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5 Best Teres Major Exercises (Crucial For V Shape)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 16, 2022

As bodybuilders, we tend to focus most of our attention on a few major muscle groups that create the biggest visual impacts.

But underestimating some of the 600 smaller muscles like the teres major could end up holding back your overall strength-building progress. That's why I always recommend that my readers and clients regularly isolate some of those muscles.

For this blog post, I got together with the Total Shape team to bring all our experience and research on the best exercises to further strengthen your shoulders through teres major isolation exercises.

Let's get right to it.

Quick Summary

  • The teres major and teres minor play a critical role in rotating and lifting your arm.
  • Because of the way this rotator cuff muscle connects the shoulder blade to the arm, it protects and stabilizes the shoulder joint.
  • With a few targeted isolation exercises, you can strengthen the teres major function and better support other muscle-building exercises.

What Exercises Work The Teres Major?

There are many compound exercises like lat pulldowns and the shoulder press that will also target the teres major and teres minor muscles.

But the larger muscles in your back and shoulder will tend to get most of the strain.

That's why you should aim to include these exercises on a weekly basis.

1. Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows (3 sets of 12 reps each side)

woman in a bent over row position

The single-arm dumbbell row is my go-to exercise for the back and shoulder muscles.

  1. Get into the starting position by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Take one step forward, dip your left shoulder down and rest your left arm on your left knee.
  3. Grab hold of a dumbbell with your right hand and then slowly pull it up to your chest.
  4. Hold the tension for a second and then lower it back down again.

2. Face Pulls (3 sets of 12 reps)

I prefer doing these with the rope handles, but you can use any kind of handle that keeps your hands close together. 

  1. Get into the starting position with the cable machine set up at face height.
  2. Stand far enough away so that your stretched out arms get a small bit of tension on the cable.
  3. Pull the handle straight to your face and let the elbows flare out.
  4. Slowly release the tension.

3. T-Bar Cable Rows (3 sets of 12 reps)

man in a t cable row position

Sticking with the cable machine, let's switch to the seated cable rows. 

  1. Get into the starting position with the T-bar handle at chest height and your arms straight.
  2. Use an underhand grip, pull the handle towards your chest and feel the tension between your shoulder blades.
  3. Slowly return the handle to the starting point.
  4. Alternatively, switch to an overhand grip.

Related Article: How To Do T-Bar Rows

4. Straight Arm Pulldowns (3 sets of 12 reps)

woman using a cable machine

Use the same wide bar you would for a lat pulldown for this effective teres major exercise. 

  1. Get into the starting position with your hands on the bar at about shoulder height.
  2. Keep your body still and slowly push your hands down as far as hip height.
  3. Hold the lowest point for a second and then slowly release the tension.

5. Pull-Ups (3 sets to failure)

man working out

And finally, try adding some bodyweight pull-ups

  1. Start with a wide-grip setup and your palms facing away from you.
  2. Slowly pull yourself up until your chin reaches the bar and hold for a second.
  3. Then lower yourself back down again and feel the burn across your back.

Teres Major Anatomy

The teres major muscle and teres minor muscle run in parallel from the shoulder blade and attach to the upper arm bone.

They are much smaller than the dominant latissimus dorsi, which also originates at the shoulder blades [1].

Collectively, these muscles control the movement of the arm around the rotator cuff and stop the humeral head from sliding out of position [2]. And that's important for many different other exercises.

The more strain you place through a weight lifting routine on shoulder adduction, the more support you need to stabilize the joint. And that's why it's important to strengthen the teres muscles on a regular basis.

What Is The Main Function Of The Teres Major?

The main function of the teres major is to facilitate shoulder movement and arm rotation [3].

It also plays a role in supporting the rotator cuff joint during strenuous movements so that the arm bone doesn't pop out of the joint socket.

"Teres major (TM) is a small muscle that runs along the lateral border of the scapula. It is one of the seven scapulohumeral muscles that act around the glenohumeral joint to facilitate shoulder movement. It's sometimes called "lat's little helper" because of its synergistic action with the latissimus dorsi." - Physio-pedia.com.

Other Teres Major Training Tips

teres major muscles

With the above list of exercises, you'll be well equipped to add more shoulder joint support and stability. But there are a few more tips you want to take into account.

Reps and Sets

I provided some guidelines for reps and sets above, and I suggest that most people target the teres major from a muscle-building approach.

This is not a muscle that will change your physique much, but strengthening it can help you with other upper body exercises [4].

Training Frequency

What I personally recommend is that you pick one teres major exercise and add it to the days you train your shoulders and upper arms.

Once or twice a week should be more than enough to build up more strength in this one muscle.

Training Variation

woman stretching her back

I would suggest that you add teres major and teres minor exercises to your shoulder days. Both of these two muscles work together, so avoid favoring one over the other.

Also, try to vary the type of workout you do each week. If you do single-arm dumbbell rows this week, plan for a straight arm pulldown workout next week. It's the best way to avoid getting bored of the same exercise all the time.

FAQs

Are Teres Major Injuries Common?

No, teres major injuries are not common. The main reason you might encounter problems is when you place a very repetitive strain through the same exercises or movements on a very regular basis [5].

Does the Teres Major Support Your Posture?

Yes, the teres major muscle supports your posture by stabilizing your shoulder joints [6]. However, it's not the most critical muscle for better posture, and you may need to strengthen your entire back and core for a good standing and sitting posture.

Are You Going To Target Your Teres Major?

Carefully targeting the teres major on a regular basis for your arm and shoulder days will give your shoulders a lot more support and stability.

This strengthening effect will then be a benefit for other arm and shoulder exercises, allowing you to train harder.

Try to add 1 or 2 of the above exercises to your weekly routine, and you'll be making a considerable difference to your overall shoulder strength.

And if you need some more tips and getting bigger shoulders, then check out this guide.


References:

  1. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Latissimus_Dorsi_Muscle
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441844/
  3. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Teres_Major
  4. https://www.kenhub.com/en/library/anatomy/teres-major-muscle
  5. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0363546516676062?journalCode=ajsb
  6. https://www.getbodysmart.com/arm-muscles/teres-major-muscle

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