Rotator Cuff Strengthening Exercises

Written by Brett Harrop

Updated:

The following rotator cuff strengthening exercises are designed to improve the strength of the rotator cuff muscles (figure 1). You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should only be performed provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Relevant Anatomy for Rotator Cuff Strengthening Exercises

 

Figure 1 – Relevant Anatomy for Rotator Cuff Strengthening Exercises

Begin with the basic rotator cuff strengthening exercises. Once these are too easy, progress to the intermediate rotator cuff strengthening exercises and eventually, the advanced rotator cuff exercises.


Rotator Cuff Strengthening – Basic Rotator Cuff Exercises

To begin with, the following basic rotator cuff strengthening exercises should be performed approximately 3 times daily. As your strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, frequency or duration of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Static Rotator Cuff Push Out

Begin this exercise standing with your back and neck straight and your shoulders back slightly. Keeping your elbow at your side and bent to 90 degrees, push your hand out against the other hands resistance as hard as possible provided it is pain free (figure 2). Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times. Perform on each side.

Rotator Cuff Exercises - Static Rotator Cuff Push Out
Figure 2 – Static Rotator Cuff Push Out (right arm)

Static Rotator Cuff Push In

Begin this exercise standing with your back and neck straight and your shoulders back slightly. Keeping your elbow at your side and bent to 90 degrees, push your hand in against the other hands resistance as hard as possible provided it is pain free (figure 3). Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times. Perform on each side.

Rotator Cuff Exercises - Static Rotator Cuff Push In
Figure 3 – Static Rotator Cuff Push In (right arm)


Rotator Cuff Strengthening – Intermediate Rotator Cuff Exercises

The following intermediate rotator cuff strengthening exercises should generally be performed 1 – 3 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Ideally they should not be performed on consecutive days, to allow muscle recovery. As your strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, number of sets or resistance of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Resistance Band External Rotation

Begin this exercise standing with your back straight, shoulder blades back slightly and holding a resistance band as demonstrated (figure 4). Keeping your elbow at your side and bent to 90 degrees, slowly move your hand away from your body keeping your shoulder blade still. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions as far as possible provided the exercise is pain free. Perform on each side.

Rotator Cuff Exercises - Resistance Band External Rotation
Figure 4 – Resistance Band External Rotation (left side)

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Rotator Cuff Strengthening – Advanced Rotator Cuff Exercises

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