Rotator Cuff Therapy Exercises

Rotator Cuff Strengthening Exercises


Rotator cuff strengthening exercises are designed for everyone. They are simple to do and require little or no equipment.

All of the exercises I am going to highlight can be done in the home. Not only that but I will explain exactly how each exercise should be done.

If you are recovering from a rotator cuff injury, rotator cuff strengthening exercises are the final piece in the jigsaw.If you have not had a previous injury rotator cuff strengthening can prevent an injury occurring.

No matter what your reason for reading this I know these exercises will be exactly what you are looking for.

The basics of rotator cuff training

Planes of movement

I must stress there is no such thing as the ultimate rotator cuff exercise. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles each with its own distinct function. Yes, they all work together to stabilise the shoulder but they must be trained individually.

The individual rotator cuff muscles control movement of the arm in three different directions.
  • . Internal rotation
  • . External rotation
  • . Abduction
Because of this variety of arm movement it is important to strengthen the muscles in different ways. Rotator cuff strengthening exercises often show movement in what are known as neutral positions.

The exercises shown below highlight these neutral positions. In reality however the arm moves in many functional ways so add some variety to your training.

An important point to note is that internal rotation is approximately 30% stronger than external rotation in the majority of the population. Strengthening the whole rotator cuff will even out that imbalance and improve shoulder function.

Be progressive

  • . Use small weights at all times - nothing more than 4-5lbs maximum.
  • . If starting out, use no weight at all.
  • . Build up your strength slowly - follow the guide in "Rotator cuff tear rehabilitation"
  • . Exercise in all functional directions
  • . Do not over do it - stop on pain
  • . Rest and ice after training

Equipment

Although you can do rotator cuff strengthening exercises with no equipment light dumbbells and elastic tubing (therabands) will make it easier. Yes, you could use a couple of tins of soup but they are not easy to hold.

Similarly pair of old tights is a poor substitute for resistance bands. You can do without, especially if just starting out, but these things really are not too expensive and will pay dividends in the long term.

Weight / resistance

It is important for me to emphasise the use of small weights. The rotator cuff muscles are effectively accelerators of arm movement.

They get the arm moving. The larger surrounding muscles such as the Deltoid then take over. Exercising with too much weight simply results in the larger muscles being worked and brings no benefit to the rotator cuff.

Exercise resistance bands are fantastic tools for rotator cuff strengthening. I can not emphasise enough the role they can play.

They allow you to exercise safely in all directions and to get a little creative. My advice is to get some and use them regularly. They help with the training and just as importantly they can make exercise fun.

Stretching

Rotator cuff stretches should be built in to any exercise regime. The rotator cuff muscles are no different and will benefit from some simple stretches.

Stretching will encourage the muscles to develop along the correct planes. As a result the muscle will be easier to train. This will improve the performance of the muscle leading to greater strength and range of motion. A real, win - win scenario.

Rotator cuff strengthening exercises

Internal rotation using dumbbells (if required)

Lie on your side - Hold dumbbell on same side, Bend elbow to 90-degree angle. Keep elbow against body.

Slowly lift dumbbell upward and toward body.

Pause, and return to start.

Repeat 10 times.

Repeat exercise on other side.

Internal Rotation using Resistance Band

Attach resistance band to doorknob / wall.

Stand with right side to wall.

Hold resistance band with right hand.

Bend elbow to 90-degree angle, hand facing frontward and elbow close to body.

Slowly rotate hand toward the middle of the body.

Return to starting position.

Repeat 10 times. Repeat exercise on other side

External Rotation using Dumbbells (if required)

Lie on left side.

With right arm, hold dumbbell next to body, elbow bent 90-degrees.

Slowly lift upward until back of hand faces backward.

Return to starting position.

Repeat 10 times. Repeat exercise on other side

External Rotation using Resistance Band

Rotator Cuff Strenthening - You Can Even Do It Outside!Attach resistance band to doorknob / wall.

Stand with your left side to the wall.

Hold resistance band with right hand.

Start with right hand in middle of body, elbow bent 90-degrees.

Slowly stretch band by moving arm outward until back of hand facing backward.

One set (10 repetitions) Repeat exercise on other side.

Lateral Raise using Dumbbell (if required)

Stand or sit in a chair - With arms at side and thumbs pointed upward (shoulders externally rotated), slowly raise arm to the sides but slightly toward the front (at about a 30 degree angle to the front of the body) until almost shoulder level.

Repeat 10 times.

Lying Lateral Raise using Dumbbell (if required)

Lie on left side - Hold dumbbell in right hand in, placed in front of thigh, palm facing leg. Keep elbow slightly bent. Raise dumbbell slowly until arm is at 45-degree angle.

Return to starting position.

Repeat 10 times. Repeat exercise on other side.

Lateral Raise with Internal Rotation using Dumbbell (if required)

Stand or sit - With arms at side and thumbs pointed toward ground (shoulders internally rotated), slowly raise arm to the sides but slightly toward the front (at about a 30 degree angle to the front of the body) until almost shoulder level.

Repeat 10 times.

These rotator cuff strengthening exercises are the building blocks of a successful rotator cuff training program. There are many more Rotator cuff strengthening exercises designed to achieve the same results.

Remember that the arm moves through a vast range angles so it is important to mimic this range of movement with any exercises. Train in different ways, be inventive and have some fun.

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