Though it may seem unglamourous, and though it may seem to do little to bring you closer to many of your ultimate goals, stretching is one of the most important aspects of any workout or training regime.
It serves a few functions, within the context of both a workout itself and your wider life. Alongside aiding mobility and joint and muscle comfort through your day-to-day life, dynamically stretching before training will prepare you for the upcoming rigours of a good workout. Statically stretching afterwards and between workouts will help to relax the muscles and keep joints limber as the surrounding tissue heals.
To stretch successfully, however, you know which stretches to perform and when. Which are the best ones to use before training and which after? Today, we’re going to look into this with regards the biceps, talking through what your pre- and post-training stretching should look like when you’re pumping up your guns.
Following are some of the best stretches you can perform for bicep health and performance. Whether you’ve had a gruelling upper body session or just want to limber up your arms, a few stretches will be all you need. Using these stretches regularly will help to diminish muscle tightness and improve range of motion, whilst doing them before and after your upper body/arm workouts will help to reduce the risk of injury and improve your functional performance.
Stretching Out the Biceps
If you’re looking to isolate the biceps in your stretches, there will be a couple of things it might be good to know before going into it.
Firstly, bear in mind the biceps’ job: located in the front of the upper arm, it helps in stabilising the humerus bone at the shoulder socket and is the primary mover in elbow flexion. Thus, any stretches will need to go against this motion, at least in part.
Secondly, though it is a peaked muscle group like the hamstrings, it’s actually a lot harder to isolate the biceps than it is the hamstrings. You will need to think more globally in stretching out your biceps. Whilst we are going to go through how to stretch them in isolation, you will need to stretch them in concert with other muscle groups, primarily the shoulders, chest and, to a lesser degree, the obliques and triceps. Maintaining a loose, mobile upper body through every joint, muscle group and range of motion will be key in being able to fully stretch out your biceps.
With this in mind, most of the entries on our list below will work several joints and muscle groups at once.
Best Bicep Stretches
These are seven of the best stretches you can employ for keeping your biceps loose and the joints surrounding them mobile. We’ll break the stretches down into two parts. The first will be static stretches for you to use post-workout. Hold each position for 30 seconds or so, keeping still, breathing deeply. After this, we’ll look at a couple of dynamic chest stretches that will be of use before training, improving blood flow, getting synovial fluid into the joints and priming your muscles for the upcoming work.
These can be performed at the end of your workout. Alternatively- or, rather, additionally- use them on your rest days to aid recovery and stop your muscles from seizing up. Performing a few static stretches through every muscle group most days is a good habit to get into and will really benefit your long-term comfort and mobility.
1. Standing bicep stretch
Standing bicep stretches should form the bread and butter of your routine. You can perform them wherever you are.
The standing bicep stretch is actually a variation on a chest and deltoid stretch. However, playing around with the height of your hands, position of your palms or arm angle can put the emphasis into the biceps. Either way, these are all muscles that need stretching after an upper body session, even just a bicep session.
To perform the standing bicep stretch:
- Begin with your hands behind your back, at the base of your spine
- Interlace your fingers
- Straighten your arms and rotate your hands outwards to bring your palms facing the ground. This will accentuate the bicep stretch
- Raise your arms as high as you can and pause for 30 seconds
2. Seated bicep stretch
As will be quite common in stretching out your biceps, this will also get your shoulders and chest. However, focus in on the biceps, work on that mind-muscle connection, and you should feel your biceps lengthening and stretching.
To perform a seated bicep stretch:
- Sit on the ground with your head, neck and spine aligned
- Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor, in front of your hips
- Place your hands on the ground behind you, fingers facing away from your body
- From here, move your hips forwards, towards your feet, until you feel the stretch through your arms
- Hold this position for 30 seconds
3. Doorway bicep stretch
We’ll include two different versions of this stretch for two different emphases- here, we’re simply looking at stretching out the biceps in the frame of a door.
To perform a doorway bicep stretch
- Stand in a doorway with one hand holding the doorway at hip height
- Keep a slight bend in the elbow
- Step the same sided foot forwards, bend your knee, and bring your weight forwards
- The stretch should run through your biceps and deltoids
- Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side
4. Doorway bicep and chest stretch
This version of the stretch stretches the inter-connection between chest, shoulders and biceps using a similar motion to above.
