Strengthen Your Rotator Cuffs for Healthier, Injury-Free Shoulders

Why you need to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles…

The glenohumeral joint is at the junction of the hummerus (the bone you might associate with your upper-arm bone) and scapula (the bone you might associate with your shoulder blade). Your hummerus sits in a relatively shallow dip in the scapula (called the glenoid fossa).

On the plus side the relatively shallow groove characteristic of the glenoid fossa allows us to have a wide range of motion in a variety of planes: you can lift your arm in front of your body, you can lift your arm out to the side, you can move your arm in a circular motion, you can rotate the arm so that the palm faces upwards (supine) or downwards (prone). You can swim the backstroke or do your most righteous air-guitar moves – thank you glenohumeral joint!

The downside of having a shallow joint surface is that the joint is more prone to injury. Just think of it this way – more ways to move, more ways to get injured. So it’s important that you take the time to appreciate those smaller stabilizing muscles in your shoulders.

That said, here are 2 exercises to make your rotator cuff muscles stronger. Do them at low weight (tubing will do the trick) and high rep (expect to feel a burn).

1. External Should Rotation – attach the tubing to a pole/tree/other human. Stand with your left side perpendicular to the tubing. Hold the tubing in your right hand. Your right hand should be about over your bellybutton and your right arm should be bent at a 90 degree angle. Stand up tall – tuck your tailbone under (tilt your pelvis to engage the glutes and abs). While keeping your right elbow glued to your side, move the right hand (right arm is still at a 90 degree angle) away from the attachment point.

Tip: When people do this I see them change their stances in all sorts of ways to avoid using just the external rotators in the shoulder. Make sure you use your core to stay stable throughout your ENTIRE body – that includes the opposite shoulder.

Complete 15 to 20 reps and then switch sides.

2. The Cactus – put the tubing around a pole/tree/other human. Stand facing the attachment point. Hold one end of the tubing in each hand and bend your elbows so that you have a 90 degree angle. Lift the elbows away from the body so that they are level with the shoulders – keep your 90 degree angle. Don’t feel it yet? Good. We haven’t started. At this point you should be able to place one point on each elbow and a point on each shoulder and if you drew a line between the points, it would be straight – keep this line during the entire exercise. Stand up tall – tuck your tailbone under (tilt your pelvis to engage the glutes and abs). Rotate at the shoulders so that the forearms go from being parallel to the floor to perpendicular to the floor – you now look like a cartoon cactus (hence the name)!

Tip: As you get on in your reps, you may be inclined to let the elbows drift forward – don’t do it! Maintain the straight line from elbow to shoulder to opposite shoulder to opposite elbow.

Complete 15 to 20 reps and then switch sides.

Confused? Come in and see us at Functional Movement! We’ll help you out with your form.

It’s cost by donation (with no minimum – aka if you don’t learn anything, don’t leave us a dime). Saturdays at 3:30pm (sometimes with the special addition of a Saturday at 10:30am). 30 minutes. Sign-up using the schedule.

Did you like this article? Have questions? Have a favorite exercise we didn’t mention or experience using these exercises? Let us know! Leave a comment below…

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