Abstract The ARGO-YBJ experiment is a full-coverage air shower detector operating at the Yangbajing International Cosmic Ray Observatory (Tibet, PR China, 4300m a.s.l.). The detector was in stable data taking in its full configuration from November 2007 to February 2013. More than 5×1011 events have been collected and reconstructed. Due to its characteristics (full-coverage, high segmentation, high altitude operation) the ARGO-YBJ experiment is able to investigate the cosmic ray energy spectrum in a wide energy range and offer the possibility of measuring the cosmic ray light component spectrum down to the TeV region, where direct balloon-borne measurements are available. In this work we present the measurement of the proton and helium spectra in the energy range 1–300TeV by using a large data sample collected between January 2008 and December 2011.