The rotator cuff consists of four small muscles—infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularus and teres minor—which help stabilize the shoulder joint and assist with moving the arm through all planes of movement.
Each rotator cuff muscle plays an important role in either stabilizing, abducting or rotating the shoulder joint during sports movements that involve the arm.
Athletes who participate in sports that require overhead movement (e.g., baseball, tennis and swimming) can benefit from strengthening their rotator cuff muscles. Performing rotator-cuff-strengthening exercises can make the difference between a healthy shoulder and one that is at risk for injury.
According to a 2009 study published in the Sports Medicine Journal, the subscapularis and teres minor activate more through band exercises, whereas the infraspinatus and supraspinatus activate more through the use of dumbbells. As the arm abducts from zero degrees (at the hip) to 130 degrees (overhead), the rotator cuff muscles begin to stabilize the head of the humerus (upper arm), from moving out of the shoulder blade socket.
These muscles have to work even harder when they are required to slow the arm down when throwing or hitting a ball overhead. Baseball and tennis are two sports in which athletes must focus on rotator-cuff-strengthening exercises due to the forces and stress placed on their shoulders.
For each of these exercises, the position of the elbow and hand are key in how the rotator cuff muscles are used to either stabilize, rotate or abduct the arm.
Try 1-2 sets of 10 reps of each exercise.
DB Side-Lying External Rotation
Diagonal Band Follow-Through
90-Degree Reverse Catch and Toss