Stretches for the Subscapularis

Chances are, you've heard of your rotator cuff muscles. The subscapularis is among the four muscles that form the rotator cuff. It originates on the anterior surface of the scapula and inserts into the top of the humerus — the upper arm bone. Together with the other rotator cuff muscles, the subscapularis moves and stabilizes the shoulder joint. Subscapularis stretches help keep the muscle flexible, ensuring the shoulder joint moves freely through its range of motion and helping to prevent poor posture.

There are several stretches for the subscapularis. (Image: Hero Images/Hero Images/GettyImages)

1. Warm It Up

Start with some dynamic stretches to warm up, loosen up, and put your shoulder joints through a full range of motion.

HOW TO DO IT: Lean forward and place one hand on a surface with your other arm hanging freely by your side. Swing that arm forward and backward, then side to side and finally in a circular motion. Do these motions 15 to 20 times with each arm. These dynamic stretches work all three heads of the deltoids, as well as the subscapularis, supraspinatus and infraspinatus. The supraspinatus, infraspinatus and teres minor are the other rotator cuff muscles.

2. Combat Postural Imbalances

Short and tight subscapularis and pectorals may cause a protracted shoulder girdle, with your shoulders pulled forward, according to ExRx.net. Correct this postural imbalance with a doorway subscapularis stretch.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand in front of an open doorway, bend your elbow and place the inside of your forearm flat against the wall. Keep your upper arm roughly parallel to the floor. Step into the doorway with your far leg, hinge forward at the hips and gently push your forearm against the wall. You should feel a stretch at the front of your shoulders and your upper chest. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat twice; then switch arms.

3. Improve Shoulder Flexibility

Tightness in your subscapularis can make it difficult to rotate your arm away from your body — a movement called external rotation. Subscapularis tightness increases your risk of injury when performing exercises that involve externally rotating your shoulders away from the central line of your body, according to ExRx.net. These include exercises such as pec dec flys and the behind-the-neck barbell press. The broomstick subscapularis stretch increases flexibility, reducing the risk of a shoulder injury.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand and hold a broomstick vertically in your left hand. Place your right hand at the top end of the broomstick and gently push backward to stretch your left arm behind your body. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times on each arm. You should feel a stretch at the front of your shoulders.

4. Towel Subscapularis Stretch

The towel subscapularis stretch may also improve flexibility in your subscapularis muscle.

HOW TO DO IT: Hold one end of a large towel in your right hand and reach over your right shoulder. Grab the opposite end of the towel behind your back, with your left hand. Slowly raise your right hand overhead, allowing your left hand to slide up your back. You should feel a stretch on the front of your shoulders and your pectorals. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times.

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