Toss a ball around with your fellow nesties today and you'll feel it in your outer, or exterior, arm tomorrow. That's because you're working the muscles that control elbow and wrist function, including the triceps brachii of the upper arm and various wrist extensors in the lower arm. Superstar athletes who throw, pass, swing or punch for a living stretch their outer-arm muscles regularly to increase joint range of motion, improve performance and ward off serious injury. If your outer arms are tight -- from tossing that ball or manipulating your mouse all day -- take your cue from the pros and stretch regularly to keep outer-arm pain and stiffness at bay.
Sit or stand for a wrist extensor stretch, an exercise MayoClinic.com recommends for computer-related tension along the outer forearm. Extend your right arm in front of your chest, palm facing down. Bend the wrist, directing your fingers to the floor. With your left hand, gently press the back of the right hand toward your body. When you feel a light stretch along the outer lower arm, hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds. Relax the right hand briefly and repeat the stretch one to four times. Switch to your left side.
Kneel on the floor to work both forearms simultaneously. Bend both wrists and place the backs of your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Your fingers should be pointing toward your knees. Keeping your elbows straight, shift your weight forward very slowly and press your hands gently into the floor until you feel light tension along your outer forearms. Breathe easily and maintain total control of the movement. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds and then pull back. Repeat up to four times.
Stretch the outer upper arm, or triceps, with the arm in an overhead position. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your back straight and your knees slightly bent. Create space between your shoulders and your ears by pressing your shoulders down and slightly back. Extend your right arm overhead, bend the arm at the elbow and grasp the elbow with your left hand. Gently pull the elbow to the left until you feel a light stretch along the outer upper arm. Exhale and continue pulling on the elbow as you bend your torso to the left. Your hips should remain level and facing front. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to an upright position and relax the arm briefly. Repeat the stretch up to four times before switching to your left arm.
Use a hand towel for an intense variation of the overhead triceps stretch. Roll up the towel lengthwise and grasp one end with your right hand. Place your right hand behind your head, allowing the towel to hang loosely along your spine. With your left hand, reach behind your back and take hold of the free end of the towel. Gently pull down on the lower end of the towel until you feel light to moderate tension in the outer muscles of your upper right arm. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds if you can do so comfortably. Relax the arm briefly and repeat up to four times before switching to your left arm.
Extend both arms overhead for an energizing stretch along the entire outer arm. Cross your right wrist in front of your left and press your palms together. Relax your neck and shoulders and allow your head to drop forward slightly as you stretch your arms up and slightly back. Bob Anderson, author of "Stretching," recommends holding the stretch for only five to eight seconds. Recross your arms with the left wrist in front of the right and repeat the stretch.
- MayoClinic.com: Video -- Forearm Stretches for the Workplace
- ExRx.net: Kneeling Wrist Extensor Stretch
- ExRx.net: Overhead Triceps Stretch
- Stretching; Bob Anderson and Jean Anderson
- ExRx.net: Towel Triceps Stretch
- The Anatomy of Stretching; Brad Walker
- Stretch when your muscles and joints are warm and supple, ideally after a vigorous workout. If that's not possible, spend five to seven minutes warming up with general, low-impact cardio activity -- such as marching or jogging in place -- and a dynamic stretch that involves your arms. A set of 12 to 15 lateral lunges with a light arm swing should be sufficient.
- Relax your face, jaw, neck and shoulders and breathe at regular intervals to achieve a deeper, more effective stretch.
- Stay alert and in control of your movements to avoid injury. Move in and out of stretches slowly and deliberately. If you feel excessive tension, pain or pinching when you stretch, stop. You've likely pushed too far, too fast.
- Working with the arms in an overhead position can inhibit blood flow to the shoulder. Pull back from any stretch that leads to numbing or tingling in the arm or shoulder area.
- Forcing or bouncing a stretch can trigger the stretch reflex, causing the muscles to tighten up.
Judy Fisk has been writing professionally since 2011, specializing in fitness, recreation, culture and the arts. A certified fitness instructor with decades of dance training, she has taught older adults, teens and kids. She has written educational and fundraising material for several non-profit organizations and her work has appeared in numerous major online publications. Fisk holds a Bachelor of Arts in public and international affairs from Princeton University.