May 06, 2022
Bicep stretches are a great way to help improve mobility and relieve tightness and tension in your arm's forward-facing muscles, or more specifically, the biceps brachii, brachialis and brachioradialis.
These muscles of your anterior arm work in tandem to support elbow flexion, and the biceps brachii (or "biceps" for short) also plays a role in raising the arm up at the shoulders.
Considering these are everyday movements in and out of the gym, it's important that you spend some time stretching your biceps. Most people stretch other big muscle groups, like their hamstrings and quads, but forget to stretch their arms! Not anymore - after reading this post, you'll know exactly when and how to stretch your biceps.
Biceps Brachii: The biceps brachii is a large muscle positioned between the shoulder and the elbow on the front side of the arm. It is comprised of two heads that are simply called the long head and short head. The term "head" just means they have different origin points. Both heads of the biceps originate at the scapula, but at different points. They converge to form a muscle belly (flex your arm and you'll see it) and insert into the same point at the elbow.
The biceps' primary function is flexion and supination of the forearm. In other words, bringing your forearm up by bending at the elbow and rotating your forearm outward.
The biceps also assist in arm movements at the glenohumeral joint (aka shoulder), including raising your arms up, opening your arms to the side, and folding your arms across the body. The short head of the biceps is essential in the stabilization of the scapula too, which allows us to carry some heavy ass weights when the arms are in an extended downward position.
Brachialis: The brachialis is the lesser discussed sibling of the biceps brachii, but nevertheless very important. It originates at the middle part of the humerus and inserts into the elbow. Its main responsibility is elbow flexion. Interestingly, it is the strongest pure flexor of the elbow. Meaning, when your forearm is not supinated (rotated outward), the brachialis is powering much of the movement.
Brachioradialis: The brachioradialis is the largest forearm muscle. It is located on the lateral side of your forearm. It's the one you feel most when doing hammer curls. It is responsible for bending your elbow when your hand is in a pronated position (rotated inward).
Many of the stretches below are based on extending the elbow, which means you will be stretching each of these muscles.
Muscle tightness is not typically a big problem, but it can still be an inconvenience in your everyday life. So what exactly causes tight bicep muscles?
Increased Blood Flow and Inflammation:
To help repair the damage within the neuromuscular system, blood flow to the area increases and creates inflammation and/or swelling within the area. During a challenging workout, you’re causing micro-tears within the muscle fibers and nerves, which leads to delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS for short, a day or two after intense exercise. Don’t worry, as the increase in blood circulation is a good thing in the long run because your blood carries nutrients that assist with regenerating muscle tissue, increasing performance, and overall strength.
Unfortunately, this extra blood flow can also come with some uncomfortable side effects as the inflammation from the additional blood flow pushes on your nerve fibers. These fibers detect pain and are why your muscles can feel so tender after a challenging workout. The pain can prevent you from fully straightening your elbow joint, and when you reach a certain point, the strain against your nerve fibers can be so intense that your brain tells your arm not to straighten anymore.
Over Doing It:
You may feel tightness in your biceps as you’re pushing them past exhaustion. Overworking your muscles increases the odds of being unable to extend your muscles later. If a muscle is pushed past its limits due to repetitive contractions, it can cause neuromuscular injury (sounds worse than it is in this case). This neuromuscular injury can indicate that you went too far, so back off and find a happy medium between working them too hard and not enough.
Trying New Exercises:
If you haven't worked out for an extended period of time or you tried a different type of workout, you may feel more tightness than usual. This tightness is because when you are unaccustomed to the activity, you will experience more muscle breakdown than if it's something you do routinely. It isn't necessarily bad since your muscles have to build themselves up stronger so that the next time you do the same activity, they won't take as much damage. So doing new exercises or starting to work out is excellent for achieving new results, but it comes at the cost of added soreness and tightness.
Muscle tightness is a side effect of the stress on muscles when you exercise. The tightness in your biceps typically starts within 6-8 hours after a change in activity or a new activity and can last up to 24-48 hours after the workout.
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell just how tight your muscles are. Luckily this test is a great way to gauge your tightness:
Test for Tight Biceps:
If your biceps are at a regular length, you should be able to fully extend the elbow. If you feel discomfort within your bicep while lowering your arm, or cannot fully extend your arm, the muscles would be considered tight and need to be stretched out.
This is just a simple test for more chronic symptoms. For most people who workout, you'll know when your biceps are tight as you'll have soreness and likely a limited range of motion at your elbow because it hurts to try to fully extend it.
The biceps can be stretched and it's quite simple. You just need to focus on stretches that are based on elbow extension. Remember, the muscles work to flex the elbow by contracting, so by extending the elbow, you will be lengthening them.
Changing up the placement of your hand (palms in, palms down, palms up, palms out) during stretches will allow you to hone in on the different muscles of the anterior arm we discussed. Some stretches will also be based on movements at the shoulder. These stretches will target various muscles like your chest and deltoids, but also your biceps brachii.
