3 Exercises for Rotator Cuff Strength | STACK

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

Build Rock Solid Glutes With This 30-Day Workout Plan

The gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and the tensor fascia latae muscles make up the muscle group known as the glutes. Collectively the...

Why You're Not Reaching Your Strength and Speed Potential

Female Athletes: 4 Ways to Test if Your Knees Are Durable

5 Exercises to Keep Your Shoulders Healthy All Season Long

Bilateral or Unilateral Exercises: Which Are Better?

3 Tips to Maximize Your Off-Season Baseball Training

Should You Train for Absolute or Explosive Strength?

7 Tips to Master Single-Leg Exercises

Do Your First Deadlift

The 12 Best RDL Variations

Build Explosive Hips to Jump Higher

Baseball Workout for Power Hitting

3D Triceps Workout: 3 Exercises for Huge Arms

The Hardest Plank of All Time

Man Does 4,300 Pull-Ups in One Day

The 4 Rules of Bulking Up

The Upper-Body Endurance Combo Workout

Kettlebell Swing vs. Olympic Lifting: Which Is Better?

Sumo Deadlift for Football Strength

Why One Bench Press Is Not Enough

Build Hockey Speed and Power with the Hang Clean

How to Get Fit Like a Marine

Develop Speed With a Power Bag Workout

Get Tougher With Skylar Diggins' Bodyweight Workout

4 Strength Exercises for Female Athletes

3 Athletic Arm Exercises for Big Guns

The Softball Dugout Workout

4 Tips to Rebuild Your Body When Your Performance Suffers

Build Toughness With This Weight Vest Basketball Workout

3 Simple Tips to Deadlift More Weight

James Harrison's Physioball Side-to-Side Bridge

3 Loading Schemes to Build Muscle Size

Breathing Exercises to Strengthen Your Lifts

Keys to Preventing Groin Injuries in Hockey

The Best Exercises for Preventing a Groin Pull

Strengthen Your Core With Advanced Plate Push-Outs

4 Easy Fixes for Your Bench Press Routine

Why Bear Crawls Are All the Rage Right Now

Develop a Bulletproof Core With Advanced Barbell Rollouts

Hockey Training Designed Specifically for Goalies

How to Train During Your Hockey Season

Improve Your Durability With 3 BOSU Exercises

Get More Explosive With James Harden's Workout

Why the Dead Bug Is Changing Core Training

Hanley Ramirez's Overhead Tire Pull