Rotator cuff exercises

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that stabilize the shoulder joint. They include the infraspinatus, supraspinatus,   subscapularis, and teres minor.

The infraspinatus and teres minor are in the back of the shoulder – they externally rotate the shoulder.

The subscapularis is at the front of the shoulder – it internally rotates the shoulder.

The supraspinatus is located at the top of the shoulder and abducts the shoulder – it raises the upper arm and moves it away from the body.

Though each rotator cuff muscle moves the shoulder in a separate direction, they all work together to stabilize the shoulder joint. If the ball of the upper arm is not kept centered, abnormal stress is placed on surrounding tissue and may cause gradual injury. Strengthening the rotator cuff helps prevent common rotator cuff injuries including rotator cuff tears, tendonitis, and shoulder impingement syndrome.

Age-related changes in rotator cuff tendons leave them less elastic and more susceptible to injury. There is also a gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs with aging, which can be counteracted with strengthening exercises.

Caution:  Before beginning your workout, warm up and stretch your arms and shoulders. Rotator cuff exercises should not cause pain. If you do feel pain while exercising, stop exercising and try again with lighter weight. Focus on slow, controlled movements as you exercise your shoulders.

Exercise 1

Start by lying on your stomach on a table or a bed. Put your left arm out at shoulder level with your elbow bent to 90° and your hand down. Keep your elbow bent, and slowly raise your left hand. Stop when your hand is level with your shoulder. Lower your hand slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then do the exercise with your right arm.

Exercise 2

Lie on your left side with a rolled-up towel under your right armpit. Stretch your right arm above your head. Keep your left arm at your side with your elbow bent to 90° and the forearm resting against your chest, palm down. Roll your right shoulder out, raising the right forearm until it is level with your shoulder. Lower the arm slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then do the exercise with your left arm.

Exercise 3

Lie on your right side. Keep your left arm along the upper side of your body. Bend your right elbow to 90°. Keep the right forearm resting on the table. Now roll your right shoulder in, raising your right forearm up to your chest. Lower the forearm slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then do the exercise with your left arm.

Exercise 4

In a standing position, start with your right arm at a 45 degree angle, thumb down. Raise your right arm until almost level. (Hint: This is like emptying a can.) Don’t lift beyond the point of pain. Slowly lower your arm. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then do the exercise with your left arm.

By: Cameron Hooper

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