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  /  Shoulder   /  Exercises on how to strenghten your rotator cuff muscles

Exercises on how to strenghten your rotator cuff muscles

In this blog, I am going to discuss many ways to train your rotator cuff muscles and provide guidelines for how to program these exercises into your routine.

Anatomy :

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles in the shoulder that allow a wide range of movement while maintaining the stability of the glenohumeral joint. The rotator cuff includes the following muscle:

  • Subscapularis
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres minor
  • Supraspinatus


Structure and function

The primary biomechanical role of the rotator cuff is to stabilize the glenohumeral joint by compressing the humeral head against the glenoid. These four muscles arise from the scapula and insert into the humerus. The tendons of the rotator cuff muscle blend with the joint capsule and form a musculotendinous collar that surrounds the posterior, superior, and anterior aspects of the joint, leaving the inferior aspect unprotected. This arrangement is an important factor since most shoulder luxation occur because the humerus slides inferiorly through the unprotected part of the joint. During arm movements, the rotator muscles contract and prevent the sliding of the head of the humerus, allowing a full range of motion and providing stability.

Additionally, rotator cuff muscles help in the mobility of the shoulder joint by facilitating abduction, medial rotation, and lateral rotation.

  • Subscapularis: Medial (internal) rotation of the shoulder
  • Supraspinatus: Abduction of the arm
    • Necessary for the initial 0 to 15 degrees of shoulder abduction motion
    • The deltoid muscle abducts the arm beyond 15 degrees
  • Infraspinatus: Lateral (external) rotation of the shoulder
  • Teres Minor: Lateral (external) rotation of the shoulder


Therefore, in order to maximize rotator cuff strength, my recommendation would be to focus on a comprehensive program. This will better prepare you for a wide variety of tasks and activities involving the shoulder.

To breakdown what I mean, let’s look at the biceps, when you are performing pulls ups and rows, you will secondarily work the biceps, but if your goal was to maximize strength and hypertrophy of these muscles, you would also incorporate isolation exercises, like a biceps curl.

The rotator cuff is no different. Compound pushing and pulling exercises at various angles will activate these muscles, but if you want to train your shoulders to their full potential, a comprehensive program that also includes isolation exercises in different directions will be the most optimal.

First exercise:

  • Side-lying external rotation:

Place your top arm at your side with your elbow bent to 90° and hold a weight in your hand. Rotate your arm outward as far as you can while keeping your arm at your side. Lower back to your stomach and repeat.

Can be done with cable or an elastic band. We will show the 3 options in the video at the end of the blog.

For the Cable or Band External Rotation. Keep your elbow bent to 90° and rotate outward. Slowly control the motion back to your stomach and then repeat.

Do not fall for the same mistake, keep your elbow locked to your body throughout the exercise. if you feel that you are not able to correct it, you can place a towel under your arm, this will help to neutralize the position and facilitate the stability of it.

Choose one of the above exercises and perform 3 to 4 sets 15 to 20 repetitions.

  • Second exercise:

If the sports that you do requires overhead activities, you may want to consider progressing to variations with the arm in an elevated position.

Prone Shoulder External Rotation 90/90. Lie on your stomach on an elevated surface with your upper arms parallel to the ground and elbows bent to 90°. Rotate your arms up toward the ceiling and then rotate back to the start.

Do 20 receptions for 4 sets

  • Third exercise:

Elastic band shoulder abduction in different angles:

 First angle:

  • Stand up straight and hold a long elastic band with both hands at your sides.
  • While keeping one hand at your sides for support, raise your other arm, while still holding the elastic band, diagonally till it reaches as much shoulder abduction and external rotation as possible.
  • Go back to starting position and repeat.

 Second angle:

  • Stand up straight with both arms in front of you holding an elastic band.
  • Horizontally abduct both arms maximally.
  • Go back to starting position and repeat.

Do 20 receptions for 4 sets of each variation.

  • Fourth exercise:

And finally, if you want to emphasize isolated internal rotation strength, the easiest option is using a band or cable in standing. Similar to the external rotation variation, hold your arm at the side with your elbow flexed at 90 degrees. Place the pulley at the level of the elbow. The pulley should be on the side of the targeted arm. Move your arm against the resistance from the neutral position in an inward medial motion.

Do 20 receptions for 4 sets


Here is a video that can be helpful for shoulder pain:


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