Posts Tagged ‘Rotator cuff’

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I am all about training the basic movement patterns that we use all day long:  Squatting, Pushing, and Pulling.  You want a fairly equal amount of each movement, and if your routine lacks any of these movements, you’re going to start seeing some major imbalances in your muscular system.

As you begin to make progress in your program, and start using heavier and heavier weights, it is extremely important to devote a little bit of time each workout to strengthening your smaller, stabilizing muscles around your joints.  In regards to the upper body, this is especially true for throwing athletes, as well as anyone in a racquet sport.  Maintaining strong stabilizing muscles around the elbow and shoulder is crucial to getting the most out of your training program as well as to stay healthy in your sport.  But strong stabilizing muscles aren’t just important for athletes.  Anyone who regularly does strength training should hit their stabilizing muscles. Today, I’d like to talk about the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder, specially the rotator cuff muscles.

Note: The exercises below are meant to be “pre-habilitation” exercises, to be done during the course of a normal resistance training program.  These exercises are to be done ONLY when your shoulder is presumably healthy.  If you already feel like you may have a shoulder injury, these exercises COULD exacerbate the problem so it is always best to check with your physician or physical therapist before trying these exercises, or any exercises you find on the internet for that matter.  

What is this mysterious “rotator cuff,” and where is it, and what does it do?

The term “rotator cuff” gets tossed around a lot in the world of sports.  Any time a baseball pitcher or football quarterback go down with a shoulder injury, everyone’s first worry is that it’s the rotator cuff.  The rotator cuff is actually a group of 4 muscles that surround the shoulder joint.  The rotator cuff muscles are responsible for assisting the abduction (moving away from the body) and rotation of the arm, and they are also responsible for providing stability to the shoulder joint, holding the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) into the shoulder socket.

The 4 muscles that make up the rotator cuff are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.  The infraspinatus and teres minor both externally rotate the arm, while the subscapularis internally rotates the arm and the supraspinatus abducts the arm.

How can I strengthen my rotator cuff muscles?

Since the goal of rotator cuff training is to produce a functional, healthy, structurally sound shoulder, it is important to develop all 4 muscles of the rotator cuff equally.  We have 3 movements that we must do to target the rotator cuff muscles: internal and external rotation of the arm and abduction of the arm.  For simplicity and because the infraspinatus and teres minor both externally rotate the arm, the two will be trained together.

Internal Rotation (video courtesy of Liveexercise.com):

External Rotation:

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