May 14, 2022
The triceps are a primary mover in every upper body pressing exercise. Think about it - they help power bench press, push ups, overhead press, and dips. On top of all that, most people try to increase the size and strength of their triceps with isolation exercises. After all, this muscle, which makes up two-thirds of your upper arms, is important on so many fronts, both in and out of the gym. Not to mention, a well-developed set of triceps looks very impressive.
Now, like any other muscle, the triceps can get tight and overworked. In fact, the triceps are quite susceptible to becoming tight considering how often they are used in daily life and workouts.
Even so, the triceps usually get overlooked when it comes time for stretching. It’s likely because people just don’t know how to stretch the triceps. If that’s the case with you, it won’t be anymore…
We are here to provide you with the best triceps stretches for before and after your workouts. By stretching your triceps, you’ll help them achieve an optimal length, which is great for improving range of motion, recovering faster, and even reducing soreness.
Before we begin, it’ll actually be very helpful if you understand the anatomy of the triceps and all the benefits you’ll reap from stretching this horseshoe-shaped, posterior, upper arm muscle.
The triceps, which is more formally known as the triceps brachii, gets its name because it has three separate muscle heads.
Tri = Three.
They are called the long head, lateral head, and medial head, because that’s exactly what and where they are in relation to the muscle itself. It’s very straight to the point.
But, don’t get confused, it is still one single muscle.
Each muscle head has a different origin point, but they converge and insert in the same place on the elbow.
The main job of the triceps as a whole is elbow extension.
However, let’s dive a little deeper into the anatomy and function of each individual muscle head, as there are some nuances you should learn. This will help you understand how to target the muscle better during workouts and how to stretch it fully.
Again, any time you press or extend your elbow, you have your triceps to thank for that. When it comes to pushes and presses, the triceps really take over about halfway up the press. It’s the lockout muscle.
You all know the benefits of strengthening the triceps: improved lockout, strength, size, and better elbow stability. But what about the benefits of stretching the triceps? Well, here are a few:
1) Improved Range Of Motion And Performance:
When a muscle is tight, achieving a full range of motion will be difficult and the triceps are no different. If you have tight triceps, it may decrease your performance on the sporting field and leave gains on the table with all of your pressing movements. This is why dynamic tricep stretches are important before a workout, especially if they are feeling tight, which often happens since they are typically worked during more than one session per week.
2) Better recovery:
Stretching the triceps after training helps the muscle return to its resting length faster and may help reduce soreness. When you stretch the triceps, you bring blood flow there to start the healing process after a workout.
3) Injury Prevention:
Triceps stretches engage all three heads of the triceps muscle and help to keep the elbows functioning properly, but let’s focus on the long head for a moment. Remember how the long head acts on the shoulder joint too? By stretching your triceps before and after upper-body exercises, you can reduce your chances of shoulder injuries. A well cared for long head muscle is key for shoulder stability and shoulder health.
To stretch the triceps, you simply have to perform the opposite of elbow extension, which is elbow flexion. When your triceps contract, your biceps stretch, and vice versa. So, to stretch your triceps, you will flex your elbow in certain ways and hold the position.
Also, as we’ve mentioned, the long head acts on the shoulders, so certain shoulder movements with holds will stretch the triceps, such as the popular overhead triceps stretch.
Besides static stretches, you have dynamic movements that move your triceps through a full range of motion, which in essence, stretches your triceps. This is similar to when you are actually working out. If you are using a full range of motion, you are doing a form of dynamic stretching. But make no mistake, it’s not the same as static stretching (holding the stretching position for an extended period of time) or purposeful dynamic stretches (full range movements with short holds in the stretched position), so it’s important that you do both.
With the tricep stretches below, you’ll see how all this works. But first, let’s talk about when to stretch, so you really understand each of the stretching movements to come.
