experiment will all five to determine which ones feel best for you.
The best tricep stretch will be one that allows you to lengthen the muscle effectively without causing any pain.
Pick a couple of stretching exercises and perform them at the end of your workout. Plan your tricep workout and log your stretches with the Hevy Workout Tracker.
1. Overhead Triceps Stretch
The overhead triceps stretch is a simple activity you can do almost anywhere to alleviate tight muscles.
Perform the tricep stretch standing or seated after you finish a workout.
- Stand tall and extend your right arm to the ceiling.
- Bend your right elbow, positioning your forearm behind your head.
- Place your left hand over your right elbow and gently pull back and down. You should feel a stretch in your right tricep.
- Hold for 30 seconds and release.
- Lift your left arm overhead, place your right hand on your left elbow, bend your arm, pull, and hold the same stretch for at least 30 seconds.
2. Cross-Body Stretch
The second on our list of arm stretches is also a practical exercise, doesn’t require any equipment, and you can do it standing or seated.
Perform these standing or seated.
- Straighten your right arm and bring it to shoulder height.
- Position your right arm across your body.
- Bend your left arm and position the inside of your forearm against your right arm.
- Use your upper body strength to gently pull your right arm in until you feel a stretch in the tricep.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and release.
- Bring your left arm across your body, bend your right elbow, and stretch the tricep in the same way for 30-60 seconds.
3. Overhead Towel Stretch
The overhead towel tricep stretch is similar to the first movement on our list. One difference is that you’re using a towel, which stretches the tricep more deeply.
You can do the movement standing or seated.
- Roll up a towel, grab it with your right hand, and extend the arm straight overhead.
- As you hold one end of the rolled-up towel, bend your right elbow, and position the towel behind your back.
- Bring your left arm behind your body and grab the opposite end of the towel.
- Gently pull the towel with your left hand until you experience a deep triceps stretch.
- Hold the position for 20-30 seconds and release.
- Grab the top of the towel with your left hand, bring your right arm behind your body, hold the opposite end of the towel, slowly pull, and hold the same tricep stretch.
4. Leaning Triceps Stretch
Leaning tricep stretches are a slightly more advanced exercise because the range of motion is greater, which is excellent for lengthening the long head. You also stretch another large muscle in your body: the latissimus dorsi.
You will need a chair, a flat gym bench, or another sturdy object with a flat and hard surface.
- Stand in front of a chair or flat gym bench.
- Get down on your knees and position your upper arms (just over the elbow) at the edge. Have your elbows shoulder-width apart.
- Have your feet shoulder-width apart, keep your neck neutral, and direct your gaze to the floor.
- Inhale and bring your torso down, moving your head as low as possible without straining your back. Your elbows should be the only part of your body in contact with the chair or bench.
- Hold the position for 20-30 seconds. The movement should stretch your triceps and upper back.
5. Tricep Stretch Against a Wall
The wall stretch is another practical exercise for the triceps brachii. Supporting yourself against a wall gives you a stable base to stretch your triceps deeply. Pushing against a wall is also beneficial for stretching the triceps through a full range of motion and focusing on the long head.
- Stand in front of a wall.
- Lift your right arm overhead and bend your elbow.
- Place your right upper arm against the wall.
- Lean your upper body into the arm until you feel a tricep stretch.
- Hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Place your left elbow and upper arm against the wall and perform the same stretch, holding for at least 30 seconds.
Why Stretching Your Triceps is a Good Idea
Tricep stretches some distinct benefits. Let’s take a look:
1. Potential Recovery Benefits
Stretching your triceps can speed up the recovery process. As discussed above, stretching your muscles can improve blood flow to the area, allowing more oxygen and nutrients to enter the tissue and promote recovery (3).
2. Could Reduce Injury Risk
The second notable benefit of stretching your triceps is safety. Any triceps stretch you do will engage the three heads of the muscle, but stretching the long head is particularly beneficial because it originates from the scapula and crosses the shoulder joint (4).
Keeping the long head mobile would contribute to a healthier shoulder range of motion and potentially reduce the injury risk.
What to Avoid and Look for When Stretching Your Triceps
Most tricep stretches are simple to do, take little time, and don’t require any equipment. These activities are beginner-friendly and work as a great cool-down after an upper body workout.
Still, not everyone should stretch their arm muscles to deal with soreness or tightness. For example, if you experience pain in your upper arm or around a joint, stretching likely won’t help. The issue could relate to muscle strain, joint injury, or tendonitis. It’s best to talk with a healthcare professional.
We also DON’T recommend doing a lot of static stretching before training. While the activity offers numerous benefits, pre-workout stretches can reduce your power output and impact your training performance (5).
A much better approach is to leave static stretching after finishing your routine.
Most people focus entirely on strengthening and building up their triceps. There is nothing wrong with that, but you must include tricep stretches in your exercise program because these activities offer several health benefits.
The stretching exercises are easy to learn, don’t require any equipment, and serve as the perfect finisher for your tricep workout or upper body routine.
These five triceps stretches will relieve tension, reduce muscle soreness, and potentially lower your risk of training injuries. Experiment with the tricep stretches to see what feels best, and don’t be afraid to switch them up every once in a while.