Elbow, Arm & Wrist Stretches

Elbow and arm stretching exercises are usually most important when rehabilitating an elbow or wrist injury and include wrist flexors, wrist extensors, tennis elbow stretch and triceps muscle. In particular martial artists often do wrist and arm stretches as part of their warm-up.

Wrist flexor stretch

Stretching the wrist flexor muscles can be difficult, but using a wall to apply pressure and increase the range of motion can be very effective. Make sure you keep the elbow straight.

Teaching Points

  • Stand to face a wall with your arms outstretched and palms facing up. 
  • Place your fingers on the wall pointing downwards. 
  • Slowly try to place your whole hand flat on the wall by extending the wrist.
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Variations

  • Perform on all fours so that your fingers point to your knees.
  • To increase the stretch, sit further back onto your heels.

Muscles Stretched

  • Flexor Carpi Radialis.
  • Flexor Carpi Ulnaris. 
  • Flexor Digitorum Superficialis.
  • Biceps Brachii.

Wrist extensor stretch

Stretching the wrist extensors can be an effective treatment for tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis.

Teaching Points

  • Hold one arm straight out in front.
  • Use the other hand to bend the wrist and point the fingers towards the floor, applying gentle pressure.
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Variations

  • Use a wall to apply pressure rather than the other hand.

Muscles Stretched

  • Extensor carpi radialis brevis.
  • Extensor carpi radialis longus.
  • Extensor carpi ulnaris.
  • Extensor digitorum communis.

Tennis Elbow stretch

Tennis elbow (also known as lateral epicondylitis) is caused by degenerative changes in one or more of the forearm muscles, where they attach to the humerus. Stretching is part of the treatment for this condition.

Teaching Points

  • Hold one arm straight out in front.
  • Use the other hand to bend the wrist and point the fingers towards the floor.
  • Rotate the wrist so that the fingers point across the body.
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Muscles Stretched

  • Wrist Extensors

Triceps

The muscles of the arm including the Triceps are often overlooked when it comes to a stretching routine. Stretching the Triceps especially after a weights workout can help reduce DOMS.

Teaching Points

  • Place your hand on your upper back with the elbow bend towards the ceiling.
  • Use your other hand to pull the elbow towards your head.
  • Hold for between 10 and 30 seconds.

Muscles Stretched

  • Triceps Brachii

Assisted triceps stretch

The assisted triceps stretch aims to stretch the triceps brachii muscle with assistance from a therapist.

Teaching points

  • The therapist supports the elbow and holds the wrist with the other hand.
  • The hand is moved towards the shoulder until a stretch is felt by the athlete.

Muscles stretched

  • Triceps brachii

Assisted Supinator Stretch

This stretch requires the help of a partner or therapist to stretch the muscles which supinate the wrist (turn the hand over).

Teaching Points:

  • The patient is in a relaxed position with the upper arm supported.
  • The therapist fully pronates the hand (so the palm faces down) to stretch and lengthen the supinator muscles.
  • A mild stretch may be felt in the wrist and forearm.
  • This position can be held for up to a minute, provided it does not cause pain.
  • Doing this exercise with the elbow bent reduces the stretch on the Biceps muscle to focus on supinator.

Muscles Stretched:

  • Supinator
  • Biceps Brachii
  • Brachioradialis

Prolonged Wrist Stretches

This exercise aims to increase the range of motion into pronation and supination. Pronation is the movement of turning the hand so the palm faces downwards. Supination is the opposite movements so the palm ends facing upwards.

Teaching Points:

  • To increase range of motion into supination and pronation – i.e. turning the palm up or down, a weighted bar can be used to aid gravity.
  • The athlete sits with the elbow supported, directly under the shoulder.
  • The end of the bar is held in one hand, which is positioned at the end range for either movement.
  • This should be held for at least 5 minutes.

Muscles Stretched:

In pronation:

  • Supinator
  • Biceps Brachii
  • Brachioradialis

In supination:

  • Pronator Teres
  • Pronator Quadratus

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