How to Strengthen Your Rotator Cuff! (9 Minute Home Workout)
Today, I want to talk about The Rotator Cuff, or more specifically how to strengthen your Rotator Cuff!
Maybe you thought the Rotator Cuff was just one muscle? It’s actually four individual muscles. Three of them work to externally rotate your shoulder.
Most likely, you don’t know much about them at all. And with good reason. The fact is, in most generic upper body workouts, the external rotators of the shoulders are completely neglected.
That’s why I’ve made this blog and a video where you can do a 9-minute external shoulder rotator workout with me! I recommend reading the blog if you want all the info, but you can also skip straight to the video at the bottom of this article.
The External Rotators of The Shoulder
Think about it: When you do a push motion or a pull motion, you’re working your internal rotators. Yes, the chest muscles AND the back muscles both internally rotate your shoulder. If you have internally rotated shoulders, which many of us do, the shoulder actually can’t work properly. Yet, how many programs actually program for strengthening your external rotators, too?
As a physical therapist and personal trainer, I always program for strengthening your external rotators, too. Both for my personal training and online clients. Unfortunately, those small but important muscles are overlooked by many trainers and gym-bunnies. That’s a big problem, as without strong external rotators in your shoulder, you will likely develop or enhance a bad posture and you won’t be able to train your upper body effectively. Maybe you’ll even end up with an injury that will keep you out of the gym for a long time.
That’s why I want to show you three exercises that externally rotate your shoulder and strengthens the three small muscles that need to do this very important work. I will describe the exercises and accompany my descriptions with pictures, and in the end, I have a video with a full 9-minute follow-along workout so you can do the program with me.
You can do the workout at home or in the gym, all you need is a Theraband (light to medium resistance depending on your strength), somewhere to secure the band (a door handle works just fine) and an exercise band like this one. Just play the workout video on your TV or on your phone, and follow my guidance. It doesn’t have to be complicated to make sure your shoulders are taken care of!
The three external rotators in the rotator cuff are:
- Teres Minor
(And there’s also a 4th muscle: the internal rotator called Subscapularis)
Don’t worry, you don’t have to remember their names. What you need to take from this blog is that you need to strengthen the external rotators to keep your shoulders strong and healthy. As most pushing and pulling movements that you do to train your upper body only work the internal rotators, you need to program specifically to strengthen your external rotators.
How To Strengthen Your Rotator Cuff
Exercise 1: Band External Rotations
Equipment: Medium Theraband
Secure your band at a height that makes you able to keep your elbow at a 90-degree angle. It can be on ie. a door handle or a squat rack.
Make sure you keep your elbow close to your waist and don’t move the elbow away from your body at any point during the exercise. Stand straight up and down, bring your shoulders back and down and open your chest. A common mistake done to go further into the movement is to bend the wrist, but don’t do that. Make sure you keep your wrist straight, as bending the wrist fools you to think you’re doing the exercise in a big range of motion, but that actually doesn’t help you strengthen the external rotators.
If you want to make the exercise harder, you can move a bit further away from where the band is anchored.
If you want to make it easier, move a little bit closer. Make sure you don’t make this exercise harder than what you can do for 20 reps with perfect technique.
Exercise 2: Dumbbell W Fly
Equipment: Light dumbbells (0,5-5 kg. depending on strength)
Stand straight up and down, and then slightly bend your knees and push your hips back. As you come into this position, keep your back straight and your shoulder blades together. Let your arms hang down in front of you, straight under your shoulders with your thumbs pointing forward. As you start the first rep, lift your elbows out to the side while bending them, finishing in a position with your thumbs pointing back up to the ceiling, making the shape of a w through your arms, body, and hands.
Exercise 3: Shoulder External Rotation Isometric Hold
Equipment: Exercise band (I use this one)
To begin this exercise place a mini band around your wrists and stand with your elbows at your side, and your forearms parallel to the floor. From here, push out your wrists until your forearms are also aligned and you feel the tension in your shoulders. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
A slightly more difficult variation of this is to start in the same position with your elbows at your sides but then lifting them up until your upper arms are halfway to parallel to the floor.
The third and most difficult variation: Starting in the same position, but now you lift your elbows up until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Again, you push your wrists out until your forearms are parallel with each other and you hold this position.
Choose one that challenges you, but allows you to keep perfect form throughout three sets of 30 seconds.
- 20 Band External Rotations each arm
- 20 W Fly’s
- 30 seconds Shoulder External Rotation w. Isometric Hold
Repeat all three exercises back to back for a total of three rounds. Take a short break between the rounds if you need to. If you follow my pace in the video below, it will take you about nine minutes. In the video, you will learn how to strengthen your rotator cuff and you” be able to do the workoout with me in real time.