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It is not uncommon to see shoulder injuries.  The rotator cuff comprised of four muscles must work synergistically for optimal function and dexterity of our upper limbs.  Rotator cuff injuries can include the supraspinatus muscle, infraspinatus muscle, teres major or minor muscles and the subscapularis muscles or a combination of any of them.  The following five exercises focus on the strengthening and stretching of the rotator cuff muscles to help heal an injury. 

Please be advised it is best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine your unique injury and other options that may benefit your healing.

  1. External rotation with resistance bands:
  • Targets the infraspinatus and teres minor muscles.
  • Make sure you have a band secured and grab the band with one hand. Bend your arm 90degrees so your arm is parallel with the floor. For example, if it is your left arm you are working, you would grab the band with your left hand at 90deg with the floor and then pull against the band’s resistance outwards (external rotation). Return to the starting position and repeat.
  1. Internal rotation with resistance bands:
  • Targets subscapularis muscle.
  • Much like the external rotation with resistance bands. Set yourself up with a secured band and grab the band with one hand. Make sure your elbow is 90deg and parallel with the floor and pull the band inwards, towards your body, internal rotation.  Return to the starting position and repeat.
  1. Prone horizontal abduction:
  • This exercise helps to target the posterior deltoid muscle, which is not a rotator cuff muscle, but helps to stabilize the shoulder joint during horizontal movements.
  • Lay on your stomach on a bench.  You may try this with body weight first and then use a light dumbbell to increase weight and strength.  Keep your shoulder away from your ear.  Raise your arm up to your height (height of table) and then lower it back down. Repeat.
  1. Isometric external and internal rotation holds:
  • This isometric exercise involves holding a position without movement in order to promote muscle activation and endurance.
  • Much like what was explained with the bands. Hold the position at the end range of the exercise for a few seconds and then release. You can build up endurance and strength by trying to hold the position for 30seconds to 45seconds or up to a minute.
  • Make sure your shoulder blades are back and down and that you are in an optimal position.
  1. Scapular retraction exercises:
  • My favorite! This exercise helps to focus on strengthening the muscles that stabilize your shoulder blade (scapula) which is crucial in proper shoulder mechanics, which can help prevent injury.
  • Sitting up straight with your shoulder blades down and back place your elbows by your sides at 90deg and pull your shoulder blades together. Hold the position for five seconds and then release, repeating it again. Remember to keep your shoulders down and away from your ears.

Shoulder mechanics are important for our dexterity and to prevent injury.  These exercises are good preventative exercises as well.