How to Perform a Bicep Stretch

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Stretching of Biceps Muscle

blanaru/Getty Images

 

Also Known As: Chest Opener (if standing)

Targets: Biceps, Chest, Shoulders

Equipment Needed: No Equipment Required

Level: Beginner

The bicep stretch is a great way to improve flexibility, range of motion, arm strength, and reduce your risk of injury. Performing this stretch targets the biceps brachii (biceps), but is also beneficial for opening the chest and shoulder muscles depending on the variation.

Flexibility is one of the five components of physical fitness and is greatly improved with a stretching program. This is a good reason to include the bicep stretch during an arm or upper body workout. Stretching not only complements the workout but also plays an essential part of a well-rounded exercise program.

Arm workouts can include bicep curls where flexion and extension of the bicep muscle occurs. The muscle is located in the front of the upper arm and affects movement at the shoulder and elbow. In fact, the biceps muscles are the primary mover when you flex at the elbow during the bicep curl. It also assists with flexing and abducting the shoulder, and supinating (turning) the forearm.

Because arm workouts place stress and tension on the biceps, incorporating a bicep stretch can help reduce muscle tightness and improve your range of motion. This will help increase upper-body mobility and allow for more fluid motion. Improved posture is also indicated with varied bicep stretches as the chest and shoulder muscles are involved during the stretch.

The bicep stretch requires no equipment and can be performed at the gym or in the comfort of your own home. It’s a great way to complement your existing arm or upper body workout.

If you are unfamiliar with the bicep stretch and new to stretching, you may want to consider enlisting the guidance of a qualified personal trainer.

Benefits

The bicep stretch targets the biceps brachii (biceps) but can also open the chest and shoulder muscles. This stretch, like all stretching, helps to relieve muscle tightness and tension caused by exercise stress or other daily activities.

The following benefits are great reasons you may want to consider adding the bicep stretch to your existing arm or upper body routine:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Improved range of motion
  • Improved muscle function
  • Decreased muscle tightness/tension
  • Improved posture
  • Relaxation and well-being
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Improved strength
  • Improved athletic performance

Step-by-Step Instructions

The bicep stretch has many variations to choose from and easily added to your bicep workout. The following instructions will guide you through the seated bicep stretch:

  1. Sit on the floor/exercise mat with your head, neck, and spine in alignment. Avoid arching or rounding your back throughout the stretch.
  2. Bend your knees and maintain feet flat on the floor in front of your hips.
  3. Place your palms on the floor behind you, fingers facing away from your body.
  4. Adjust your body weight evenly between your feet, butt, and arms.
  5. Without moving your hands, exhale, and slowly slide your butt forward toward your feet until you feel a stretch in your biceps (you will also feel a stretch in the shoulders/chest). Avoid bouncing or stretching to pain.
  6. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds.
  7. Return to start position
  8. Repeat for a determined amount of timed stretches.

Common Mistakes

The bicep stretch is a great complement to your biceps or upper body workout. However, even stretching can cause improper discomfort or injury if not performed correctly. Avoid the following common mistakes for safe and effective stretching:

Arching/Rounding the Back

Arching or rounding your back indicates improper posture during the exercise. This is easily remedied by maintaining a tight core and your chest lifted as your stretch. Focus on good body mechanics and spinal awareness to correctly stretch the biceps.

Overstretching

Overstretching can increase the risk of muscle injury. Perform the exercise by stretching to a point of tension, not pain. This will maximize your stretching benefit, reduce potential injury, and promote a positive experience.

Bouncing During the Movement

The bicep stretch is not a ballistic (bouncing) stretch but a controlled movement that includes a dynamic (held) stretch. It is recommended to avoid ballistic stretching because the muscles/tissues are more susceptible to injury. It’s also recommended ballistic stretching be performed under the supervision of a qualified sports specialist.

Modifications and Variations

The bicep stretch can be performed in a variety of ways to accommodate your fitness level and stretching preference.

Need a Modification?

If you’re new to performing a bicep stretch, you may want to apply these simple variations as follows:

Alternate Seated Bicep Stretch: Perform the bicep stretch supporting your hands on a table behind you instead of seated on the floor. Walk your feet out slightly and squat about half-way down until you can feel the stretch in your biceps.

Standing Bicep Stretch: A simple version performed standing with your fingers interlaced behind your back, palms facing upward or downward. Lift your arms up behind you until you feel a stretch in the biceps. You will also feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders. Find the angle and hand position that works best for you.

Wall Bicep Stretch: Stretch one bicep at a time with this easy version. Stand with your palm pressed against a wall and with a straight arm, slowly turn your body away from the wall until you feel a stretch in your arm, chest, and shoulder. Repeat on the other side. (This stretch can be performed at high, mid, and low points on the wall for an even greater flexibility challenge.)

Doorway Bicep Stretch: Similar to the wall bicep stretch but standing in a doorway. Grasp the doorway at waist level and step forward with the leg on the same side, slight bend in the knee, and body weight shifted forward until you feel a stretch in your arm and shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

Horizontal Arm Extensions: This simple version can be performed sitting or standing and extending your arms out to the side parallel to the floor. Turn your thumbs down, palms faced behind you until you feel a stretch in your biceps. Hold the stretch for about 30-seconds.

Up for a Challenge?

Once you have gained significant arm strength, and are comfortable with the bicep stretches above, you can add these advanced variations to increase the challenge of the stretch:

Overhead Holding Bicep Bar Stretch: This version of bicep stretch requires a stable overhead bar to hold onto. Reach both hands overhead, grip the bar with elbows extended, and lean your body weight forward until you feel a stretch in your biceps.

Overhead Hanging Bicep Stretch: A challenging bicep stretch using suspended body weight to stretch the biceps. Raise your arms overhead, grasp a stable bar with elbows extended, and free hang without feet touching the ground. Keep your core engaged to prevent swinging to stretch the biceps.

Overhead Hanging Single Arm Bicep Stretch: A more advanced version of the hanging bicep stretch, except you are free hanging from a stable bar one arm at a time. Grasp a stable overhead bar with one hand and maintain a tight core to avoid swinging during this stretch.

Safety and Precautions

The bicep stretch like all stretching exercises requires good form and technique for effectiveness and safety.

The following tips will help you perform the bicep stretch correctly and reduce the risk of injury:

  • Perform a 3 to 5-minute aerobic warm up to increase blood flow to the muscles before stretching. This will reduce your risk of injury and maximize your flexibility during the stretch. Or include bicep stretches after your upper-body workout when your muscles are ready to go.
  • Avoid arching or rounding the back in order to maintain good body mechanics during the stretch.
  • Stretch to a point of tension not pain using keen body awareness. You will feel a gentle pulling sensation on the muscle considered normal. Feeling pain is an indicator that you are pushing the stretch too far.
  • Avoid bouncing (ballistic movement) during the stretch to prevent injury to the muscle.
  • Don’t hold your breath. Maintain steady, relaxed breathing during the stretch to feed much needed oxygenated blood to the muscles.
  • Avoid locking your elbows while the arms are extended.
  • If you experience pain or discomfort that doesn’t feel right during the bicep stretch, discontinue the exercise.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.