6 Great Arm Stretches

woman stretching her arms in front of a pink wall


Who doesn't want toned arms as part of their fitness and aesthetic goals? There are at least 6 great arm stretches that can help you reach that goal. The best arm exercises are those that give you the best results, according to your perception.

If you want to tone and strengthen your upper arms, arm stretches should be easy to do and sculpt your arms. You will gain functional flexibility in your shoulders and arms with a good arm exercise routine.

If you want bigger, muscular arms that pack a lot of punch, there are more challenging arm exercises for you. The best arm exercises that build muscle often require equipment, like barbells, dumbbells, or other gym equipment.

What Muscles Are Worked During Arm Exercises?

Arm stretches and exercises target the following arm and shoulder muscles and muscle groups.

Upper Arm Muscles: 

The upper arm muscles play major roles in arm rotation, flexion, extension, and general arm movements. 

  • Biceps brachii, the muscle used for hand and forearm rotation and flexing your elbow.

  • Coracobrachialis, which extends from your shoulders to your middle upper arm to right below your elbows. Its function is to aid in flexing and raising your upper arm.

  • Brachialis, the elbow flexor that ranges from your middle, upper arm to below your elbow and is responsible for flexing the elbow.

  • Triceps brachii, a muscle with three unique heads, starting at your shoulder and extending to the back of your upper arm and just under the elbow. Its role is to help straighten your arm, move your arms behind you, and extend your shoulders.

Shoulder, Chest and Upper Arm Muscles 

These muscles aren't often considered arm muscles, but they are key to almost every arm movement used in a variety of tasks.

  • Pectoralis major, a muscle that aids in lifting your arms, bringing them back down, pushing movements, and aids with upper arm rotation and adducting from the horizontal position.

  • Pectoralis minor, a muscle responsible for the stabilization of your scapula. 

  • Posterior shoulder muscles are responsible for pulling and backward movements in your upper arm.

  • Deltoids, the muscles located around the back, front, and sides of the shoulder. The deltoids help to move your arms in any direction and are responsible for upper arm rotation.

  • Rotator cuff muscles aid with arm movements and are vital stabilizers for your shoulders. 

  • Latissimus dorsi, the muscle in your upper back that aids in upper arm backward, downward, rowing motions.

There are more than 20 muscles in your forearms and upper arms that are responsible for your fine motor movements, like typing, threading a needle, wiggling your fingers, buttoning a button, etc.

These muscles also aid in big movements like doing push-ups, raising your arms, throwing a ball, and straightening your elbow.

Your arms need to be strong to be able to push, pull, swing, and reach. They support functions often taken for granted like opening and closing doors, or carrying in groceries.

Training all your arm muscles aids in better range of motion that can prevent injury to these muscles. These are the main purposes for arm exercises and stretches.

What Are Some Arm Exercises for Toning and Strengthening Your Arms?

The following arm exercises to tone and strengthen your arms and shoulders will be followed by 6 great arm stretches that are important after your arm workout. 

6 Arm Exercises

The focus will be on arm exercises you can do at home, or when you travel. If you have a regular exercise routine, you will already have a set of dumbbells, or kettlebells that you use whether you're at home, or on-the-go.

The following arm exercises come with many benefits including being good for your heart, posture improvement, injury risk reduction, protection for your bones, and for building stronger muscles for all your workouts. 

1. Bicep Curl

Your biceps are small, but mighty muscles in your inner, upper arms. Strengthening your biceps will aid with pulling movements, improving your posture, and in the reduction of the risk of pain and injuries.

  • Start by standing with your feet hip-distance apart, with your dumbbells in your hands, which should be facing forward. Your arms should be down at your sides to start.

  • Bend your elbows and "curl" the weights upwards without moving your upper arms.

  • Lower the dumbbells back to the starting position.

  • Perform 3 to 4 sets of 12 repetitions, giving your arms a 30-second rest between sets.

The muscles worked during the biceps curl include the biceps muscles and your forearms. 

man doing a bicep curl with a dumbbell

2. Front Raise to Lateral Raise 

The front and lateral raise arm exercise is a complex combination of two exercises to help tone your shoulders and upper arms.

  • Stand upright with your feet shoulder-distance apart, arms relaxed, with your dumbbells resting to your sides on your thighs.

  • Engage your core, while keeping your arms straight, and lift the weights up to your shoulders.

  • Lower the weights down, and raise the weights out to your sides to your shoulders.

  • Return to the starting position.

