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4 Basic Stretches for Arms and Shoulders

man stretching shoulder in gym
Stretching can improve your flexibility and range of motion, as well as increase blood flow to your muscles!

by Steven Auger

If you love going to the gym, you might be tempted to jump right into your workout after arriving. But wait! Do you stretch first?

It's important to resist the urge to dive right into a sweat session; instead, you should take some time to stretch your muscles. According to Mayo Clinic, stretching can improve your flexibility and range of motion, as well as increase the blood flow to your muscles. It can also reduce your risk of injury!

If you plan on doing some strength training, it's important to perform a few stretches for arms and shoulders before you pick up those dumbbells (and after you put them down).

Beginner Stretches for Arms and Shoulders

There's nothing like the satisfaction of crushing your upper-body workout. Whether you just powered through a shoulder or arm routine — or you're just about to — show those muscles some love with the following four basic stretches.

1. Biceps Stretch

A good beginner's stretch for the arms, especially after a challenging strength-training workout that involved a lot of curls, is the standing biceps stretch. To perform this movement, you should start in a standing position with your hands clasped together behind your back. The palms of your hands should be facing each other and your arms should be straight. Now, keeping your fingers intertwined, rotate your hands so that your palms face downward. Next, raise your arms slowly until you feel a stretch in the biceps. Hold this pose for five deep breaths before releasing.

2. Triceps Stretch

OK, now that you've stretched your biceps, time to show the triceps a little TLC! To stretch these muscles, move one of your arms across your chest toward the opposite shoulder. Then use your free hand to pull the elbow of your crossed arm closer to the body, toward the shoulder. Hold this stretch for 10–20 seconds. Afterward, repeat the same maneuvers with the opposite arm.

An alternative to this move — but one that still provides a great triceps stretch — is to raise one arm over your head and bend the elbow so that the hand is positioned behind your neck. Then use your free arm to hold the stretching elbow in place. Hold the pose for 10–20 seconds before repeating with your other arm.

3. Shoulders Stretch

Tight shoulders are never fun. They can cause back, neck, and upper-body stiffness. To avoid this, keep your shoulders flexible and loose by performing shoulder rolls. All you need to do is maintain good posture (while either seated or standing) and roll your shoulders up, back, and down 10 times. Afterward, move your shoulders in the reverse direction — up, forward, and down — for another 10 reps.

4. Wrist Stretch

Sure, you recognize the importance of stretching muscles like the biceps and triceps, but don't neglect those wrists! Aside from the work you put in at the gym, you use the muscles in your wrist for a lot of different activities outside of the gym — like typing, writing, or carefully transporting a cup of coffee — so it never hurts to give your wrists a good stretch.

There are two ways to stretch the wrist: extension and flexion. Both can be performed from either a standing or seated position.

For wrist extension, extend one arm straight in front of you at shoulder-height. With your free hand, grab the fingers on your extended arm (above the palm) and pull them back toward you until you feel a slight stretch on the bottom of your forearm and wrist. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then switch arms.

For wrist flexion, extend one arm straight in front of you at shoulder-height. Use your free hand to press your extended hand down, until the fingers point toward the floor. You should feel the stretch on the top of your forearm and the wrist. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then switch arms.

No matter if it's weights or cardio on your gym agenda, your workout isn't complete until you've thanked those muscles with a good stretch! As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.