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There are two major muscles between the shoulder and elbow joints, and they are among the most used muscles in the body. The muscles work together to perform daily activities such as picking up groceries, brushing your teeth, reaching for a book on the top shelf or drinking a cup of coffee. With age, muscles become tighter and the range of motion in the joints decreases. MayoClinic.com notes that a regular stretching routine can improve flexibility and make day-to-day activities easier to perform.
Upper Arm Muscles
The primary muscles of the upper arm are the biceps and triceps. The biceps brachii muscle runs down along the front of your upper arm. This muscle is commonly referred to as the biceps because it consists of two heads, the short head and the long head. The bicep muscle is instrumental in elbow flexion, or the bending of your arm toward your shoulder.
The triceps brachii has three heads -- the lateral, medial and long -- and commonly is referred to as the triceps. This muscle is instrumental in straightening your arm and extending the elbow.
Sample Biceps Stretches
An effective upper-arm exercise that also stretches your pectoral muscles is the one-arm biceps wall stretch. To perform the stretch correctly, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your right side toward a wall. Extend your right arm behind you and place your palm, inner elbow and shoulder against the wall. While keeping your arm in contact with the wall, slowly turn your torso to the left until your feel a stretch in your upper arm. Hold the position 20 to 30 seconds, relax and repeat. Perform the stretch 10 times, and then switch arms.
ExRx.net explains that the two-arm wall stretch primarily targets the biceps and also stretches your pectoralis and deltoids to some degree. Stand a few feet away from a wall with your back to the wall. Position your feet hip-width apart, extend both arms backward and place your hands against the wall. Move your hands as high and as close together as possible with your fingers pointing up. Bend and move your hips toward the wall as you bend your knees and lower your body into a shallow squat. When you feel the stretch in your biceps, hold the position for 20 seconds.
Sample Triceps Stretches
The triceps overhead stretch can be performed while sitting or standing. Raise your left arm and extend it straight above your head. Bend your elbow and allow your hand to drop behind your left shoulder blade. With your right hand on your left elbow, gently push your elbow backward until you start to feel the stretch in your triceps. PhysioAdvisor.com recommends holding the stretch 15 seconds and repeating four times as long as there is no pain. Switch arms and repeat.
Another effective exercise is the triceps side stretch. Start by standing erect with your feet hip-width apart. Move your right arm across your body with the elbow below your chin. With your left hand on your right elbow, pull your elbow toward your left shoulder until you feel the stretch. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests holding the stretch 10 to 20 seconds and then switching arms.
MayoClinic.com does not recommend stretching cold muscles, which can increase your risk of injury. Perform a five- to 10-minute warm-up before beginning your stretches. Riding a stationary bike, brisk walking, light jogging, jumping jacks or marching in place are activities that elevate your heart rate and get your blood flowing to your muscles. Avoid jerking or bouncing, because this can cause pulls and injuries to the muscle fibers. Stretch with slow, gentle and controlled movements. Maintain a normal breathing rhythm when you hold a stretch.