3 Exercises for Rotator Cuff Strength | STACK

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

How to Keep Your Shoulders Healthy, Part 3: Rotator Cuff Strength

April 27, 2012

Must See Strength Training Videos

In Parts 1 and 2 of our series on How to Keep Your Shoulders Healthy, we discussed the importance of improving mid-back (thoracic spine) mobility and developing scapular stability. In this final installment, we discuss how to strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff to prevent shoulder injuries—a serious concern for athletes in overhead sports such as tennis, softball, volleyball and baseball.

As previously discussed, the shoulder is a highly complex joint, consisting of three bones linked by a number of muscles and a web of ligaments attached to four interdependent joints. One joint in particular, the acromioclavicular joint—referred to as the rotator cuff—is commonly afflicted by injury. The rotator cuff is encircled by four muscles:

  • Supraspinatus — abducts and compresses the shoulder
  • Infraspinatus — laterally rotates the shoulder
  • Teres Minor — laterally rotates the shoulder
  • Subscapularis — adducts and medially rotates the shoulder

Rotator Cuff Muscles

Collectively, the muscles of the rotator cuff provide dynamic stability for the shoulder, locking the head of the humerus into the cavity of the shoulder blade.

Rotator cuff injuries are particularly common among throwing athletes and recreational weightlifters, due to overuse or lack of strength. If a rotator cuff muscle is enflamed or injured, it is at risk for impingement and potential tearing. Also, an injury alters the natural function of the shoulder, which can have other damaging effects to the joint.

To prevent rotator cuff injuries, you must regularly perform exercises that directly engage these muscles. It's important to keep them strong to maintain shoulder stability and avoid time on the disabled list.

Rhythmic Stabilization Drill

  • Assume push-up position with hands on med balls positioned shoulder-width apart
  • Press hands against med balls, keeping upper back and core tight
  • Hold position for specified time

Sets/Duration: 2-3×15-45 seconds

Side-Lying External Rotation

  • Lie on side on training table, bench or floor with foam roller under head and rolled towel between top elbow and body
  • Grasp lightweight dumbbell with top hand and bend elbow at 90-degree angle; dumbbell should be directly in front
  • Rotate shoulder to slowly raise dumbbell to ceiling; keep elbow pinned against towel
  • Slowly lower dumbbell to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2×10-15 each side

Constant-Tension Scapular Raise

  • Assume athletic position, standing on resistance band
  • With arms at sides, tightly grasp resistance band just beneath handles
  • Pinch shoulder blades together and pull resistance band up until hands are at shoulder level and slightly-wider-than-shoulder width
  • Slowly lower hands to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 2×8-10

Photos:  zimbio.com, orthoinfo.aaos.org

Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a wide variety of topics, including injury prevention, nutrition and improving athletic performance.

Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
Joe Giandonato
- Joe Giandonato, MS, CSCS, is the head strength and conditioning coach at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. He has authored numerous articles on a...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

The Best Exercises for Preventing a Groin Pull

Game Changer: Should You Be Using Machines or Free Weights?

Female Athletes: Get Strong, Not Bulky, With These Workouts

The 7 Best Slide Board Exercises

Build Explosive Hips to Jump Higher

Baseball Workout for Power Hitting

Kettlebell Swing vs. Olympic Lifting: Which Is Better?

Break Through Plateaus With the 1-10 Drop Set Method

7 Strategies for Dealing With a Meathead in Your Gym

Basketball In-Season Battle Rope Complexes, Part 1

Improve Your Back Strength with the Inverted Row

The Total-Body, Crunch-Free Ab Workout

Developing Pre-Pull Tension for a Monster Deadlift

Get Faster by Improving Your Core Mobility

Get Tougher With Skylar Diggins' Bodyweight Workout

7 Exercises That Safely Build Shoulder Strength

The Turkish Get-Up for Youth Athletes

How to Train During Your Hockey Season

Why One Bench Press Is Not Enough

Bilateral or Unilateral Exercises: Which Are Better?

Off-Season Baseball Exercises for Your Shoulders

Why the Dead Bug Is Changing Core Training

Why Do So Many Exercises Have Foreign Names

Strengthen Your Core With Advanced Plate Push-Outs

Get More Explosive With James Harden's Workout

4 Strength Exercises for Female Athletes

Keys to Preventing Groin Injuries in Hockey

3 Explosive Exercises Designed to Increase Pitching Power

Get a Ripped Core With 6 Advanced Dead Bug Variations

5 Isolation Exercises Your Workout Is Missing

Build Powerful Pecs With This Multi-Angle Chest Workout

Notice On-Court Results With This Basketball Core Workout

Demolish Your Delts With This Super Shoulder Training Strategy

Do Your First Pull-Up With This Simple Workout. Guaranteed.

James Harrison's Physioball Side-to-Side Bridge

The Simplest Bodyweight Workout Ever

Don't Train Your Arms Until You Can Do These 4 Things

10-Minute Ab Workout You Can Do Anywhere

4 Ways to Get a Jacked Back

5 More Exercises Only Elite Athletes Can Conquer

The Upper-Body Endurance Combo Workout

3 Tips to Maximize Your Off-Season Baseball Training

Improve Your Strength for Track & Field Success

Medicine Ball Training for Hockey Players

The 14 Best Exercises From 2014

3 Sandbag Training Mistakes Athletes Make