  • Perform 3 to 4 sets of 12 repetitions, resting your arms for 30 seconds between each set.

The muscles worked during the front raise to lateral arm exercise include the medial and anterior deltoids, biceps, wrist extensors, upper and lower trapezius muscles, the serratus anterior scapula muscles, the clavicle part of your pectoralis major, and your core.

3. Dumbbell Bench Presses

The bench press is an old standard arm exercise where you can use a barbell or a set of dumbbells to perform. The movement is the same no matter what equipment you use. If you're working out at home or while traveling, dumbbells are your best option.

  • Sit on an inclined bench, or a slightly inclined surface that will support your body and draw back your shoulder blades to prevent rounded shoulders.

  • Grab your dumbbells (one in each hand) with your hands facing upward.

  • Lie down on the bench, facing upward, while holding the dumbbells in front of your shoulders.

  • Open your elbows to your sides, keeping your triceps perpendicular to your body.

  • Hold the dumbbells a bit wider than shoulder-distance apart, and your palms facing your feet.

  • Inhale and press your feet into the floor, while engaging your core.

  • Exhale as you press the dumbbells away from your body, extending your arms until the dumbbells are right over your shoulders.

  • Inhale as you slowly bring down the dumbbells to the starting position, while pausing when you get the dumbbells to just above your shoulders.

  • Start with 3 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, resting for 30 seconds between sets.

Bench presses target your forearms, lats, pecs, trapezoids, rhomboids, triceps, shoulders, and chest muscles, respectively. So, you're engaging virtually every muscle in your upper torso, including your core.

man performing a dumbbell bench press

4. Triceps Dumbbell Kickbacks

When you want to avoid flabby arms, you need to work the triceps. These muscles are a large set of muscles in the upper back part of your arm that can be built and strengthened with triceps dumbbell kickbacks. 

  • Stand up with your knees bent, and dumbbells in your hands.

  • Lean forward a little and bring the dumbbells up to align your upper arms with your sides, creating a 90-degree angle with your elbows.

  • Extend your arms back and up, engaging the triceps throughout the movement. You should feel it after a few reps.

  • Return to the starting position.

  • Perform 3 or 4 sets of 12 repetitions, giving your arms a 30-second rest between sets.

The triceps dumbbell kickback targets the triceps (lateral, long, and medial heads). 

5. Overhead Triceps Extensions

Overhead tricep extensions require only one dumbbell held by both hands throughout the exercise. 

  • You can stand or sit for this exercise.

  • Keep your back straight, holding one dumbbell with both of your hands around its handle.

  • Lift the dumbbell up and over your head.

  • Now, bend your elbows to lower the dumbbell behind your head.

  • Use controlled movements to raise the dumbbell back to the starting position.

  • Perform 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, allowing your arms to rest for 30 seconds between sets.

Overhead tricep extensions target all three triceps at their most lengthened point. Overhead triceps extensions are considered the fourth most effective exercise for this group of muscles. 

woman doing an overhead tricep extension

6. Military Dumbbell Press 

The military dumbbell press is also called the shoulder press. It's used to strengthen your shoulders, arms, and chest.

  • You can either sit or stand.

  • Grab a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing forward, holding them above your shoulders at around chin height.

  • Exhale when pressing the dumbbells up, stopping when the weights are above your head, and your elbows are still slightly bent.

  • Hold this pose for a moment, then gradually lower the dumbbells back to your starting position.

  • Perform 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 repetitions, giving your arms a break for 30 seconds between sets.

The military dumbbell press activates every part of your shoulders' deltoid muscles, trapezoids, and triceps.

You can perform any of these 6 arm exercises with kettlebells instead of dumbbells if that's what you regularly use. 

6 Great Arm Stretches

Now that you have 6 arm exercises to strengthen and tone your arms, shoulders, and upper body areas, here are 6 great arm stretches to help you lengthen and further tone your arms.

You will not need any equipment for these arm stretches.

1. Upper Trapezius Neck Stretch

A tight trapezius muscle can result in poor posture, headaches, neck pain, and in the most severe cases, can cause them to freeze, or become paralyzed. It's important to stretch these muscles regularly to avoid tightness and strain.

  • You can sit or stand.

  • Put one hand behind your lower back, and the other on the opposite side of the head.

  • Pull your head over to your shoulder, facing forward, until you feel the stretch.

  • Hold the pose for 30 seconds or more, and repeat on the other side.

Sitting at your computer at home or at the office for hours every day comes with a higher risk of tight traps.

