Shoulder Series Part 3 – Rotator Cuff Muscles

The rotator cuff (RC) is the name given to a group of 4 small muscles that surround the shoulder joint (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor). The primary actions of the RC muscles are to internally and externally rotate the upper arm relative to the scapula (shoulder blade). Their primary function however, is to dynamically stabilise the shoulder joint during arm movements.


Most cases of shoulder pain/disability involve weakness/underactivity of some (or all) of the RC muscles, whether or not an injury to one of these muscles is the primary issue. Countless studies have demonstrated that shoulder pain causes RC weakness, and also that RC weakness cause shoulder pain. It’s a vicious cycle!

A recent study (Heron et al., 2016) compared 3 different types of RC training programmes, and found that “All three programmes resulted in significant decreases in SPADI score (‘Shoulder Pain And Disability Index’)”.

So what does this mean for shoulder pain?? We need to get the rotator cuff muscles stronger and more active!

Here is how you do it:

EXTERNAL ROTATION: Attach an elastic theraband to a doorknob > stand side on, holding the band in one hand > keep your elbow bent to 90 degrees and tucked in close to your body (holding a folded towel under your arm helps facilitate this) > keep your chest out and your shoulder blades pulled down & back > slowly rotate the shoulder, pulling the elastic out to the side > slowly return to the start position

INTERNAL ROTATION: turn your body around 180 degrees and repeat the same process, this time pulling the band in/across your body

Do 3 sets of 10 reps (of both exercises) every day!

Progressions: - Abduct your arm (elevate it out to the side) to 45 degrees - Abduct your arm to 90 degrees - Abduct your arm to 120 degrees

With your rotator cuff working optimally, you will have stronger and healthier shoulders

Watch this space to see ‘Part 4’ of the shoulder series coming soon!

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