17 July 2008 ~ Comments Off on Rotator Cuff Exercises

Rotator Cuff Exercises

Our shoulders have a great range of motion. We can both scratch our backs and lift an object out in front of us. However, with this mobility comes great vulnerability. Our shoulders do not receive a lot of oxygen and nutrients, and this is why a shoulder injury will take a long time to heal. This lack of nutrient flow causes our shoulders to be the most damaged due to aging. For these reasons, it is very important to take care of them. One way to protect yourself from a lot of injury is to strengthen your rotator cuff, which is the most injured part of the shoulder.

The rotator cuff, like any other muscle, will greatly benefit from being stretched and trained. Stretching the muscles will keep it more resistant to tears and injuries while training the rotator cuff will enable you to protect yourself against weakness and the damaging effects of aging. Before you begin training your rotator cuff, we need to cover a few ground rules.
Arm Circles

First, it is critically important to warm up and stretch before you perform any rotator cuff exercise. A great way to do this is arm circles. With your arms to your side, lift your arms up to the sky and down behind your back (like a softball pitch) and back to the starting position. Do this for 3 sets of 20. You can also do another version of arm circles where you hold your arms straight out to your side (like a side lateral raise). Then move your arms in a circular motion. Both of these exercises will effectively warm up your shoulders and prepare them for a work out.

The next thing that you want to make sure to do is to stretch your shoulders. There are several ways to do this, but here is a great video demonstration for you to mimic:

Shoulder Stretches

After you have warmed up, then you can proceed to some rotator cuff exercises.
Rotator Cuff Rotations

The first exercise that you will perform is standing rotator cuff rotations. These are achieved by holding your arms parallel to the floor and at shoulder level. Then bend your forearm up making a 90 degree angle at your elbow. Then rotate your arms towards your head. You can use a weight in each hand to add resistance. Then go back to the starting position. Perform this exercise with light weights initially and as you get more comfortable and stronger then start increasing the weight. An ideal repetition range is 3×12. You can perform this exercise standing up or lying on a bench face down.

Internal Rotation

The next exercise that you can do is called internal rotations. This is performed lying down on a bench on your side. Then take the arm opposite to the side touching the bench and bending your elbow to make your hand come towards your head. Take your hand and move it towards your chest and then lift it back up to where the starting position was. Maybe it is easier to refer to the picture for this rotator cuff exercise. Perform 3 sets of 12.
Lateral Raises

The third exercise that you can perform for your rotator cuff is lateral raises. These are performed by having a weight in each hand and lifting your arms straight out to your side. You can alternate the way your palms are facing (down, up, thumbs up) to put emphasis on different areas of the shoulder. Perform 3 sets of 12.

After you have completed these exercises, do a short cool down by performing your warm up exercises and stretches. Remember to slowly increase the resistance and adjust the repetitions to get your shoulders stronger and more resistant to injuries. As always, if you ever feel uncomfortable during any exercise, discontinue and try something else. Another thing to remember is to train the muscles around your shoulder blade. You can do this by performing shrugs, military presses, pushups and rows.

There are a few things that you should avoid doing to prevent rotator cuff injuries. You should never do pull downs or presses behind the head. Our shoulders are not comfortable with lifting weights from this direction and many people mistakenly do this and live to regret it. Another point to remember is to avoid going lower than parallel on any press movements such as bench press or pushups. Also do not use really heavy weights when doing any rotator cuff exercise.

If you stay within the guidelines that I have set forth and perform these rotator cuff exercises, then you are sure to reap the benefits by having a healthy, strong shoulder. In regards to your shoulder, it pays to be safe than sorry. The injuries can take as much as 18 months to heal, and many people can tell you that that sucks.

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