2. Overhead Shoulder and Triceps Stretch

After a good upper body and arm workout, the overhead shoulder and triceps stretch lengthens and relaxes your muscles.

  • Sit or stand straight.

  • Put your arm over your head, dropping your forearm behind you, and resting it between your shoulder blades.

  • Take your other hand and grab the area above your bent elbow, pulling it gently until you feel the muscles in the back of your arm and shoulder stretch. Do not pull on your elbow.

  • If you can, keep your bicep close to your ear, and don't force it past there.

  • Hold the pose for about 30 seconds or more and repeat on the other side.

Triceps and shoulder stretches extend and stabilize the muscles you use for arm, elbow, and shoulder movement.

woman stretching her triceps

3. Assisted Side Bend

The assisted side stretch could become one of your favorite arm stretches. After an arm workout, this stretch is essential.

  • You will sit up straight for this stretch.

  • Inhale as you bring your hands out and up, bringing them together over your head.

  • Turn your left palm up, while clasping your left wrist with your right hand.

  • Exhale as you plant your pelvis (feet if standing) for stability, then lean over to your right as you pull your left arm using your right hand.

  • Let yourself breathe in this moment, slowly and deeply.

  • After holding this pose for a few seconds, switch sides and repeat with the other arm.

The muscles stretched include the latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid, teres major, obliques, and serratus anterior. In other words, it feels great.

4. Chest Stretch

After your great arm exercise routine, it's time to stretch your chest muscles to lengthen them. Your chest muscles will love you for this one. You can prevent neck pain, shoulder pain, and enjoy deep breathing better after this chest stretch.

  • Stand up straight

  • Place your arms behind your back, clasping your fingers together, and push your arms up behind your back until you can feel the stretch in your chest.

  • Your shoulder blades should be together during this stretch.

  • Hold the pose for at least 30 seconds.

Chest stretches expand and contract all your pectoral muscles and your shoulders and arms.

woman in the gym stretching her chest

5. Thread the Needle

Thread the needle is a stretch that helps to release any excess tension in your shoulders, back, and arms after an amazing arm exercise workout.

  • Starting on all fours, with your knees below the hips and your hand under your shoulders.

  • Take your right arm and "thread" it under your right shoulder going as far as you can without pain or discomfort.

  • When you reach your range of motion, rest your left cheek and shoulder on the floor.

  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.

  • Repeat on the other side.

Thread the needle is a stretch that targets your back and shoulders. You will feel the stretch. It should feel good and not be painful.

6. Wrist Stretches

Wrist stretches help you stretch out your hands, forearms, and wrists after you complete your arm-day workout. This is also called the fingers up and down stretch.

  • Sit or stand comfortably.

  • Keep your shoulders and back straight.

  • Stretch out your left arm in front of you, palm down.

  • Take your free hand and pull your fingers up like you're putting your hand flat against a wall. Hold this pose while you take three deep breaths.

  • Let your wrist relax, and with your fingers pointed down, gently pull your fingers back with your other hand, holding that position for three deep breaths.

  • Switch sides and repeat.

  • Do as many repetitions as needed without over-stretching.

Wrist stretches stretch the brachialis, extensor carpi radialis longus, flexor carpi, digitorum, brachioradialis, and extensor carpi radialis brevis. In other words, it stretches the forearms, wrists, and hands to keep things loose for optimal range of motion.

person stretching their wrist

Safe Stretching

Some things to remember before you engage in arm stretches include:

  • Avoiding over-stretching any weak muscles.

  • Avoid going over your normal range of motion. 

  • Check with your doctor before you start any exercise or stretch routine.

  • If you're taking steroids or you have osteoporosis, your risk of fracture is higher.

  • Progress slowly and carefully with stretching. Be patient. 

  • Breathe through your stretches.

Safety should be first before you start arm stretches, so take the proper stretching precautions.


Remember not to stretch beyond your comfort zone. The ultimate goal is to stretch the muscles, not to strain them or cause pain. Stretching your muscles is an important part of exercise and good musculoskeletal health.

Arm stretches are somewhat different for warming up the muscles before exercise and for cooling down after exercise. 

The arm stretches found in this article are for cooking down after a good arm workout session.

Anyone who engages in arm exercises and arm stretches should make sure to use proper form to reduce the risk of injury. Arm stretches are vital to preventing injuries for athletes, runners, and anyone who partakes in regular exercise.

Was this article helpful?

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Top 3 Stories