When you want to improve the recovery and the length of your triceps, the best time to stretch them is after training when the triceps are warm. You’re more likely to see better results from static stretches when your body is warm. Holding a tricep stretch for 30 seconds to 2 minutes here works well.
It’s not just the muscle itself that gets stretched, the fascia that surrounds the muscle like webbing is also getting stretched. Think of the fascia as taffy. When the taffy is cold it is harder to stretch but when the taffy is warm it is easily stretched.
But that doesn’t mean you should only be stretching when the triceps are warm. Before a workout, you should be doing dynamic stretches. These are stretches that you hold for 5-10 seconds, moving in and out of the stretch. Essentially, they a movements with a full range of motion and usually involve slight holds at the end range. These will help promote blood flow, release muscular tension, and optimize range of motion to help get your triceps ready for the work ahead.
Here are 8 great triceps stretches (2 are actually triceps foam rolling exercises) to insert before and/or after your training for improved recovery and flexibility.
The anconeus muscle is a small muscle located at the elbow, attaching to the humerus and ulna. It is engaged during triceps extension but is there to provide support and stability. This stretches the triceps and anconeus from a different angle and is a great stretch for those who don’t have the shoulder mobility to place their hands all the way behind their head.
The overhead tricep stretch is an oldie but a goodie. But if you don’t have good shoulder mobility or your feel any pain with this stretch please stop. Here you will control the intensity of the stretch by how far you can place your hand behind your head. Plus the amount of pressure you apply to the elbow. Both will alter the intensity of this stretch. The overhead tricep stretch is great for your triceps as a whole, but especially the long head.
The triceps dip stretch is similar to the dip exercise, but you hold the bottom position to stretch your triceps using your torso as resistance. Not only will you stretch your triceps, but this one opens up your chest and shoulder muscles too, as well as your lats. You can alter the lean and the bend of the elbows to increase or decrease the intensity of this tricep stretch.
The tricep stretch against the wall is another great triceps stretch that allows for a really deep stretch. Much like the other stretches above, you can control the intensity by how close you are to the wall and by how my pressure you apply to the wall.
The reaching down triceps stretch is similar to the overhead triceps stretch except you are stretching both triceps instead of one. By actively reaching down you can control how intense the stretch is and adjust it according to your needs. If you have trouble putting your arms behind your head, avoid this variation.
This tricep stretch has you reaching across your body instead of going behind your head. This is a good basic stretch and is also perfect for anyone who has any issues with their elbows or shoulders but still needs to stretch their triceps. You’ll be able to adjust the intensity of this stretch by how hard you push it and into the back of your elbow. Plus, with this stretch, as a bonus, you’ll stretch the hard-to-reach posterior deltoid too.
Foam rolling the triceps is one of those hurt-so-good exercises. Yes, it hurts, but it will loosen up the muscle for a better range of motion if you do it before training, and it brings healing blood flow for improved recovery if you do it after training. When performing this triceps foam roll exercise, focus on the sore spots of the triceps and be careful not to roll into too much pain. This will negate the benefits of this exercise.
The tiger tail triceps roll is performed with a tiger tail foam roller but can be performed with a PVC pipe or something similar if you don’t have one. Here you can apply as much pressure as you can handle to the sore spots on your triceps. Plus, as a bonus, your quads get some love too.
You probably spend a lot of time strengthening your triceps in your exercise program, so you should be spending time stretching and rolling the triceps too! It will benefit your upper body strength and performance as well as the health of your elbows and shoulders. These 8 tricep stretches and rolls performed before and after your workout routine will release muscular tension and improve your triceps' flexibility and range of motion big time.
We recommend doing a couple dynamic triceps stretches before your workout and a couple of static triceps stretches after your workout. You don't have to do each tricep stretch in one session. You can switch the stretches up each time if you’d like. Also, incorporate some foam rolling into your routine once a week. You can foam roll a little before your workout and a little after. There’s no need to spend more than a few minutes rolling out your triceps! Happy stretching and rolling!
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