Whether you're sore from an upper-body workout or just want some added flexibility in your arms, employing a few key stretches can limber you up and help you reach your strength goals. Proper and regular stretching can help with muscle tightness and improve your range of motion, which, in turn, can help reduce the risk of injury.
But if you're looking to specifically target your biceps muscle, you'll need to keep a few things in mind. The biceps muscle, located in the front of the upper arm, helps stabilize the humerus bone at the shoulder socket and is the primary mover when you bend your elbow. But it's not like your quads or your hamstrings where you can easily isolate the muscle during your stretching session.
So you'll need to employ other upper-body and arm stretches that also target your biceps (think of it as an added bonus). Below are some of those stretches that, while you may primarily feel the stretch in your chest, triceps or shoulders, also stretch the biceps.
Try all of them to see which ones get to your specific area of tightness. And try playing around with the positioning of your arms until you feel the stretch right where you need it. Every body is slightly different, so experimenting can help you find the best way to stretch your biceps.
Biceps Stretching Safety Tips
To get the most from your stretches while reducing the risk of injury, it's best to not jump in cold. So do some light aerobic activity, such as walking, biking or jumping jacks, for three to five minutes before stretching. Or better yet, do these after an upper-body workout.
A dynamic warm-up increases blood flow to your muscles, which aids in the flexibility gains you get from stretching and contributes to injury prevention. Aim to hold each stretch for about 30 seconds, but be safe and listen to your body. Stretch only until you feel a gentle pulling sensation in the muscle — never stretch to the point of pain — and never bounce your stretches, which can injure the muscle.
1. Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch
This might be the only stretch the American Council on Exercise lists as primarily targeting the biceps, but just like all the others, you may still need to play around with positioning and angles until you get the stretch just right.
HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat. Place your palms on the floor behind you. Your fingers should be pointed away from your body. Distribute your weight evenly between your feet, seat and arms. Without moving your hands, slowly slide your butt forward toward your feet until you feel a stretch in your biceps. Don't arch or round your back and maintain a neutral neck and spine throughout.
2. Wall Stretch for Biceps
The wall stretch uses a wall (or pole or other tall and sturdy object) to target your shoulders and chest, as well as your biceps. To stretch different areas of your biceps, adjust your hand's position, moving it higher or lower on the wall and repeat the steps of the stretch.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin by placing your palm against a wall. While maintaining contact between the wall and your arm, slowly turn your body away from the wall until you feel a pull in your chest, shoulder and biceps.
3. Standing Biceps Stretch
The standing biceps stretch is a simple stretch you can perform anywhere. While you may mainly feel this one in your pectorals (chest) and deltoids (shoulders), you can adjust the height of your hands, angle of your arms or position of your palms to make it more of a biceps stretch.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin by standing with your hands clasped behind your back. Lift your hands up until you feel tension in your biceps. Not feeling it? Try turning your clasped palms downward, raising or lowering your clasped hands or bringing your hands slightly to one side then the other (the movement should be in your arms, not your torso).
4. Wrist-Rotation Biceps Stretch
As mentioned above, stretching your biceps takes some creativity and experimentation to find what works for you. This is the perfect example where you may not feel a biceps stretch when you rotate your wrists so your palms face forward. That's OK! Reverse the rotation to see if that works better.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and raise your arms out to the sides, palms facing forward. Slowly rotate your wrists and arms backward, as if you're trying to point your thumbs toward the ground. Stop when you feel a gentle tension in your biceps. Now, reverse it: Slowly rotate your wrists forward to face your palms behind you (or beyond, depending on your flexibility) until you feel a gentle pull in your biceps.
5. Doorway Stretch for Biceps
This stretch is a slight variation on the wall stretch for biceps (see the second entry on this list), but give it a shot and see if you feel any change in the stretch with this slight change of approach.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand in a doorway. Place one palm on a doorway at waist height and grasp gently. Take one large step forward with the leg on the same side of your body as the arm you're stretching. Now bend your knee and shift your body weight forward until you feel a stretch in your biceps muscle and shoulder. Make sure you step far enough forward to achieve a good stretch and that you keep your shoulder and arm relaxed during the stretch, avoiding locking your elbow.