Best Rotator Cuff Exercises for Shoulder Strength and Stability

Even the best rotator cuff exercises won’t do you any good unless you first understand basic function of the shoulder. Learn how shoulder prehab can help you improve upper body strength and prevent injuries.

What is shoulder prehab, you ask?

Unlike its counterpart, rebab (which is performed after the fact), shoulder prehab is used as more of a preventative measure to mitigate injury. Perform it regularly and you can stop rotator cuff tears from ever happening in the first place.

But, before we can fix your shoulders, you must first understand what the rotator cuff is— and more importantly— how to prevent it from getting injured.

What You Need To Know About The Rotator Cuff

Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, and the Subscapularis: Collectively, these four muscles make up the rotator cuff. Together, this group of muscles acts to stabilize your shoulder as you move it through a variety of positions. They also assist in internal and external rotation.

To remember the names of these muscles, just think of the word SITS, which spells out the first letters of each of your rotator cuff muscles. S for Supraspinatus. I for Infraspinatus. T for Teres Minor, And another S for Subscapularis.

Injuries can occur in many ways. But most people will fall under one (or more) of four different categories.

Why Rotator Cuff Injuries Occur?

Before you can find a solution to a problem, you must first understand the problem that you are trying to solve. By this logic, when dealing with the rotator cuff, it’s important to know the cause of the problem.

In general, there are four main causations that lead to rotator cuff injury. And because, alliterations are always fun, I wanted to create one of my very own; which consists of the words: Overload, Imbalances, Neglect and Knots— or collectively known as OINK.

  • Overload: Often times, rotator cuff injuries happen when you ask too much of your shoulders. The rotator cuff comprises of small,stabilizer muscles, which are liable to tear when exposed to extreme stresses

  • Imbalances: With all the repetitive movements we do throughout the day, muscle imbalances are hard to avoid, especially in our shoulders. If you’ve ever had to spend 8 hours at a desk, you’ll know what I mean. The exercises I share with you in this article will help you balance out the rotator cuff equation for healthier shoulders.

  • Neglect: More often than not, shoulder pain and stiffness is simply the result of neglectful treatment. This lack of varied movement in the shoulders can lead to atrophy in the now shortened and brittle rotator cuff muscle group. A simple fix is to start a strength training program that focuses on developing these muscles.

  • Knots: I’m going to be honest here, this is only here because I needed a word that starts with the letter “K” to make this alliteration work. Don’t you think that the word “knots” is fitting in this situation? Because knots are a major indicator that your muscles need a little TLC.

Show Your Rotator Cuff A Little Tender Loving Care

Now that you know what the rotator cuff is— and more importantly, how to fix it— you can now get to work on training those bad boys back into shape. Here are three exercises to help you do just that.

Exercise #1: The Weighted Single-Arm Circle

If you are looking for the exercise that will give you the most bang for your buck, then put your money on the weighted single-arm circle. This is a fantastic exercise that should be apart of everybody’s prehab routine.

Hold a light dumbbell or wrist weight in one hand and raise your arm in a circular motion, making sure to go both forward and backward with each arm. Use a light enough weight to allow you to move through a controlled range of motion.


Exercise #2: Shoulder Dislocates

Once you have become proficient with the weighted single-arm circle, you can then test your rotator cuff mobility with shoulder dislocates. Which will require a dowel rod or a pvc pipe to perform.

Start with a wider than shoulder-width overhand grip on your dowel of pvc pipe and raise your arms up and overhead, shrugging your shoulders at the top. As your arms rotate behind you, squeeze your shoulder blades together to open your chest. Be sure not to let your back arch during this exercise.


Exercise #3: Cuban Rotations

Yet another great exercise for your rotator cuff. This potent exercise helps to balance out the internal and external rotator cuff muscles for bulletproof shoulders. With your elbows bent into an L-shape, raise your upper arms until they are level with your shoulders. Slowly rotate your shoulders both internally and externally.

Extreme caution when first performing Cuban Rotations: Going heavy too soon can lead to injury. To avoid this, start out lightly so that you can learn the movement first. Then gradually add weight over time.


How to Incorporate These Exercises Into Your Workout

Now the question remains: How do you incorporate these exercises into your shoulder prehab routine? How many sets? How many reps?

I created this rotator cuff workout guide for you to download:

If you found value in reading this article, then please do me a favor and share it with all your friends who have shoulder issues. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter below to receive updates on new and exciting future articles.