Rotator Cuff Therapy Exercises

Rotator Cuff Rehabilitation Exercises

What are rotator cuff rehabilitation exercises? Effectively they are any exercises designed to return the rotator cuff to its optimum condition.

This is the middle period of rotator cuff rehab and it is an extremely important period. I aim to give you the information you need to successfully complete this phase of your recovery.

Essentially, rehabilitation exercises are designed to do slowly and steadily increase the range of motion in the shoulder. This process begins with a physical therapy stage and ends with a strengthening phase.

This is my way of thinking about the process to keep it simple. Please bear in mind there is no actual boundary they just run into each other.

Start slowly and build up 

The rehabilitation period following any form of rotator cuff repairs or tears can not be rushed. Please take your time. You can not rehabilitate your rotator cuff on day one but you can cause more damage.

What you are trying to achieve is a steady build up in the range of motion your shoulder can tolerate. This is made possible by gradually introducing a range of different rotator cuff rehabilitation exercises. But you should start with a set of basic exercises.

Follow these simple rules

  1. Arms in neutral positions
  2. Exercise in the prone position (lying down) where possible.
  3. No weights to begin with
  4. Range of rotator cuff internal and rotator cuff external exercises
  5. Include some stretching
  6. Ice after if necessary



Rotator Cuff Rehabilitation Exercises


Rotator cuff external rotation in the prone position.


Rotator Cuff Rehabillitation Exercises


Rotator cuff internal rotation in the prone position.



Stretching is an integral part of rotator cuff rehabilitation exercises. It is also the one major area that is often overlooked. I can not stress enough how important stretching can be.

Stretching the rotator cuff muscles, especially after exercise, will speed your recovery. Not only that it, will also increase the range of motion you can achieve.

Stretching achieves this by encouraging the tendons to lay down new collagen, the tendon’s building blocks, in a structured way.

Range of motion

Increasing the range of motion is the key focus of rotator cuff rehabilitation exercises. To achieve a normal range of motion, you have to start working outside of the neutral positions.

Our shoulders have a huge range of movement. Training in neutral positions is important but you must exercise in other planes of movement. This is to mimic the natural movement we make everyday.

It has been clearly shown that force exerted from a rotator cuff muscle onto the joint, changes with the position of the glenohumeral head.

Most sports, for example, require large ranges of movement and powerful movement at the end range of motion. Rotator cuff muscles should, therefore, be trained in motion and positions where they will actually be used.

You can start this process fairly early in your rotator cuff rehab. Try this for example.

  1. Roll up a couple of dozen sheets of paper
  2. Place a bin on the floor approximately 2-3 metres away.
  3. Now throw the paper in the bin
  4. Do it underarm, over arm (careful here), forehand, backhand, out the back of the hand …………………………..


The possibilities are endless. This is a safe, easily set up exercise that can be fun. Challenge your kids, grandchildren, wife or husband …………… have some fun.

Training with elastic.

As your strength increases why not try exercising with elastic resistance bands? What greater way to increase range of motion while encouraging the muscles to work harder. Again, the bands come in different resistance strengths so you can steadily build up through the range.

Be inventive

Train at different speeds fast and slow movements. Remember to always work smoothly however as jerky movements can cause more damage.

No matter which rotator cuff rehabilitation exercises you do, try to remember, that the release of tension in any muscle is, as important, if not more so, than the initial contraction.

The above outlines just some of the possibilities open to you. So long as you exercise regularly, don’t exceed the limits your own body places upon you, rest / ice etc. you can pretty much make it up to suit yourself.

After the initial few weeks physical therapy this is an anytime, any place sort of program. Don’t allow yourself to get down or bored; it is a long slow process. Be inventive challenge and reward yourself as you go. Try to get family friends involved. Have some fun and the time truly will fly by.

I guarantee that, in this way, the end result will be so much better. You can simply follow a few exercises from a sheet of paper issued by the hospital. I have done this and it just doesn’t work as well as YOU buying into YOUR OWN program.


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