What Exercise Can Strengthen the Subscapularis?

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Ball throwers, racket swingers and people repetitively lifting objects overhead are at risk of straining or tearing the subscapularis muscle. This muscle is one of the muscles more commonly referred to as the rotator cuff. Exercises to strengthen the subscapularis must involve rotating your arm inward as if to point your thumb down.


Contraction of your subscapularis muscle creates a very small rotational movement, secondary to the flexion of your shoulder joint. Therefore, you should focus on rotating your arm so that you end each repetition with your palm nearly faced down. Keep the resistance light to concentrate on the subscapularis instead of on the larger pectoral and deltoid muscles. These exercises may be done as a rehab exercise. Or do them as prevention exercises at the end of your shoulder routine.

Internal Rotations

Internal rotations are best done with an exercise band that has a handle on each end. An immovable post is used to anchor the band in place by looping around the post, running one handle through the other. Perform the exercise by holding both handles in your right hand and turning to your left so your right side is adjacent to the post. Then, step to your left until there is tension in the band. Keep your upper arm against your ribs and bend your elbow to 90 degrees. Rotate your arm as far out to your right as you can, then pull the band across your abdomen, strengthening your subscapularis muscle. Complete three sets of 15 repetitions.

Front Chops

You may use an exercise band or a cable pulley with a single handle attachment to do front chops. The band or pulley must be positioned at least as high as your fingers when your arm is straightened at a diagonal above your head. Perform this exercise by grabbing the handle attached to the cable with your right hand and turning so the right side of your body is adjacent to the pulley machine. Step to your left to lift the weight you are using off of the weight stack. Contracting your abdominals ensures that you maintain a stable trunk, activating your subscapularis muscle more than your pectorals or obliques. With a slight bend in your elbow, pull the handle at a diagonal angle cross your body and toward your left hip. As you pull the handle downward, rotate your arm to point your thumb toward the floor, strengthening your subscapularis.

One-arm Ball Throws

Use a 2-lb. medicine ball to throw against a rebounder, strengthening your subscapularis muscle. Stand eight to 10 feet away from an angled rebounder. The rebounder mimics a person catching and throwing the ball back to you. Raise the ball above your head and throw it against the rebounder. As you throw the ball, rotate your arm inward, pointing the thumb side of your palm down as you release the ball.