5 Exercises to Strengthen Your Rotator Cuff

Athletes are highly encouraged to regularly exercise to ensure that the rotator cuff muscles, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor function optimally.

Rotator Cuff Exercises

Rotator cuff injury is a debilitating injury in all of sports. Characterized by severe pain and limited shoulder movements, the injury is slow to heal and often affects athletes’ careers. Surgery, pain medication, and other at-home treatments are recommended so patients can easily recover from rotator cuff tear or impingement. It is also helpful to immediately apply the RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) technique to lessen discomfort and pain associated with this shoulder injury.

In addition to these treatments, athletes are highly encouraged to regularly exercise to ensure that the rotator cuff muscles, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor, function optimally. Here are five exercises to strengthen your rotator cuff and help you have more flexible, stable and functional shoulders to help you have an A game.

1. External Rotation Exercise

Materials Needed: Thera-Band, surgical tubing or any elastic material and a rolled towel.

Among the simplest exercises that you can do at home to strengthen your rotator cuff is the external rotation. After doing some stretching exercises, the first step is to sit or stand straight next to a door and tie the elastic band to the doorknob. Relax your shoulders and bend your elbow 90 degrees. Squeeze in the towel between your body and your elbow. This will help you comfortably rest your upper arm and keep it on the side during the exercise.

Once ready, move your arm slowly away from you and move back until you get to your starting position. Perform this exercise eight times and repeat with your other hand.

2. Internal Rotation Exercise

Materials Needed: Thera-Band, surgical tubing or any elastic material and a rolled towel.

Similar to the external rotation exercise, position yourself next to a door and tie the elastic material to the doorknob. Once again, squeeze in the towel between your elbow and your body. With your elbow bended in 90 degrees, slowly move your arm towards your body and move back until your arm is back to your starting position. Repeat the exercise eight times and move on to your other hand.

3. Shoulder Isometric Exercises

Composed of two exercises to strengthen your rotator cuff, these are aimed to boost the flexibility of your shoulder muscles. Start by standing in front of a wall. About six inches away from the wall, extend your arms and have a closed fist. Slowly bend your elbows and push yourself toward the wall until you are about three inches away from it. Hold this position for around eight to ten seconds and repeat the steps 12 times.

Now, stand back about six inches away from the wall. Close your fists and bend your arms 90 degrees. Position your arms with your elbow against the wall. Slowly move towards the wall until your back is about three inches away from it. Hold this position for eight to ten seconds and repeat the steps 12 times. Remember to apply a minimum 25% and a maximum 50% of your strength to effectively develop a bulletproof rotator cuff.

4. Rotator Cuff Protraction

Aimed at strengthening the scapular, this exercise is easy to follow and can be done even in your own room. The first step is to stand straight in front of the wall. About 18 inches from it, hold out your hands at the height of your shoulders and place them onto the wall. Bend your elbows slowly until you are around 10 inches from the wall. Afterward, stretch your elbows back to your starting position. Repeat the steps 12 times. Perform the wall push-ups regularly until you get your shoulders strong enough to try it to the counter, to the couch and then finally to the floor.

If your shoulders are not yet strong to do the wall pushups, another exercise aimed at strengthening the scapular that you can try is the arm reach. To do this, you must lie down with your back straightly positioned against the floor. Position your arms comfortably on the floor and slowly move them up ensuring that your elbows are straightly positioned while doing this step. Place your arms back to your starting point and repeat the steps 12 times.

5. Rotator Cuff Retraction

Materials Needed: Thera-Band, surgical tubing or any elastic material

Also aimed at boosting the scapular strength, this exercise is to be repeated at least eight times to ensure its effectiveness. Stand in front of a bedpost or another solid object at your waist level. Place the elastic material around the bedpost and hold the two ends of the band with your hands. Ensure that one of your elbows is bent 90 degrees while the other is stretched. Once in position, move the band back and forth to exercise your shoulder blades.

When done properly and on a regular basis, these exercises can surely help with your recovery. In addition to these exercises, here are other tips that can help improve your condition:

  1. Avoid doing strenuous activities or exercises that can make your condition worse. Start with simple exercises and avoid lifting heavy objects such as dumbbells until your shoulder muscles are fully healed and strong enough to perform them.
  2. Have a discussion with your physician or physical therapist before performing these exercises. Ensure that you are ready to perform them. Have them show you the right way of doing these.
  3. Hearing a popping sound while performing the exercises does not automatically mean that there is something wrong with your shoulders. However, watch out for a grinding feeling after you exercise since this signals that you need immediate help from your physician.
  4. Do not forget to ice your shoulders after exercise to alleviate any soreness and discomfort that you may feel. Take anti-inflammations or pain medicines as recommended by your physician.
  5. Above all, sleep smart. Your sleeping position will have a great impact on speeding up your recovery. Sleeping yourselves on pillows can help alleviate the pain. It is also helpful to sleep on the other side of the affected shoulders and have a straight seven to nine sleeping hours to help your body recuperate from the injury.

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