Rotator Cuff Exercises: Not Just For Athletes

In contrast to what many people believed, rotator cuff exercises aren’t just for heavyweight lifters; they are for regular Joes and Janes too. Incorporating rotator cuff exercises in your workout routine can provide you with several benefits including improvement in posture, strengthening of the shoulder muscles, and prevention of shoulder injuries.

Understanding the Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff pertains to a group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder that connect your upper arm (also known as humerus) to your shoulder blade (also known as the scapula). They provide stability to the shoulder and allow it to rotate.

It is comprised of four different muscles which include:

  1. Teres minor
    The teres minor is the weakest rotator cuff muscle. Like the infraspinatus, the teres minor is responsible for lateral rotation. You use them when you’re reaching something up in the shelves. The teres minor also works to make arm adduction (movement of the arm towards the body) possible.

  2. Infraspinatus
    The infraspinatus is the muscle that attaches the shoulder blade to the upper arm. This muscle helps in the lateral motion of the arm as well as to the overall joint stability.

  1. Supraspinatus
    The supraspinatus muscle helps the deltoid muscle to make arm abduction (movement of the arm away from the body) possible. It also helps in stabilizing the shoulder by drawing the humerus towards the scapula.

  2. Subscapularis
    The subscapularis is the strongest and largest muscle that make up the rotator cuff. Its function is to stabilize and rotate the shoulder joint in order to allow the arm to turn inward. It also works to prevent dislocation of the head of the humerus.

Different Types of Rotator Cuff Exercises

Rotator cuff muscles are prone to injuries. Some of the most common examples of rotator cuff injuries include frozen shoulder (adherence of the humerus to the shoulder blade), rotator cuff tear (caused by wear and tear of the rotator cuff tendon), and rotator cuff tendinitis (strain to the rotator cuff muscles).

Doing rotator cuff exercises can help prevent these injuries and maintain optimal health and strength of your rotator cuff. Some of the best rotator cuff exercises include:

  • Doorway Stretch
    Start by warming up your muscles by standing in an open doorway and spreading your arms on the side. Grip the sides of the doorway and lean forward until you feel a light stretch. Do not overdo it. You’ll know when you overdo this when you start feeling pain.

  • 90-Degree Dumbbell External Rotation
    Hold a dumbbell in each hand and perform a 90-degree lateral raise. Once the upper arms are parallel to the floor, slowly rotate them so that the forearms are perpendicular to the floor. It’s best to use light weights if you’re new to this.

  • Internal rotation
    If you don’t have any equipment, you can still work out your rotator cuff.

    A good rotator cuff exercise is the internal rotation. Begin by raising your arms above your head and then slowly rotate them towards your body.

  • Scapular Squeeze Exercise
    This exercise is often used by athletes in order to strengthen the muscles that stabilize the shoulder blades. This can easily be done in a sitting position, arms on the side, and then slowly squeezing the shoulder blades and holding it for 5 to 10 seconds.

Doing these rotator cuff exercises is a proactive approach towards strengthening and protecting your rotator cuff from injuries. It’s best to start doing them now than wait for a shoulder injury to happen before you do.

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