I learned a surprising piece of trivia during a workout the other day: Your triceps are the largest muscle in your arm. The many people who I relayed the message to were shocked—most people think that biceps are the headliners, but nope. Considering that my triceps are still sore, two days later, I wondered what kinds of stretches could give my arms some love. I tried the one triceps stretch that I know of—the one where you reach one elbow up over your head with your hand down to your shoulder blades, using your other hand to pull it deeper—but it’s not doing this muscle soreness any justice.
“I always tell my patients it’s important to move and loosen up prior to exercise, in particular with muscles such as the triceps,” says celebrity physical therapist, Karen Joubert, PT of Joubert PT in Beverly Hills. If you’re anything like me and get super sore if you space your arm workouts too far apart, you’ll appreciate these gooey, tricep-opening stretches, courtesy of the pros.
Four tricep stretches to try now
1. Foam roll it out: I’ve never foam rolled my arm muscles, which is a mistake. Corinne Croce, DPT and co-founder of Body Evolved, says foam rolling your triceps is really good for stretching them out. “Begin by lying on the ground on your back with the foam roller lying parallel to the body,” she says. “Begin stretching the tricep by extending the arm completely straight and placing the back section of the upper arm on the foam roller—think closer to the back side of the armpit. Keep the body parallel to the foam roller throughout the entire drill.” Once everything’s in place, apply pressure as you slowly move through different angles up and down, side to side. Do this for about two minutes. “As tissue movement improves, increase the intensity by bending and reaching your elbow behind your head while foam rolling,” she says.
2. Behind-the-head towel reach: This one’s kind of like that basic triceps stretch everyone knows about, but the towel helps to deepen it. “Raise one arm with a towel in your hand above the head and bend the elbow as if reaching down to the back of the neck,” says Croce. “Let the towel drop down the back, and reach your other arm on the opposite side from below behind the back and reach up to grab the towel.” Your lower hand should gently pull the towel to increase the stretch—go slow and hold for 30 seconds, and repeat four times for two full minutes. Then switch sides.
3. Triceps kickbacks: “If done properly, you should feel the triceps warming up,” says Dr. Joubert, who recommends doing these without any weight to open the muscles up. “Bend and straighten your arms at the same time.”
4. Straight-arm stretch: Place one straight arm across your chest, and grab it to gently stretch it across with the help of your other arm, according to Dr. Joubert.
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