Whether you're sore from an upper-body workout or just want some added flexibility in your arms, making sure to stretch can help limber you up and aid you in reaching your strength goals.
Bicep stretches are body movements that can help prepare you for various activities, from painting your house to doing a few sets of hammer curls at the gym.
So when done correctly, bicep stretches can:
Stretching is a crucial part of living an active lifestyle, playing sports, and working out. There are two main types of stretches: static and dynamic stretches. Static stretches are done by either standing, sitting, or lying still and holding a specific position for a period of time. Dynamic stretches are controlled movements that typically mimic functional and sports-specific movements to prepare your muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues by increasing the muscle's temperature and decreasing muscle stiffness.
So when should you use each one?
Static stretching is performed by putting the body into a position where the muscles can be stretched under tension. Slowly and continuously, the body is moved to increase the tension of the muscles being stretched. When you’re almost uncomfortable, the position should be held to allow the muscles to lengthen and remain under tension. Typically you would hold this position for a minimum of roughly 20 seconds for the muscles to relax and start to lengthen. We don’t recommend holding it for longer than 60 seconds, as the benefits will diminish. Static stretches are a very safe and effective form of stretching with a limited threat of injury and can reduce the risk of injuries. Static stretches are best done post workout when your muscles are already warm, as it can be quite intense. It is the best choice to help the body start the recovery process.
Dynamic stretching uses a soft bounce or swinging motion to move a body part to the limit of its range of movement. The force of the bounce or swing is increased slowly but should never become radical or uncontrolled. Dynamic stretching is typically slow and purposeful. A body part shouldn’t be forced past the joint's normal range of movement at no time. A dynamic warm-up is much more effective than static stretches before exercise, as a dynamic warm-up will focus on full-body movements with multiple muscle groups being worked on simultaneously. This style of stretching should start slowly with gentle activities and then build up with each move to a more high-impact finish. It should take around 5 to 15 minutes to complete before your main workout.
Here are the best stretches for your biceps. You'll notice some of these are better for before workouts (dynamic stretches) and some are better for after your workouts or on off days (static stretches).
1. Standing Wring The Towel:
Wring the towel is a great stretch that helps to loosen your neck, shoulders, and arms all at the same time. This move helps your bicep muscles, fascia, and the nerves that run through your neck into your arms and hands.
2. Behind The Back Bicep Stretch:
Behind the back bicep stretch (rear bicep stretch) is a great stretching exercise that primarily targets the biceps and, to a minor degree, also stretches the chest and shoulders.
3. Wrist Supination & Pronation Stretches:
This stretch can help you rehab after an injury, increase your overall strength, and also help you see improvements in sports and activities that require rotation of the hands, wrists, and forearms. This stretch is also great for getting a slight stretch throughout your biceps.
You could modify the movement by resting the forearm on a table in a seated position.
4. Vertical Arm Stretch:
A vertical arm stretch is a killer movement before and after every workout that helps stretch out the lats, biceps, and forearms.
5. Anterior Arm Stretch Off Wall:
This is a simple but effective exercise that requires a wall to perform. If you feel tightness in your pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, anterior deltoids, and/or biceps, then this is an excellent stretch for you.
6. Seated Shoulder Flexor Depressor Retractor Stretch:
To get the most out of this exercise, refrain from bending the arms and place the hands closer to the hips. This stretch mainly stretches the pecs, anterior deltoids, biceps, and traps.
7. Supinated Hanging Stretch:
This hanging stretch is almost an entire upper body ordeal when done correctly. This stretch should stretch and strengthen the upper back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and forearms.
8. Dead Hang Stretch:
This stretch is just like the supinated hanging stretch but puts less pressure on your wrist and forearms. This stretch should stretch and strengthen the upper back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and forearms.
9. Horizontal Arm Extension:
If you’re looking for a decent bicep stretch that is crazy simple and can be done without any equipment, then you should add this stretch before or after your workout.
A myofascial release is a hands-on approach to managing pain and discomfort. This bodywork technique involves applying pressure to tight or sore areas to get them to relax. The pressure is applied with the hands, elbows, or a massage tool like a foam roller or a rubber ball. You will probably feel sore afterward, but when the soreness subsides, your biceps will feel better and more stretched out.
Benefits of Myofascial Release:
To get you guys on the right track for myofascial release in your biceps, here are some of our favorite stretches with step-by-step instructions on how to do them.
1. Bicep Foam Roll:
2. Bicep Ball Roll:
Your biceps are an incredible set of muscles. They’re responsible for a diverse range of motion. Some people would argue it is the more helpful muscle of your limbs because, without your biceps, you’re losing out on a ton of functionality in your upper body and overall strength.
If you know what you’re doing, you can work your biceps and then use the proper before and after stretches to help cultivate biceps that empower you to push through your limitations while also framing your body into a peak physique. So make sure to treat your biceps right. They will thank you later.
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