Rotator Cuff Exercises

Written by matthew schirm
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Rotator Cuff Exercises
Perform resistance exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The tendons of the infraspinatus, subscapularis, supraspinatus and teres minor muscles form a cuff around the shoulder joint, known as the "rotator cuff." These muscles facilitate external, or outward, and internal, or inward, rotation of the humerus bone of the upper arm. The rotator cuff muscles are susceptible to injury during overhead activities such as serving a tennis ball or volleyball, swimming and bowling a cricket ball. Perform strengthening exercises to prevent rotator cuff injuries or to rehabilitate the rotator cuff following an injury.

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External Rotation

The infraspinatus, supraspinatus and teres minor muscles contribute to external rotation of the humerus. Perform exercises using a dumbbell or resistance band to strengthen these muscles.

Using a dumbbell, lie on your left side near the edge of a flat bench and hold a dumbbell in your right hand. Rest your head on your left arm. Position your right elbow against your right side with your forearm directed downward, across your abdomen. Externally rotate your arm, lifting the weight away from your body, until your forearm is parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat. Keep your elbow anchored to your side throughout the exercise. Perform the exercise with both arms.

Using a resistance band, attach one end of the band to a sturdy object, about as high as your navel. Stand with your right side closest to the object and hold the opposite end of the band in your left hand with your forearm across your abdomen. Step away from the object to remove slack from the band. Externally rotate your arm about 90 degrees, moving your forearm away from your abdomen, to stretch the band. Return to the starting position and repeat. Keep your elbow against your side throughout the exercise. Perform the exercise with both arms.

Internal Rotation

Internal rotation exercises strengthen the subscapularis muscle, along with other muscles that contribute to the movement. Use a dumbbell or resistance band to perform the exercises.

Using a dumbbell, lie on your left side on the edge of a flat bench. Hold the weight in your left hand with your elbow against the left side of your abdomen and flexed to 90 degrees, so your forearm extends over the edge of the bench. Repeatedly lift the weight, crossing your forearm over your abdomen, and let it back down.

To perform the exercise with a resistance band, start just like the external rotation exercise, but with your left side closest to the object and your left forearm extended forward, away from your body. Internally rotate your arm to pull the band across your abdomen, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Supine Alphabet

The California-based Palo Alto Medical Foundation in recommends the supine alphabet exercise to help rehabilitate your rotator cuff following an injury. Lie on your back with your head resting on the floor. Extend your injured arm above your chest and point your index finger upward. Draw all the letters of the alphabet in the air with your index finger using only your arm; avoid bending your elbow or wrist. Make each letter about 15cm (6 inches) tall. Complete all 26 upper-case and lower-case letters at least once per day.

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