Are you worried about injuries to your shoulder joints? Well, so should you. Each year, thousands of people sustain injuries to their shoulders, many of which require surgery.
The good news is that you can reduce the risk of a serious injury by staying fit and active or occasionally doing some exercises of the muscles along the shoulder joint.
What Is a rotator cuff?
Your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and their tendons that help hold your shoulder joint together and allow you to lift and rotate your arm. They are connected to the bones of the shoulder blade (scapula), upper arm bone (humerus) and collarbone (clavicle).
The four muscles that make up your rotator cuff are:
- Supraspinatus – lifts your arm to the side and helps you start moving it away from the body
- Infraspinatus – rotates the arm outwards
- Teres minor – also rotates the arm outwards
- Subscapularis – rotates the arm inwards
What is a rotator cuff injury?
A rotator cuff injury is an injury to one or more of the four tendons that make up your rotator cuff. These tendons connect your upper arm bone (humerus) with the shoulder blade (scapula). The rotator cuff tendons help to raise and rotate your arm.
Rotator cuff injuries often occur during the course of normal use. You might injure your rotator cuff by doing things like:
- Wear and tear – Repeating the same arm movement, such as when painting or playing tennis
- Injury or trauma – Such as falling directly onto an outstretched hand or a heavy object falling on your shoulder
- Repeated minor injuries – Lifting something heavy, even correctly
- Falling on an outstretched hand
The Best Shoulder Exercises To Strengthen Your Rotator Cuff
To bounce back from injury, or to prevent future injury, you can strengthen your shoulders, increase your range of movement, and relieve moderate pain and stiffness by performing shoulder exercises. If you perform them on a regular basis, these exercises can prevent the need for more radical treatment including surgery.
Here are 5 exercises to help strengthen rotator cuff muscles and relieve your shoulder pain:
1. Arm Swings
Arm swings will increase the blood flow throughout your arm, shoulder, and back muscles. The faster you swing your arms, the more intense the movement will be. If you’re new to arm swings or physical exercise in general, make sure to start slowly and gradually build up speed as you get used to the motion.
Arm Swings is typically a warm-up exercise. To perform this warm-up you must:
- Stand upright, feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
- Swing both arms forward and back.
- Swing arms across your body to the front and then to the back.
Arm swings help prepare the body for activity by increasing body temperature, blood flow to the muscles, and joint lubrication. These benefits improve performance, decrease injury risk, and make it easier to move through a full range of motion.
2. Cross Body Shoulder Stretch
The cross body shoulder stretch is a simple stretch for the shoulders and upper back. The stretch can be performed both actively and passively, and can be used to increase flexibility in the shoulders and upper back. This stretch increases flexibility through the rotator cuff muscles, which are located around the shoulder joint.
- Stand tall with your feet together and your arms down by your sides.
- Reach across your body with one arm, bending at the elbow and placing the thumb side of your hand on the opposite shoulder.
- Use your other hand to pull gently on your bent elbow, stretching the shoulder and triceps muscle.
- Hold for 30 seconds then release and repeat on the other side.
The cross body shoulder stretch is a safe exercise for anyone who is looking to improve the mobility of the upper back and shoulders. People who sit at a computer for long periods of time are most likely to benefit from this exercise due to how it stretches out tight chest muscles. This exercise does not require any equipment, so you can perform it anytime, anywhere.
3. Cobra Chest Raises
Cobra Chest Raises are a great exercise for building strength and endurance in the lower back and posterior chain. This exercise can be performed almost anywhere, which makes it a great exercise for traveling. All you need is a mat or towel.
- Lie on the floor with your belly down and your hands just under but outside of your shoulders. Contract your abs and keep your neck in line with your spine without tilting your head up or down.
- Push through the palms of your hands and slowly lift your upper body off of the floor. Raise as high as possible without pushing past a comfortable stretch in the chest area. You might feel this in the front of your shoulders and upper back as well, which is fine. Your thighs, hips and lower back should remain on the ground, so don’t try to push all the way up until you are able to perform this exercise with proper form.
- Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds before slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. Repeat 3 times.
4. Bicep Curls
Bicep curls are a great exercise for toning and strengthening your arm muscles. While you can do them with equipment, they’re also easy to do with just your bodyweight. This makes them a convenient addition to any workout routine, whether you’re at home or at the gym.
Bicep curls can be performed with a variety of weights and equipment, including dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, and cables.
- Stand with your torso upright while holding a barbell at a shoulder-width grip. Your elbows should be close to the torso. This will be your starting position.
- While holding the upper arm stationary, curl the weights forward while contracting the biceps as you breathe out. Only the forearms should move. Continue the movement until your biceps are fully contracted and the bar is at shoulder level. Hold the contracted position for a second as you squeeze the muscle.
- Slowly begin to bring the bar back to starting position as your breathe in.
If you want to make sure you’re doing a true bicep curl and not cheating by using momentum or some other part of your body to lift the weight, try using a lighter weight or doing one-armed curls. You should feel it in your upper arm right away when you have proper form.
5. Bradford Presses
The Bradofrd press is a strength training exercise also called as incline dumbbell bench press, incline bench press, and overhead press. This exercise works on your shoulders majorly and also helps to build up your chest muscles.
Use a very lightweight barbell, an empty bar, or a broomstick if the weight of a barbell bar cannot be tolerated by your shoulder muscles if injured. Grip the bar a slightly wider than shoulder width.
Push the bar up above and over your head and lower it behind your head. Pause briefly and then bring the bar back to the top of your head and return to the front. Repeat the alternate steps 10-15 times.
Note: Do not use weighted bars if you’ve just begun shoulder rehabilitation, especially if you’ve recently undergone surgical repairs. Perform all exercises slowly without bouncing.
The shoulder joint is one of the more complex joints in the body. It can withstand large amounts of stress and strain, but only when everything is functioning correctly. If any individual part of the shoulder is compromised or damaged, stresses are placed on the other parts of the shoulder, and it can quickly lead to further injuries.
The five shoulder exercises above are some of the most effective exercises you can do to strengthen your rotator cuff. They’re simple and easy to perform, which makes them perfect for busy people on the go. Plus, they all target each major part of your shoulder muscles, increasing the overall benefits you’ll get from doing them. So how will you choose to exercise?