Rotator Cuff Therapy Exercises

Rotator Cuff Stretches

Rotator cuff stretches are an integral part of rotator cuff training. They are an excellent preventative measure and a fantastic method for regaining range of motion following an injury.

I can never understand why cuff stretches are promoted so little in the treatment of rotator cuff tear symptoms. They are, quite simply, one of the best exercises for the rotator cuff.

Rotator cuff stretches have many advantages

  • -Work for a range of rotator cuff problems
  • -Anyone can do them
  • -Can be done anywhere and anytime
  • -No specialist equipment required
  • -Provide a range of exercises suitable for all the rotator cuff muscles


There is an age old saying “prevention is better than cure”.

If you are looking to prevent shoulder problems developing in the future you should be regularly stretching your rotator cuff muscles.

This should be done in conjunction with a strength building program.

The two work so closely hand in hand.

Unfortunately, like me, you probably fall into the majority group who visit this site. That is you have developed a rotator cuff tear some other related problem. If that is the case how can stretching help?

Why do a rotator cuff stretch?

So just why are rotator cuff stretches so important and so effective? Stretching brings a “double whammy” of benefits. Firstly, it encourages an improvement in the range of movement that can be achieved.

Secondly, it can aid in the building of strength into the muscles. It achieves this by helping to lay down new tissue in an orderly way. The muscle fibres become correctly aligned so they can stretch further and bond together better to increase strength.

Hopefully I have explained how rotator cuff stretches work. It is for the reasons above that stretching and strength conditioning, together, are so effective at improving the performance of the rotator cuff.

If you only undertake one without the other you will be selling yourself short.

What is the best rotator cuff stretch?

“What is the best rotator cuff stretch?” is a question I am asked all of the time. This is often accompanied by “what is the best rotator cuff exercise?” The simple truth is that there is no such thing. The rotator cuff is too complex for a “one size fits all” approach.

The rotator cuff is made of four separate and distinct muscles.

  • -Supraspinatus
  • -Infraspinatus
  • -Teres Minor
  • -Subscapularis

Yes they all work together to form the rotator cuff and yes they all provide both stability and range of motion but they are also unique in the exact roles they play. It is for this reason that one stretch does not impact equally on each muscle.

The stretching basics

One of the most important things to do prior to stretching any muscle is to warm up. Five minutes of light aerobic exercise is generally the minimum that is required.

Something to get the heart working and the blood flowing. If you can manage between 15 and 20 minutes, this will provide a thorough warm up.

The application of heat directly onto the shoulder is another option. This will again get the blood flowing meaning more nutrients and oxygen will be delivered.

The rotator cuff muscles are known to have very poor blood supply so anything that can increase the supply will be beneficial.

Perform rotator cuff stretches safely

So you are thoroughly warmed up and ready to go! Try not to do stretch’s in a cold room, you soon lose the benefit of the warm up. Do not just dive straight in take your time think about each stretch in advance and follow these few sensible rules.

  • -Stretch only until you feel resistance
  • -Hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds
  • -Do not overstretch – this can cause injury
  • -Continue to breathe easily through stretches
  • -Stop on any pain
  • -Repeat each stretch 4 or 5 times
  • -Rest between each stretch
  • -Wear suitable clothing

Three excellent stretches are the wall climb, overhead stretch and the door stretch.

  • -Wall climb – Stand side on to a wall approximately 9 inches away. Reach the near arm up the wall and place the palm of the hand flat against the wall. Now, gradually walk the hand up the wall using the fingers – hold once a stretch is felt. 
  • -Door stretch - stand in front of a door frame, hold an arm out to the side and bend the elbow at a 90-degree angle. Press your palm against the door frame and move forward to stretch.
  • -Overhead stretch - Place your palms on the edge of a worktop and gradually bend forwards at the hips to stretch.

These are simple and effective as are the following examples.

Rotator Cuff Stretches

In the stretch above - stand upright and clasp your hands behind your back. Keep your arms straight and slowly lift your hands upwards.

Rotator Cuff Stretches

In the stretch above - stand with your arm out and your forearm pointing upwards at 90 degrees. Place a pole in your hand and let it fall behind your elbow.

With your other hand, pull the bottom of the stick forward. Be careful not to pull too hard with this stretch; it will put a large strain on the rotator cuff muscles and tendons.

The following video also contains very good examples of rotator cuff stretches.

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