5 Tricep Stretches That'll Loosen Up Your Arm Muscles

Don't forget the muscles on the back of your arms.

The best tricep stretches you can do, according to fitness trainers.

When was the last time you gave your triceps a little love? These muscles on the backs of your arms are one of the areas of the body that often get forgotten (out of sight, out of mind, amirite?). But once you start to give them TLC by way of some stretches, you won’t ever want to skip this part of your routine.

Believe it or not, you use your tricep muscles pretty much constantly throughout the day, says Ellen Thompson, a NASM-certified trainer and head of physical therapy at Blink Fitness. The tricep muscles, which hang out behind your biceps on the back of your arm, engage whenever you reach for things — such as when you sling a bag over your shoulder or push doors open, she says. Because they’re constantly in use, they might start to feel stiff and sore.

This area might also be in need of a stretch after sleeping in an awkward position or following a tough arm workout, according to Thompson. Whatever the source of tension or aches may be, she notes that it’s a good idea to stretch this area on a regular basis to improve your range of motion, decrease your risk of injury, and reduce soreness.

Here’s why stretching these muscles is so important: When they get tight, the triceps start to pull on other areas of your body, like your shoulders and elbows where they’re anchored. “This pulling on the shoulder joint, especially, can restrict joint mobility and lead to discomfort and pain over time,” Thompson explains. Stretching them on a regular basis can prevent pesky issues like these from happening.

Of course, it also just feels really good to do a few stretches to loosen up a bit, especially if you’re feeling stiff. Here, experts share their go-to tricep stretches so you can give them a try.


Tricep SMR

SMR, or self-myofascial release, is a good way to prep your tricep muscles before a stretch session, Thompson says. Here’s how to do it:

- Place a massage ball or foam roller on an elevated surface, like a bench or table.

- Take a seat at the table and fully extend your arm out, placing the tricep muscle on top of the ball or roller.

- Inhale as you brace your core and begin to press your tricep muscle down into the ball or roller.

- Exhale as you slowly guide the ball in a vertical pattern along your tricep muscle.

- This will start to break down bands of tightness, Thompson says.

- Keep rolling for one to two minutes until it feels like all the soreness or points of tightness have been released.


Cow Face Pose

Claire Larson, a registered yoga teacher and nationally certified group fitness instructor, suggests giving this yoga pose a try whenever your arms feel tight. Also called gomukhasana, it allows for a really deep tricep stretch because you’re pulling from your opposite arm, she says.

- Start in a seated or standing position.

- Put your right arm behind your back, bend your elbow, and face your palm out behind you.

- Touch the back of your hand to your mid or upper back.

- Lift your left arm overhead, bend your elbow, and reach your hand down towards the base of your neck or upper back (depending on your range of motion).

- Try to touch your hands together behind your back. Clasp your fingers if possible.

- If you can’t reach, hold onto a towel or strap.

- Hold the stretch for three to five breaths.

- Gently release and switch sides.


Child’s Pose With Tricep Stretch

Larson also recommends doing a child’s pose with an added tricep stretch. Fully relaxing into child’s pose first will allow you to take your time with the tricep stretch, she says, so that you can work out all the tight spots.

- Kneel on a mat.

- Get into an extended child’s pose by opening your knees wide and sitting your hips back and down.

- Bring your big toes together.

- Relax your forehead on the mat and extend your arms out long in front of you.

- Face your palms toward each other and press them together.

- Keep your triceps rooted down on the floor as you bend your elbows to bring your hands back behind your head.

- Try to press your thumbs to the base of your neck.

- Continue to relax the rest of your body.

- Hold the pose for several breaths.


Cross-Body Hug

Mara Kimowitz, a stretch expert and founder of Pliability Stretch™ and StretchSource®, says this stretch will improve the pliability of your triceps and help keep your muscles soft and lengthened. “Improved pliability of the triceps allows the shoulder to move freely without restriction or pain,” she tells Bustle.

- Sit upright with good posture.

- Touch your right hand to your left shoulder.

- Lift your right elbow away from your body while keeping your right hand touching your left shoulder.

- Use your left hand to pull your right elbow across your body towards your left shoulder.

- Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.

- Repeat two times on each side.


Overhead Tricep Stretch

Here’s a tricep stretch you might remember from gym class: the overhead tricep stretch. “This one is especially good for tight triceps because it puts your working shoulder into external rotation, helping to reduce tension through your arm and shoulder,” says Samantha Deutchman, a NASM-certified personal trainer and co-founder of Yoga Strong.

- Stand up straight.

- Extend your left arm straight into the air like you’re touching the sky/ceiling.

- Keeping the elbow still, bend your arm to drop your left hand behind your head, like you’re trying to scratch the back of your neck.

- Take your right hand and gently push your left elbow back and down to increase the intensity of the stretch.

- Breathe as you hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds

- Switch arms and repeat on the other side.

Studies referenced:

Tunwattanapong, P. (2016). The effectiveness of a neck and shoulder stretching exercise program among office workers with neck pain: a randomized controlled trial. Clin Rehabil. doi: 10.1177/0269215515575747.


Ellen Thompson, NASM-certified trainer head of PT at Blink Fitness

Claire Larson, registered yoga teacher, nationally certified group fitness instructor

Mara Kimowitz, stretch expert, founder and creator of Pliability Stretch™ and StretchSource®

Samantha Deutchman, NASM-certified personal trainer, co-founder of Yoga Strong