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Home > Stretches > Subscapularis Stretch

Subscapularis Stretch #1

subscapularis rotator cuff

Directions

  1. This is very difficult to explain so bear with me and look at the picture.  Seated or standing, stick your left arm out in front of you at a 45 degree angle (across your chest) with your thumb up (pinky down), your elbow straight, and your arm parallel to the ground
  2. Do the same thing with your right arm, with your right arm on top such that your right elbow sits in the crook of your left arm (you’ve now made a big X with your arms)
  3. Bend your right arm so that your elbow is at a right angle (90 degrees), the fingers of the right hand pointing toward the sky
  4. Slide your left arm 2-3 inches closer to your body such that the crook of your left arm supports your right tricep
  5. Bend your left arm, reaching up to grab your right wrist.  Your left forefinger should wrap around onto the left side of your right palm and your left thumb should wrap around onto the right part of your right palm (onto the muscle of your right thumb)
  6. If you’re not already feeling the stretch in your subscapularis, straighten your left arm slightly (fire the left tricep)

Tips

  1. Moving both your arms down your chest slightly will also increase the subscapularis stretch of the subscapularis.
  2. Stretching the subscapularis is difficult if you have a winged scapula.  In fact, this particular method, while convenient, is ineffective at stretching the subscapularis on a winged scapula (in my experience).  I found the broomstick subscapularis stretch to be better when I had a winged scapula on my left side.

subscapularis stretch

Background

Why do we care about the subscapularis?  From a layman’s perspective, the subscapularis is a pretty obscure muscle.  The truth is, the subscapularis is probably not dysfunctional in most people, nor do most people have a dire need to stretch the subscapularis.  However, like every muscle, the subscapularis can be indicated in a larger pattern of musculoskeletal dysfunction, especially in athletes who use their shoulders a lot, like swimmers, golfers, baseball/cricket pitchers, and tennis players.  There are a few reasons to pay attention to the subscapularis muscle.

subscapularis stretch

Subscapularis pain can mimic upper back pain.  I experienced subscapularis pain personally.  For weeks I had pain in the upper right side of my back and kept thinking my back pain was coming from a tight latissumus dorsi or serratus anterior.  My subscapularis went into spasm when I was carrying a heavy backpack down the street.  My ART therapist / chiropractor said he thought the pain was coming from the subscapularis, which I discounted because stretching the subscapularis using a broomstick was not painful.  Curiously, I invented this stretch, and when I was doing it I could feel something catch and release as I initiated the stretch.  After a few days of doing the stretch a couple of times a day the catch-and-release sensation did not happen when I stretched my subscapularis and the pain dissipated shortly thereafter. Oddly enough, while this subscapularis stretch worked better on my right side (I did not have a winged scapula on the right side), the broomstick subscapularis stretch worked better on my left subscapularis, on which side I had a winged scapula.

The subscapularis contributes to an undesirable condition, present in most deskjockeys, namely the internal rotation of the humerus.  The subscapularis is an internal rotator of the humerus.  This means the subscapularis turns your arm inward from the shoulder (imagine how an ape walks, with its palms facing backwards and the top of its hand facing forwards).  Now, this is not to say that a tight subscapularis causes you to hold your arms like an ape, there are several other stronger and more likely culprits, other muscles that are capable of internally rotating the humerus.  They are: the pectoralis major, the latissimus dorsi, the anterior deltoid, the teres major (another rotator cuff muscle), and, while not technically an internal rotator of the humerus, tight biceps exacerbate an internally rotated humerus.  At any rate, if you’re interested in this subject, I suggest reading Marc McDougal’s article on the subject.

Further Reading: Related Floota.com Articles

  1. Subscapularis Stretch #2
  2. Desk Jockey: What Sitting all Day is Doing to Your Body
  3. Biceps Stretch

References

  1. Subscapularis and Internal Humeral Rotators @ exrx.net
  2. Marc McDougal @ mindandmuscle.net
  3. Subscapularis: The Hidden Culprit, by Judith DeLany
  4. Subscapularis @ wikipedia.org
  5. How Can you Stretch the Subscapularis? @ wiki.answers.com

Related Products

  1. Rotator Cuff Training Guide
  2. Frozen Shoulder Therapy Guide

Last Updated: 6/24/2011
Originally Posted: 4/7/2008