A quick Google search of teres major might lead you to a butcher’s website for steak where it's described as the second most tender cut of beef. We won’t be covering the teres major of a cow in this article. Instead, we will go over the two muscles found in your upper back, the teres major and teres minor. The teres major plays an important role in moving your arms and shoulders. It can also add width to the much desired “V look. The teres minor is the smaller of the teres muscles and it helps to stabilize the ball and socket glenohumeral joint and supports lateral or external rotation of the arm at the shoulder joint. It's vital to strengthen the teres major and teres minor muscles to prevent potential shoulder pain. Unbeknownst to many, the culprits causing this pain might be the teres major or the teres minor. It’s about time you know their names.
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Although they share a name, both of the teres muscles have different functions in the human body. This is due to where they’re based on the humerus. The teres major muscle shares a common end tendon with the latissimus dorsi on the front of the humerus. The teres minor is based on the tuberosity (where muscles and connective tissues attach) of the humerus head.
Its name is derived from the Latin word teres, meaning “rounded” and major being the bigger of the two teres muscles. This muscle is located above the latissimus dorsi. The teres major muscle attaches to the humerus and the scapula. Many people think that the teres major is part of the rotator cuff muscle but it isn’t as it doesn’t attach to the capsule of the shoulder joint. Fun fact, the teres major is sometimes referred to as the lats little helper.
The teres major helps with the internal and medial rotation of the humerus (upper arm) by pulling the anterior surface of the humerus towards the trunk. It also helps to extend the arm from a flexed position. The teres major is sometimes referred to as the climbing muscle as it works in unison with the pectoralis major (pecs) and latissimus dorsi(lats) muscles to pull the trunk via adduction when its humeral attachment is fixed. This muscle also supports and helps to stabilize the lats especially in wood chopping movements. The teres major action plays an important role many arm swinging movements.
Once again, the name teres comes for the Latin word "rounded" and minor from it being the smaller of the two teres muscles. One of the four muscles that comprise the rotator cuff, the teres minor is located below the infraspinatus and above the teres major and next to the triceps brachii.
The teres minor and the infraspinatus work in conjunction to hold the humeral head in the glenoid cavity of the scapula. Apart from this, the teres minor action helps stabilize the shoulder, supports external rotation of the shoulder and aids in the adduction and extension of the shoulder.
We put together 15 of the best exercises you can add to your workout to strengthen the teres major and teres minor muscles. All of these exercises also work other various muscles of the back, shoulders and chest, this is because your teres muscles work in concert with multiple muscle groups. Due to the location and function of the teres major and teres minor you will be strengthening the neighboring muscles as well.
Note: Keep your core engaged throughout this movement.
Note: Keep your core tight throughout the movement and focus on pulling the bar down with your lats not your arms
Note: Keep a neutral spine throughout the movement while keeping core engaged without letting your hips drop.
Note: Keep your body stationary and pull up through the elbows not using your biceps.
Note: Keep your chest up throughout the exercise.
Note: Switch up the targeted muscles by trying wide grip pulldown or neutral grip pull down.
Note: Retract your scapula by squeezing your shoulder blades back and down together.
Note: Retract your scapula by squeezing your shoulder blades back and down together.
Related: Pull-ups vs Chin-ups
Note: Keep your core engaged throughout the movement and keep your body stationary without rotating at the hips.
Note: Keep chest up throughout the movement and pull through your elbows.
Note: Avoid leaning forward and keep torso and legs stationary throughout the movement
Note: Keep your upper back against the bench throughout the movement
Note: Don’t lock out your elbows and keep your core engaged throughout the movement
Note: Focus on retracting your shoulder blades and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement
Note: Turn your hands slightly while pulling back to get the external rotation of the shoulder which engages your rotator cuff.
There are a number of activities or repetitive motions that may cause pain in the teres major. Certain constant movements like using your computer mouse for hours on end with your arm stuck at your side and your arm/hand are rotating slightly inwards can cause pain in the teres major. Other actions such as writing for long stretches of time or imbalanced training can cause shortening of the teres major.
The teres major can then become spastic, pulling the head of the humerus into the socket incorrectly. This can cause numerous problems including added stress on other muscles and the weakening of the shoulder joint. Sometimes reaching higher than shoulder level will have people take notice of the teres major pain. Shortened teres major muscles can lead to mid back, shoulder and neck pain. Trigger points in the teres major are frequently related to frozen shoulder syndrome.
How to fix Teres Major Pain
If you’re experiencing teres major discomfort or pain described above then it’s important to know how to alleviate this pain before it leads to other more serious issues. Three crucial elements of keeping your muscles pain free are myofascial release, stretching and strengthening.
Trigger point therapy or myofascial release therapy can work wonders for teres major muscle pain. You will need a lacrosse(massage) ball or any other type of semi-hard ball to help release your teres major muscle.Standing/Lying Teres Major Release:
Related: How to Release Neck & Shoulders
Stretching is an important aspect of any well-rounded exercise routine especially concerning the teres major as many people experience pain because the muscle becomes too tight. Here are three easy stretches for your teres major helping to get the blood flowing back into the muscle. If you’re experiencing pain from tight teres major muscles trying doing these stretches a few times a week especially after any back workouts.
Overhead Side stretch
Note: For a deeper stretch roll your top shoulder forward to the surface of the bed/bench
Standing Elbow Wall Stretch
Belonging to the rotator cuff, the teres minor tendon can become irritated or inflamed during a process called tendinitis. Usually an external injury, this is generally caused by repetitive overhead movements. People will feel pain and might hear a clicking sound when raising their arm over their head. Treatment for teres minor pain include trigger point therapy or myofascial release, rest and ice.
Stretching and strengthening is also important to help ease the pressure. It’s imperative to know just how bad your teres minor pain is so that you make the problem worse. Here is a specific test to determine if you have any tears in your teres minor muscle.
Related: 7 Band Exercises for Rotator Cuff
Hornblower’s Sign aka (Teres Minor Test)
Start with your arms at 90 degrees in the scapular plane (arms up to your sides at shoulder level) with your elbows bent at 90 degrees. A doctor or technician will apply resistance against external rotation. The person will be asked to raise their hands into making a “field goal sign”. If the person can’t externally rotate at the shoulder, then the pathology indicates it might be a tear in the teres minor.
How to fix teres minor pain
Teres minor pain can be a real annoyance when you try to lift your arms over your head. To curb the pain of the teres minor muscle you should follow the same advice of the teres major protocol; trigger point therapy, stretching and strengthening of the teres minor. This should help alleviate the tightness and pain if it is mild. If you have serious pain and can’t move your arm at all above your head then you should see a doctor to check if you have a tear in the teres minor or infraspinatus muscle.
Related: 11 Scapular Stabilization Exercises
Winged Door Stretch
We hope you have a better understanding of the teres muscles now. It’s important that you regularly target the teres major and teres minor in your workouts. From someone who experiences frequent tightness in this region I can assure you that consistent stretching and trigger point sessions will enable you to reach up for the sky with no problems.
More Resources on Back Strengthening Exercises
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