Exercises for Rotator Cuff Weakness and Pain

The shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the human body. This mobility allows us to bend, twist, and maneuver our shoulder and arm in a wide variety of ways. The ability to do this does come at a cost, as stability is somewhat limited, with the increased range of motion. Because of this, your rotator cuff muscles, which help to stabilize the shoulder, get put under a tremendous amount of stress through our day to day lives. Many individuals may develop inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons, increasing pain and decreasing overall strength of the muscle over time. This can be due to a wide variety of things, but is typically a byproduct of simply not using the muscles. The video above, and descriptions below will help to walk you through two exercises that I enjoy using for myself and individual that I work with to help strengthen the rotator cuff and help decrease overall pain and weakness.

Equipment Needed

The rotator cuff exercises shown above in the video will need two different pieces of equipment. The first one is a theraband which is a stretchy resistance band used in physical therapy and rehabilitation settings. You can find one of these bands here. In addition to this, we recommend purchasing a light dumbbell for one of the rotator cuff exercises. The one we are going to link is a 5 lb dumbbell, however you may need something even lighter. A link to the 5 pound dumbbell can be found, here.

Exercises for Rotator Cuff Weakness and Pain

With the equipment in hand, you are ready to begin your rotator cuff exercises and get them back up to strength. The two exercises for rotator cuff weakness that we are going to look over are:

  • Hands up Band Pull Apart
  • Seated External Rotation

Hands up Band Pull Apart

As noted in the video above, you will need your theraband for this first exercise. For the palms up band pull apart, you are going to place the theraband in your hands, about shoulder width apart, making sure your palms are facing up. Next, you are going to pull the band to the side as far as you can, and then slowly bring it back into the starting position. The most important thing to consider with this rotator cuff exercise is to make sure that your elbows stay pinned to the sides of your body. Imagine if a towel or newspaper is being pinned to your side, and that if you bring your elbow out, the object will fall. Do this for 3 sets as many repetitions as possible, going for at least 10.

Seated External Rotation

Another great way to strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and reduce pain is with the seated external rotation exercise. This will have you either using a dumbbell or even just your hand to start as resistance against the muscle being worked. For this exercise, find a bench that is about the height of your knees. You will then sit down, and bring one of your legs up onto the bench. You will then place the elbow of the same side arm as the knee that is up on the bench. For example, if your right leg is up on the bench, your right elbow will be placed on the right knee. Lastly, turn your body so it is facing the leg that is down on the ground. You will then gently lower your hand or weight, while it is connected to the knee the entire time. A primary goal is to keep your arm bent at a 90 degree angle at the elbow joint throughout the movement. Just like the last exercise, you will do this for 3 sets, with as many repetitions as possible. This one is more difficult than the last one so start very light for yourself.

Overall, these are just a few of many great exercises that you can use to help strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and reduce pain. I would recommend only doing one of these per day, potentially alternating between the two. Good luck on your exercises, and if you needed to purchase a theraband or light dumbbell you can find them below.

Theraband: Purchase here

Light Dumbbell: Purchase here.

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