• Leah Buckbee, CMA, LMT

Teres Major and Teres Minor, Hmmmm, what are those?

The teres major muscle is one of the six muscles within the scapulohumeral muscle group. The muscle is located on the underside of the upper arm, in the area between the shoulder and elbow. It has a flat shape and is supplied with nerves from the lower sub-scapular nerve. The arteries supply blood and oxygen to the muscle. The muscle is located near the teres minor muscle, which is the primary muscle found surrounding the rotator cuff. The teres major starts just below the armpit and stops at the top of the humerus, the large bone of the upper arm. It is considered a medial rotator and helps control certain movements of the humerus. The muscle helps the latissimus dorsi in moving the humerus back and down when extended, and also stabilizes the upper portion, or head, of the humerus.

The teres minor is a slim, narrow muscle within the rotator cuff, located in the shoulder. It is involved in the external rotation of the shoulder joint. The other muscles composing the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and subscapularis. It connects the scapula to the humerus, along with the teres major and infraspinatus muscles, which lie on either side and overlap the teres minor. Along with the infraspinatus, the muscle keeps the head of the humerus in place where it joins with the scapula. It is possible for the two muscles to be interconnected by a few fibers. Torn rotator cuff tendons occur commonly among athletes in sports involving throwing, such as football, tennis and baseball. Treatment for the condition involves reducing the swelling with rest, ice, and keeping the arm elevated. Seeing a Medical Massage Therapist, can help with keeping the shoulder from freezing and subdue pain and swelling however, depending on the extremity of the injury, surgery still may be necessary. Specific arm exercises may be used to strengthen, heal, and protect against possible future tears of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor.

Exercising the Teres Major/Minor

1. Horizontal Rotation

Loop an exercise band with a handle on each end through an immovable bar at shoulder level. Insert one handle through the other then pull, securing the band around the bar.

Hold one handle in your right hand and step backward from the attachment site until a slight tension is in the band. Raise your right upper arm out to your side, bending your elbow so your shoulder and elbow form 90 degrees; your forearm should be parallel to the floor, with your palm facing down.

Keep your shoulder and elbow joints at a fixed 90 degrees as you raise your forearm until it is perpendicular to the floor, engaging your teres minor muscle to rotate your upper arm outward. Lower your forearm back toward the front until it is parallel to the floor and repeat for one set of 10 to 15 repetitions.

Switch arms to work the teres minor on the other side of your body. Continue to alternate arms to complete three sets, stepping backward just a little bit if you need to increase the resistance.

Read more: Ultimate Back & Shoulder Workouts

2. One-Arm Dumbbell Rows

Perform teres major exercises with dumbbells. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, then place your left knee and your left palm on a flat exercise bench. Your knee should be under your left hip, and your palm should be under your left shoulder.

Draw your navel toward your spine and stick your buttocks out behind you to maintain a flat back throughout the exercise.

Contract your latissimus dorsi and your teres major muscles to pull the dumbbell toward you, extending your upper arm behind your rib cage as you squeeze your right shoulder blade toward your spine. Hold the contraction for two seconds, then slowly lower the dumbbell until your arm is straight.

Repeat for one set of 10 to 15 repetitions, then switch arms to work the teres major on the left side of your body. Continue to alternate arms for three sets, increasing the weight or the number of repetitions you do with every set.

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Leah  Buckbee


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