Exercises for the Zygomaticus Major Muscle

Portrait of elderly woman grinning

The zygomaticus major and minor muscles are attached to your cheekbone, or the zygomatic bone, and are responsible for drawing your mouth upward and backward, helping you to smile in pleasure or screech in agony. While the long and dense zygomaticus major muscle runs from the corners of your mouth and up toward your cheeks, the zygomaticus minor muscle is located along the upper lip. To give the zygomaticus major muscle a workout, perform exercises that help you to smile.

The Purpose

Like every other muscle, the zygomaticus major muscle will begin to sag as you age, which causes the corners of your mouth to turn down. By performing strengthening exercises for this muscle, you can firm the corners of your mouth and maintain your smile. In addition, you can improve the control of these muscles as well as increase the symmetry in the appearance of the sides of your mouth and cheekbones. Strong and flexible zygomatic muscles can help you with chewing and speech, according to the Oxford University Hospitals’ website.


Sit or stand in front of mirror when you perform strengthening exercises for the zygomaticus major muscle, so you can see the movements of your facial muscles. Begin by pulling the corners of your mouth up toward your ears in the position of an extreme smile and then slowly release the smile. Repeat the exercise 20 times. If you find it difficult to smile, put your index fingers on the corners of your mouth to help draw the corners of your mouth upward and back. Avoid gritting your teeth and try to maintain a relaxed breathing cycle. To intensify the exercise, you can add resistance by placing the backs of your index fingers by the corners of your mouth, palms facing away from you. Pull the corners of your mouth upward, resisting the pressure of your fingers with the Zygomaticus major muscle. Perform 20 reps.

Combination Exercise

You can do a combination exercise that can tone both the Zygomaticus major and Zygomaticus minor muscles and improve your chewing motions. Put a cork or a similar size object between your upper and lower teeth, which will help to maintain an open jaw. While in this position, draw the corners of your mouth toward your ears. Perform 10 reps and then take the cork out of your mouth, allowing your mouth to close and relax. Repeat the exercise a second time.


A tense smile or pinched lips can increase the wrinkles around and above your mouth. Perform a relaxation exercise with a gliding stroke to relax your zygomaticus major and minor muscles. For example, start by sliding your fingertips from the corners of your mouth up and over your cheekbones. Use a diagonal trajectory that stretches from your mouth to your ears, gently massaging the zygomatic muscles. Repeat the exercise a few times. Easing the tension in these muscles that help to move your lips can promote better speech.