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TIPS ON STRENGTHENING THE ROTATOR CUFF

The classic rotator cuff! Do you actually know what it is and what it does? Read on as I discuss what it is, how strengthening it can help you!


What Is The Rotator Cuff?


The rotator cuff is the group of muscles that are in the shoulder that work together with a central role of stabilisation of the shoulder joint. You may or may not know the shoulder as a pretty moveable ball and socket joint meaning it is pretty easy for it to be injured or put out of place if enough force is placed upon it!

rotator cuff

What Muscles Are Part Of The Rotator Cuff?


Supraspinatus


The main role of this muscle is to assist in abduction of the shoulder joint which basically means movement of your arm away from your body. Think of a side deltoid raise it would be involved in the initial 15-20 degrees of the movement.


It also helps with stabilising the joint and keeping the bone in the upper arm stuck inside the joint. Without it your arm would just be flopping around out of place with no strength or support from your body!


This muscle is pretty small so it is easy for it to be torn from overuse, trauma or degeneration over time. When this muscle is inflammed it can result in decreased movement in the shoulder, pain and weakness to perform daily tasks.


You can strengthen this muscle through abduction of the shoulder joint. Basically working within that 15-20 degree movement of a side shoulder raise will work the muscle resulting in increased strength if you focus on progressive overload. This decreases the risk of injury and improves the stability of the shoulder.


Infraspinatus


The main role of this muscle is to externally rotate the shoulder. It helps with rotating the shoulder outwards and away from the body. Similar to the other muscles in the rotator cuff it stabilises the joint to ensure it does not just fall out of place.


It is common for this muscle to be injured through strains, tears and tendonitis and this can occur if you are repeating movements that may over stimulate this muscle or the joint in general. If you perform any activities or sports that include throwing, reaching or lifting it could place additional stress upon the muscle resulting in injury!


To prevent injury you need to strengthen the muscle, basically if you have your elbow up and out at a 90 degree angle and move your wrist with load up and in line with your elbow you have achieved external rotation. Repeating this movement with weight, bands or even a water bottle will result in strengthening the muscle to perform tasks and decrease the risk of injury.


Subscapularis


This muscle is found in the front of the shoulder blade and works to internally rotate the shoulder.


Similarly to the other muscles in the shoulder join

internal rotation

t the subscapularis helps with shoulder stability and contributes to adduction or movement of your arm inwards and towards your body.


Without this muscle you will not have proper alignment of your shoulder joint which increases the risk of injury, places pressure upon the muscles and creates an unstable joint. Having higher risk of injury will result in more injuries and create low confidence in future ability for movement.


It is common for this muscle to be injured due to its size and neglect when it comes to strength and conditioning so ensuring you place a little focus on it will actually spark quick improvements in overall shoulder strength, stability, confidence and movement ability!!


Results speak for themselves!


To train this you should focus on movements that internally rotate the shoulder with load whether that be from weights, bands or even something at home.


Teres minor


The teres minor is found on the outside of the shoulder blade near the infraspinatus and has a very similar role. It assists with external rotation of the shoulder however additionally works with the lattissimus dorsi with depression of the shoulder or a downward motion.


This is overall the smallest muscle out of the 4 however it plays a massive role in stability of the entire shoulder joint working together with the other muscles in the joint.


The teres minor is easily injured when it comes to external rotation due to its size it can be overtrained pretty easily. So if you are constantly hunched over or tend to neglect shoulder care theres a high chance this muscle is very tight, sore and can be injured if it is ever pushed over its limit.

external rotation

You can strengthen this muscle through training external rotation of the shoulder with load. Remember the principles of progressive overload to strengthen any muscle you must do 2 things. I wrote about that here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Injury Prevention


External rotation tends to be a common injury occurrence for individuals in this day and age due to the lives with live on devices being hunched over. Right now while I type out this blog I would not say I have perfect posture and I am placing stress upon the muscles in my rotator cuff. However I also do take pauses throughout my days where I would open up my shoulder and also strengthen it whenever I train. I wrote a blog about shoulder pain and the do's and don'ts you can read that here

strengthening rotator cuff

To prevent injury there are 2 principles I keep in mind


  1. Mobility - ensuring I have full ability to freely move the joint in question. For this situation it would be full movement ability of my shoulder joint including but not limited to the upper arm, shoulder blade and collar bone. I would then make sure I have strength at my end ranges so when I do get into weird positions like right now I have the strength and flexibility to not get injured.

  2. Nutrition - ensuring I am eating enough protein! With anything, protein is your nutrient for recovery so making sure you get enough of it in your day is going to make sure that no matter what you are doing you are adequately recovering from the work you do. Not eating enough will actually hinder performance and result in possible injury due to lack of recovery


My Top Tips To Strengthen The Rotator Cuff


If you read up until now you would understand the 4 muscles in the rotator cuff and the movements they all focus on. You may have noticed a common theme. Every muscle either 1 of 2 things. Internal or external rotation of the shoulder. It is with these movements in mind that you can begin your mobility journey. Either through strength or flexibility gains you will improve the stability and strength of the shoulder and its surrounding muscles/joints.


I love using bands and I believe they are the most useful piece of equipment when it comes to mobility however not everyone has access to them. I would use your environment to your advantage. Use walls to increase flexibility by pushing towards your end range with an obstacle. Moving against an un moveable object like a wall will assist in producing increased range of motion in your joint and this works for the shoulder.


I would then focus on using your environment to your advantage by getting objects that are light in the house you are able to move around with your shoulder. This could be a 1 litre bottle or even a 500gram steak haha


Pushing yourself to increase strength in the muscles listed above will guide you towards a path of a stable shoulder joint and strength that will last you a lifetime if you continue. Less injuries, more positive movement!


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