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Best Rotator Cuff Stretches and Rotator Cuff Strengthening Exercises Featured

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Rotator Cuff Surgery BodybuilderHave you ever had shoulder pain or do you just want to learn how to prevent shoulder problems, like rotator cuff tears?

Exercise and stretching are a very important part of strengthening your rotator cuff,  rehabilitating a rotator cuff injury oir just preventing rotator cuff tears.

You can learn how to strengthen and rehabilitate your rotator cuff using these simple rotator cuff exercises and stretches.

What is a Rotator Cuff

Rotator cuff is a group of four small muscles (the Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis located deep in the shoulder surrounding the joint. Rotwoman-well-defined-shouldersator cuff muscles help keep the ball-and-socket joint intact. The primary function of these muscles is to provide dynamic stability to the joint.

Strengthening your Rotator Cuff Muscles

Rotator cuff muscles are a small endurance type of muscle group, and therefore require the use of lighter weights and higher repetitions. Typically start with 3 sets of 15 repetitions, and progress up to 5 sets of 30 repetitions. When performing rotator cuff exercises, keep the movement slow and controlled with perfect form in the pain-free range of motion.

Rotator Cuff Exercises

Side-Lying External Rotator

  • Lie on your side on the floor or bench with a towel rolled up underneath your upper arm allowing you to keep your arm at a right angle.
  • Keep the elbow in that 90 degree position and slowly raise the hand up toward the ceiling, stopping just shy of vertical to keep constant tension on the rotators. Slowly lower the weight back down toward your abdomen and repeat.

Propped External Rotator

  • Sit on a bench with a barbell beside you so that your upper arm is parallel to the floor. Rest your elbow on the barbell.
  • Lower the dumbbell slowly until the upper arm is parallel to the floor and focus on contracting the small muscles in the back of the shoulder to lift the weight back to vertical and repeat.

Elevation in the Plane of the Scapula

  • Lie on a table on your stomach with arm hanging over side and rotate your hand so the thumb is rotated 45° out to the side. Slowly raise arm in a plane 45° forward and stop arm just below parallel to the body. Repeat.

Row with External Rotation

  • Lie on a table on your stomach with arm hanging over side and rotate your hand so the thumb is facing towards the body.
  • Perform a rowing motion with the elbow in the same plane as the shoulder, and stop when the elbow is even with the shoulder.
  • Rotate the arm upwards until the forearm is just below parallel with the body.
  • Rotate the forearm back down to the previous position, and then lower the arm back down to the starting position. Repeat.

Resistance Band External Rotation

  • Stand while holding a resistance band across your abdomen, with a rolled towel between your arm and body.
  • Slowly rotate arm out to side until hand is pointing straight forward, and hold for 3 seconds.
  • Slowly return to start position. Keep your elbow at a 90° angle throughout the motion.

External Rotator on Knee

  • Sit on a bench with your foot on it, rest your elbow on the knee so that the upper arm remains parallel to the floor.
  • Start with your hand in the air. Keeping a right angle to the elbow slowly rotate your upper arm in an arc toward the midline of your body until your forearm is just above parallel to the floor.
  • Arc the arm back up to vertical and repeat.

Shoulder Extension Exercise

  • Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand in front of a mirror. Extend both of your arms up above your head with only a slight bend in both of your elbows.
  • Slowly bring your arms down in front of your body until your arms are at shoulder height. Rotate your arms until your hands are facing upward.
  • Rotate back and return to your original position and repeat.

Horizontal Abduction Exercise

  • Lie on a table on your stomach with arm hanging over side and the thumb facing forward.
  • Slowly raise arm straight out to the side and stop when arm is parallel to the body. Repeat.


Resistance Band Horizontal Abduction

  • Stand facing toward the attachment site of the resistance band, with the arm extended straight out in front of you.
  • Slowly pull arm backwards and out to the side, keeping the arm at shoulder height. As you perform this motion, try to pinch the shoulder blade backwards and inwards.

Resistance Band Rows

  • Hold resistance band ends in each hand.
  • Perform rowing motion backwards, keeping elbows elevated at least 60° away from body. When elbows are approximately ½ of the way to the body, complete the motion by pinching the shoulder blades together.

Rotator Cuff Stretching

Include some stretching following your rotator cuff exercises. Add some of the following stretches to your rotator cuff routine. Hold each for 30 seconds. Be cautious of pushing too hard into the stretch causing pain.

Door Jamb Stretch

  • Use a door jamb, tree, or corner of a building.
  • Extend your arm out from the torso at a right angle, and bend your elbow 90 degrees.
  • Place your forearm against a wall (or do both at the same time, in a door jamb) and lean forward.
  • Hold the stretch on each side for about 20-30 seconds.

Parallel Arm Shoulder Stretch

  • Start by standing up straight with your knees slightly bent and your legs shoulder-width apart.
  • Extend your right arm across your body, ensuring that your arm stays parallel with the ground. Pull your right elbow toward your opposite shoulder using your left arm. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds before letting go.
  • Repeat this exercise with the opposite arm.

Reverse Shoulder Stretch

  • Start by standing with your back straight and knees slightly bent.
  • Clasp your hands together directly behind the small of your back. With your arms fully extended, slowly bring your arms upward, ensuring that your arms are extended the entire time.
  • Hold the stretch for a count of 10 before releasing. As you improve, you will see an increase in the range of motion in your rotator cuff during the stretch.

Hug a Tree Stretch

  • Perform this stretch after rotator cuff exercises.
  • Find a sturdy vertical surface (i.e., squat rack, tree, coat rack) and grasp both hands around it, with feet about a foot away. Allow yourself to bend at the hips, butt back, until arms are straight, and allow your head to relax between the elbows.

These are just a few rotator cuff exercises that can be performed. While all of these are very good at isolating the rotator cuff, not all are to be performed during a single exercise program.

About Lynn Glenn

lynn_glenn_expertsuitLynn Glenn is a 64 year old natural athlete from Southern California who started weight lifting at the ripe young age of 48. After catching the "bodybuilding bug" Lynn Glenn became interested in living a healthy lifestyle and began writing about hot topics in the areas of  health, fitnessdisease prevention, diet, nutrition, diet and weight loss, men's fitness, cardio training, and  anti aging.

Lynn is a regular writer at, , and, and became senior editor of in 2009. To contact Lynn regarding personal training, or product endorsements, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit his page at

Last modified on Saturday, 04 January 2014 17:25
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