How to Strengthen the Rotator Cuff

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The rotator cuff is often referred to when talking about sports injuries. There are a number of activities that put large amounts of stress on this area of the body, such as throwing a baseball, swimming, weight lifting, among others. This article will give some tips on how to strengthen the rotator cuff to lessen the chances of such injuries from occurring.

Things You'll Need

  • Elastic tubing
  • Small dumbbells
  • Understand that the shoulder is surrounded by four muscles and their attached tendons; this group is collectively known as the rotator cuff. It allows the shoulder to move in the widest range of motion of any joint in the entire body. The rotator cuff is often injured during repetitive sports motions, such as pitching, swimming or swinging a tennis racket. The stress placed on the cuff time after time after time can cause a breakdown, strains, and in some serious cases, the rotator cuff itself can tear. A torn rotator cuff will normally end any sports season for an athlete, and sometimes can end a career. The following simple exercises will help strengthen the cuff and help athletes avoid injury.

  • Know that a piece of rubber tubing is all you need to strengthen your rotator cuff, though small dumbbells can be substituted for the tubing. First, take the tubing and attach it to a door knob or another stationary object that is roughly waist level. Then, take the tubing in your hand, forming a perpendicular "L" with your arm, your arm should be touching your side. Then rotate or pivot your arm outwards until it is parallel with your side (see external rotation picture). Do three sets of 10 repetitions. After this, you will want to do abduction exercises, which starts in the same position--the "L" at your side, but instead or rotating outwards, you will raise your shoulder upwards 45 degrees, and then return to the starting position. Try to do three sets of 10, but you will be hard presses to do this at first.

  • Try extensions and internal rotations. Extensions are done by facing the door where the tubing is anchored, and again begin with your arm in the "L" at your side. This time you will pull the tubing back, only a few inches, and then return to start. You should feel the burn behind your shoulder, do not use your upper arms (bicpes) to help with the motion. Try to do two sets of 10 repetitions.

  • If your shoulders aren't screaming by now, then jump into some internal rotations. This is done in the same position as external rotations, but the band should be anchored on the opposite side of you than it was previously, and you rotate your arm inwards until your forearm lays across your stomach. Keep in mind that two to three sets of 10 reps will leave you fried. Be careful, and don't worry if you can't get to 10 repetitions just yet. You'll have to work your way up, as with any strengthening routine.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use light tubing when you first begin.
  • Go slow, there is no rush, maintain proper form.
  • Don't overdue it the first time out, you don't want to hurt yourself while you're trying to prevent injuries!

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  • Photo Credit orthoassociates.com
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