Strong rotator cuff muscles mean strong shoulders that are less prone to injury and heal more quickly if they are injured.
Shoulder workouts to help strengthen and stabilize the rotator cuff should include exercises that focus on the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff, as well as those that stabilize the shoulder joint complex. The rotator cuff joint helps to stabilize and steer the head of the humerus (upper arm) to provide smooth rotator cuff muscle action.
To do shoulder muscle exercises, it is essential to know that there are four muscles that make up this rotator “cuff” surrounding the shoulder joint.
- Subscapularis – Located on the lower edge of the front of the scapula and inserts on the head of the humerus (upper arm), the Subscapularis helps to internally rotate the arm.
- Infraspinatus – This muscle is located on the back side and lower edge of the scapula and inserts on the upper head of the humerus. It helps to externally rotate the arm.
- Supraspinatus – This is located on the back side and upper edge of the scapula and inserts on the upper head of the humerus. It abducts or raises the arm overhead.
- Teres Minor – Located on the back, outside edge of the scapula that inserts on the upper head of the humerus, this muscle externally rotates the arm.
The exercises for rotator cuff muscles should include working these four shoulder muscle groups with proper form and execution of movements:
Internal rotation can be accomplished by using lightweight dumbbells.
Position: Using a light 3-5-pound dumbbell, lie on your back with your arm bent at a 90-degree angle and elbow tucked at waist with a towel squeezed in between.
Action: Pull the dumbbell across the body at about navel height, feeling the muscles of the front of the shoulder working.
Do this in 8-10 repetitions.
Infraspinatus and Teres Minor Rotator Cuff Muscles
External rotation can be accomplished by using a stretch band or light dumbbell.
Position: Sit or stand with a light to medium tension stretch band, palms face up and elbows pulled into your waist with a towel squeezed in between to open the subacromial space.
Action: Draw your hands apart, opening the chest and feeling the shoulder blades draw in toward the spine.
Do this exercise for 8-10 repetitions, holding the end stretch for about two seconds.
Abduction can be accomplished by raising the arm overhead. The arm slide is a very effective and low stress exercise for an injured rotator cuff muscle.
Position: Lie face down on the edge of a bench or table with one arm hanging off and head turned away from working arm.
Action: Slide arm up to 120-degree angle over head. Palm can be facing down or toward you, do what’s most comfortable for you.
Do this for 8-12 repetitions. It is recommended to use a 1-5-pound dumbbell. This exercise can also be accomplished from a standing position, holding the dumbbells (5-8 lbs.) and raising the arms out to the side until they are just parallel to the floor.