Internal Shoulder Rotation Stretches
The shoulder, a shallow ball-and-socket joint, is one of the most mobile in the human body, but its great range of motion also makes it less stable than other joints. The four muscles that make up the rotator cuff are tasked with stabilizing it, and the subscapularis muscle is responsible for both joint stability and internal shoulder rotation. The subscapularis is also the primary shoulder muscle used in racket sports and swimming, and keeping it healthy is quite important for injury prevention.
It’s best to perform a light warm-up before jumping into muscle stretching, as this prepares muscles to be stretched. Try walking briskly, jogging or cycling for 10 to 15 minutes. Once warmed up, start to activate your upper body with shoulder circles. Stand up straight with your feet firmly rooted into the ground. Lift your shoulders up toward your ears, then pull your shoulder blades together and slide your shoulder blades down your back, bringing your shoulders away from your ears. Repeat for 10 repetitions, then switch directions and perform 10 more.
The upper body portion of yoga’s Cow-Faced Pose is an internal shoulder rotation stretch sometimes referred to as the Towel Stretch. Find a comfortable seated position, place a towel or yoga strap in your right hand and lift your right arm up toward the sky. Bend the right elbow, bringing the palm of your right hand (and the strap) to rest on the back of your neck. Your right elbow should point toward the sky. Let your left arm hang loose at your side and turn your left hand so the palm faces behind you. Bend your left elbow, shifting your left hand up your spine. Reach for the strap or towel so that each hand is holding one end. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat for a total of two to four repetitions on each side.
Reverse Prayer Pose
Stand up straight with both arms resting comfortably at your sides. Turn both hands so your palms face behind you. Bend each elbow and rest each arm on your lower back, making sure to keep both palms facing away from your back. Grab opposite elbows and hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat two to four times. To make the stretch more intense, shift your fingertips up your spine and bring your palms to touch one another.
Necessity of Stretching
The subscapularis muscle constantly contracts and tenses as it stabilizes the shoulder joint and rotates the arm throughout the day. This contraction makes it strong, but can also lead to muscle shortening which, over time, reduces its range of motion. Stretching the muscle regularly helps prevent injury and keeps the joint functioning properly.
- University of Washington Medicine: Department of Radiology: Subscapularis
- The American Academy of Family Physicians: The Painful Shoulder: Part I. Clinical Evaluation
- Yoga Anatomy; Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews
Nicole Hopping is an American writer based in Hong Kong. As a registered yoga teacher and proponent of unprocessed food, she focuses on the convergence of lifestyle and wellness. Hopping began writing in 2011 and earned a Bachelor's degree in public health and public policy from the University of California Berkeley in 2007.