Your Personal PT, Rachel Tavel, is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) at Shift Wellness in NYC, so she knows how to get your body back on track when it's out of line. In this weekly series, she gives you tips on how to feel better, get stronger, and train smarter.
Let’s be honest: You’re probably used to flexing your biceps, not stretching them. But with all that loading and lifting (and checking yourself out in the mirror, perhaps?), the right stretch might be just what you need.
After all, we use our biceps for more than just lifting heavy weights at the gym. Whether you’re hoisting up a small child, grabbing a bag of groceries, or lifting up some furniture, these attention grabbing muscles get worked pretty hard during the day. They also tend to perk up pretty quickly when loaded with resistance, making them a popular target of most guys’ workouts.
The biceps brachii, as its name suggests, is really two muscle bellies that join together in the upper arm (bi = two, brachii = arm). With tendons crossing the elbow and the shoulder (the long head and short head, as they are called, originate from different parts of the scapula and attach to the top of the forearm), this two-joint muscle (technically 3-joint if you count the radio-ulnar joint) flexes the elbow and supinates (rotates) the forearm while also helping to elevate the shoulder making it a prime mover of the upper extremity.
With all that flexing and contracting, your biceps could use a break. Mixing in some stretches that help lengthen the biceps will allow you to move the upper extremity through its full range of motion. Static and dynamic stretching is a great way to promote mobility at a joint and protect against possible overuse syndromes. So give the flexing a rest, and try these feel-good biceps stretches to give the gun show a little break.
- Standing arms-behind-the-back biceps stretch. Interlace your hands behind your waist and slowly raise them up behind you as you tilt your upper body forward. Keep your arms straight and your palms face down. Hold 30 to 60 seconds.
- Seated biceps stretch. Sit on the floor with knees bent, feet flat, and palms down on the ground behind you. Scoot your hips forward keeping your hands where they are until you feel a gentle stretch in your arms and shoulders. Hold 30 to 60 seconds.
- Wall biceps stretch. Press one hand against the edge of a wall at about shoulder height. Slowly turn your body away from the wall, creating a stretch throughout your upper arm and shoulder. Hold 30 to 60 seconds.
- Doorway stretch. Line up forearms on either side of a doorway with elbows just below shoulder height. Gently lean forward through doorway until a stretch is felt in the chest and shoulders—make sure you don't go any further to avoid potential injury. Hold 30 to 60 seconds.
- Wrist-rotation stretch: This one is more subtle than the others, but give it a try. Stand with your arms out to the side and palms facing forward, like you’re making a cross or “T.” Slowly rotate forearms with thumbs pointed up then backwards so that palms face behind you (as far as you’re comfortable). Hold 30 seconds.
Dynamic Biceps Stretches
If you’re about to do an intense workout, dynamic stretches are a great way to start.
Arm circles: Begin with arms out to the sides and make small circles keeping the arms straight. Gradually increase the circle radius. Try about 30 forward, then 30 backwards.
Arm swings: Begin by swinging arms forward and up and then back and down behind you. Swing arms using momentum up and back, up and back, then back behind you, opening up the chest and shoulders and swinging through the front crossing arms in front of your chest. Repeat 10 to 20 forward and back swings followed by 10 to 20 open-close swings.
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