To perform this version of the stretch:
- Begin as you would for the doorway bicep stretch
- However, have one hand on either side of the doorway
- Step forwards with one foot, leaning into it
- Your chest should open up even as your biceps take the stretch
5. Wall bicep stretch
Again, this will work the interplay between chest, shoulders and biceps. The wall bicep stretch can be used to target different areas of the biceps by simply manipulating hand height, so play around with a few different positions.
To perform the wall bicep stretch:
- Press one palm against a wall, column or similar surface
- Turn your body away from the wall, stepping through with the foot closest to the wall if this is comfortable
- Hold it here for 30 seconds. You should feel it in your chest, shoulder and arm
- Repeat on the other side
Don’t worry too much about going for a deep stretch pre-workout. We also don’t want to run through too much by way of static stretching pre-workout, as this can increase your risk of injury. Fluid movement will be key, instead. The main thing we want to do is warm the muscles up, increase blood flow, bring synovial fluid into the joints, prime your mind muscle connection for the coming workload and bring your joints and muscles through their required ranges of motion.
Make up a small, light circuit, beginning with light sets of the bicep or back exercises you’re about to run through before moving through these two stretches.
For instance, if you’re working on curls, try some lightweight curls at 30-50% weight for the same set range you’ll be using in your working sets, say 12. Hit 12 reps at 30-50% weight, then run through the following. If you’re working bent over rows, do the same, so it may be 12 reps of bent over rows at 30-50% weight before running through the following. Then repeat for 3-4 circuits until your muscles feel loose and primed.
6. Horizontal arm extensions
Horizontal arm extensions can be performed whilst standing or sitting. They combine stretching with movement, as any dynamic stretch should, and will be good for pre-warming the muscles and releasing synovial fluid into the joints.
To perform horizontal arm extensions:
- Bring your arms out to your side, parallel with the floor
- Turn your thumbs to face down, keeping your palms facing backwards
- From here, either:
- Hold the position as a static stretch for 30 seconds and include it as part of your post-workout routine, or
- Pulse your hands loosely back and forth for 30 seconds as a dynamic warm up pre-workout
7. Wrist-rotation biceps stretch
It can be hard to find the right stretch through your biceps- it may take some playing around with different positioning until you get it right. One of the key things to play around with is wrist position. With this in mind, wrist rotations are a great go-to bicep stretch pre-working, helping you to both warm up and stretch the biceps and to establish that mind-muscle connection.
To perform them:
Things to Bear in Mind
Though stretching is often recommended immediately post-workout to prevent delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS), the evidence as to whether it really helps reduce muscle soreness is inconclusive. It may or may not mitigate DOMS. However, when combined with adequate sleep and hydration, proper nutrition planning, myofascial release and a low-stress lifestyle, it does seem to make up a complete package of DOMS care.
If you stretch consistently, you will definitely increase flexibility and mobility, improving range of motion. Though range of motion isn’t generally too much of an issue in hinge joints like the elbow, for which the biceps are primarily responsible, movement will be easier and more fluid by working on it.
There are also some safety tips to consider when stretching out your biceps.
Safety tips for stretching out your biceps
It’s always a good idea to talk with your healthcare practitioner and/or physiotherapist before trying out a new stretching regime, particularly if you have any underlying medical conditions that may be adversely effected, such as osteoporosis or arthritis, or any injuries to the area in question (such as tennis elbow, for example, in the case of the biceps).
If you experience any sharp pain or discomfort whilst stretching, stop and contact a medical professional as soon as possible.
To stay safe, don’t try to go too far, too fast, especially when cold.
Static stretching will work best when your body is warm, such as after light aerobics or, indeed, at the end of a weightlifting session. If you’re stretching cold, on an off day, go into the movement slowly and only go as far as is comfortable. Exhale softly through the motion and go deeper by small increments. This may mean taking your time to get a really deep stretch.
Dynamic stretching can be used as part of a warmup. However, if performing cold, go into it in a similarly gradual manner. Allow your joints time to warm and open before really going for it.
Always remember to listen to your body. Safe no-holds-barred training for the weights room and be conservative with your stretching. Try to be aware of when you can go deep and when you should pull back a little. Maintain smooth, relaxed breathing, don’t lock your joints, keep all movements smooth and slow, and try to enjoy the process.
If you’re smiling, you’re probably doing it right.
Stretching your muscles regularly- pre-, post-, and outside of training- will allow you to avoid cramping, may help to allay the effects of DOMS, will lead to greater mobility and mind-muscle connection, and will keep your joints healthy and safe. The biceps are no different: follow the advice in this article to keep your arms limber, healthy and safe.