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Rotator Cuff 101

By Tom 1
16 May 2015

What is the Rotator Cuff?

The Rotator Cuff is a small group of 4 muscles that help to stabilize your shoulder. These muscles are important with any move with the shoulder. They help to rotate and internally and externally rotate the shoulder. The 4 muscles that make up the Rotator Cuff are:

  1. Supraspinatus – This muscle helps to abduct the arm.
  2. Teres Minor – This muscle helps to externally rotate the arm.
  3. Infraspinatus – This muscle helps to externally rotate the arm.
  4. Subscapularis – This muscle helps to internally rotate the arm.

There are numerous ways of damaging or tearing the Rotator Cuff muscles. This could be through trauma, lifting heavy weights, any overhead activity or quick movements when playing a sport such as tennis. When the Rotator Cuff is torn, there will be restricted movement and pain in the arm, particularly in the shoulder. Another sign of damage to the Rotator Cuff is a Rotator Cuff impingement. This is where the tendons in and around the shoulder become irritated and inflamed. This would result in pain, weakness and loss of movement in the shoulder.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, use the RICE approach (Rest, Ice, Compress / Comfort, Elevate) and consult a Physiotherapist or your GP.

Rotator Cuff Exercises

Below are some common exercisers for the Rotator Cuff to help maintain and keep it strong to avoid any of the injuries listed above. The most effective Rotator Cuff exercise is the side-lying external rotation as this exercise uses all 4 of the Rotator Cuff muscles.

Side-Lying External Rotation using Dumbbells

  1. Lie on left side.
  2. With right arm, hold dumbbell next to body, elbow bent 90-degrees.
  3. Slowly lift upward until back of hand faces backward.
  4. Return to starting position.
  5. Repeat 10 times. Repeat exercise on other side

Isometric Internal Rotation

  1. Stand near the end of outer corner of wall.
  2. Bend elbow to 90-degree angle and keep elbow close to body, lower arm level with floor.
  3. Press palm of hand into wall for 10 seconds. Repeat exercise on other side.

Internal Rotation using Dumbbells

  1. Lie on side.
  2. Hold dumbbell on same side, Bend elbow to 90-degree angle. Keep elbow against body.
  3. Slowly lift dumbbell upward and toward body.
  4. Pause, and return to start.
  5. Repeat 10 times. Repeat exercise on other side.

Internal Rotation using Resistance Band

  1. Attach resistance band to doorknob / wall.
  2. Stand with right side to wall.
  3. Hold resistance band with right hand.
  4. Bend elbow to 90-degree angle, hand facing frontward and elbow close to body.
  5. Slowly rotate hand toward the middle of the body.
  6. Return to starting position.
  7. Repeat 10 times. Repeat exercise on other side

Isometric External Rotation

  1. Stand with side to wall.
  2. Bend elbow to 90-degree angle. Keep elbow close to body.
  3. Press back of hand into wall for 10 seconds. Repeat exercise on other side

External Rotation using Resistance Band

  1. Attach resistance band to doorknob / wall.
  2. Stand with left side to wall.
  3. Hold resistance band with right hand.
  4. Start with right hand in middle of body, elbow bent 90-degrees.
  5. Slowly stretch band by moving arm outward until back of hand facing backward.
  6. Do one set (10 repetitions) Repeat exercise on other side.

Lateral Raise using Dumbbell

  1. Stand or sit in chair.
  2. With arms at side and thumbs pointed upward, 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.
  3. Repeat 10 times.

Lying Lateral Raise using Dumbbell

  1. Lie on left side. Hold dumbbell in right hand in, placed in front of thigh, palm facing leg.
  2. Keep elbow slightly bent. Raise dumbbell slowly until arm is at 45-degree angle.
  3. Return to starting position.
  4. Repeat 10 times. Repeat exercise on other side.

Lateral Raise with Internal Rotation using Dumbbell

  1. Stand or sit.
  2. 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.
  3. Repeat 10 times.
Remember to always warm up prior to completing exercise, particularly with exercises involving the rotator cuff. Dynamic warm up exercises will work best. For a period of 20-30 seconds on each exercise, complete different arm movements and circles starting with a small range of movement and gradually getting bigger.

 

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author: Tom

Tom has been in the fitness industry for over 8 years. He is qualified in functional movement, Kettlebells, Boxercise, Nutrition and many other qualifications. Tom is also the founder and director of ActivityX. For more information on Tom, see his trainer profile.

Comment
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Sarah Widdop

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Thanks!

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