The triceps muscles of the upper arm are involved in so many daily tasks from scooting out of bed to physical labor, working out, playing sports, typing… and any activity that extends the elbow. Stretching them regularly helps prevent muscle tightness, increases flexibility, improves range of motion, and enhances circulation.
This guide will show you the most effective way to do the overhead triceps stretch.
In This Exercise:
- Target Muscle Group: Triceps brachii
- Type: Stretch
- Mechanics: N/A
- Equipment: N/A
- Difficulty: Beginner
Muscles Involved – Triceps
The triceps brachii or triceps are the muscles on the back of the upper arm formed by a long, medial and lateral head that work together to extend the elbow, while the long head also plays a role in shoulder extension (bringing the arm back behind the body).
Because the medial and lateral heads cross only the elbow joint, they’re in a stretched position when the arm is bent at virtually any angle. But the arms have to be stretched overhead to activate the long head that crosses both the elbow and shoulder at the scapula (shoulder blades) just below the ball and socket joint.
How To Do The Overhead Triceps Stretch
Stretching the triceps should be a simple, pain-free experience yet many do it incorrectly or lack the mobility to bring the arms overhead. Below we’ve included step-by-step instructions and a video example where Jeff Cavaliere, M.S.P.T. CSCS (Athlean X) demonstrates how to stretch the long head of the triceps, and what not to do.
Note: You need to have decent shoulder mobility to effectively perform the overhead triceps stretch.
Bend either the left or right arm and raise it up overhead.
Grab the same side scapula directly under the armpit, and pull down on it firmly to keep the shoulder blades down and depressed. This will allow you to get the best stretch possible.
Find a wall, exercise machine, or something similar, and carefully lean into it with your arm so that the elbow pushes back and stretches the triceps. Hold for several seconds until you feel a good stretch in the long head of the triceps.
Repeat on the other side.
Check out the video below…
The Wrong Way To Do It
In the video, Cavalier also shows how not to stretch the triceps.
Most people will either pull the arm straight back or behind their head and try to lean sideways into the stretch, however, the trainer explained that this does not accomplish much. Because the long head crosses the shoulder and attaches to the scapula, you get the best stretch by pushing the arm away from where the muscle inserts into the shoulder blade.
How To Improve Shoulder Mobility
If you lack shoulder mobility to get the arms up overhead and into a triceps stretch, Cavaliere has a simple solution using a foam roller tool. He explained that the most common issues preventing people from being able to lift the arms into the stretch position are limited external shoulder rotation and thoracic extension.
To remedy this, you can lean back over a foam roller which makes it easier to get your arms up and overhead into the overhead triceps stretch position. Practice this variation regularly and you should notice an improvement in your shoulder mobility.