Rotator Cuff Strengthening
Rotator cuff strengthening is vital due to the unique role played by the rotator cuff in shoulder stability.
Strengthening should be undertaken by everyone as a method of preventing injury. It is even more important to anyone who has already suffered a rotator cuff injury.
Training muscles to become strongerAs a general rule, a muscle increases in strength when trained close to its current force generating capacity.
What does that actually mean in practice well put simply it means any muscle to get stronger must be worked close to what it is already capable of. For example anyone who can bench press 100lbs is not going to gain strength by bench pressing 40lbs.
One further point to note is that overload intensity (the level of tension placed on muscle) is much more important in gaining strength than the actual exercise itself. There are two main muscle actions when muscle training and each can be used in cuff strengthening.
There is dynamic muscle action, when the muscle length changes, that can be split into concentric action and eccentric action. Then there is also Isometric action when the muscle is loaded but does not change length.
Dynamic - Concentric muscle actionConcentric muscle action is when the muscle shortens and joint movement occurs as tension develops.
An example is say you holding a weight in your hand, your arm is relaxed and stretched out by your side.
You slowly begin to lift the weight using your bicep muscle. This moves the arm from an extended to a flexed elbow position.
The bicep muscle has performed a shortening or concentric action moving the arm.
Dynamic - Eccentric muscle actionEccentric muscle action is basically the opposite of Concentric.
It occurs when external resistance exceeds muscle force and the muscle lengthens while developing tension.
Using the same example as above the muscle works to slowly lower the weight against the force of gravity.
The muscle fibres (specifically the sarcomeres) lengthen in an eccentric manner to prevent the weight crashing to the ground.
In rotator cuff strength exercises the muscles often act eccentrically as the weight slowly returns to the exercise starting point to begin the next concentric (shortening) action.
Eccentric action during this "recovery" phase adds significantly to the total work muscles do during any exercise repetition.
It has been shown quite clearly that combined concentric and eccentric muscle actions increase the effectiveness of resistance training.
This in turn leads to not only enhanced muscle strength but also enhanced muscle fibre size.
The final thing to note is that studies have shown that combined eccentric and concentric training is much more effective at preserving strength gains.
Isometric muscle actionIsometric muscle action occurs when a muscle generates force and attempts to shorten but cannot overcome the external resistance. From a physics standpoint this type of action does not produce any external work.
Despite this an isometric or static action can generate substantial force. This is despite any noticeable lengthening or shortening of the muscle fibres (sarcomeres) or any subsequent joint movement.
You just try lifting a house! No matter how much effort you put in that house is simply not going to move. Your muscles will be working hard but there will be no muscle contraction or lengthening. There will be no joint movement either. Despite this lack of movement you will have had a workout.
The video below shows a very simple example of Isometric muscle action. Again using the bicep muscle you can see clearly that in all three phases that the muscles are working hard supporting the bar. Despite this there is no muscle lengthening shortening or joint movement.
After trying various products and solutions over the years, my personal tried and trusted recommendations to assist you with your cuff strengthening are the TheraBand resistance bands, which are excellent and the only ones endorsed by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), as well as the Altus Athletic Dumbbell Set, the best and most economical of its breed out there.
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