How To Strengthen Rotator Cuff – Physical Therapy Exercises For Shoulder Pain

what's up guys hey Jared Beck strand here doctor of physical therapy tone and tighten calm and today we're talking all about the rotator cuff and specifically what it is why it's important and then I want to share with you guys about five of my favorite exercises to keep yours healthy strong and pain-free so let's get into it right now all right you guys hey thank you so much for joining me today here on tonin Titan I'm excited to be able to share what I know with you hopefully help your shoulder out hopefully help you out of some pain that you might be experiencing or to just keep your shoulder healthy and strong that's what we're all about if you guys do like this video do me a huge favor hit that thumbs up button down below also if you haven't done so already please take this chance to subscribe to tone and tighten where you'll get a lot more videos just like this one okay so let's talk rotator cuff so first of all what is the rotator cuff the rotator cuff is actually a collection of four muscles that serve to stabilize your shoulder joint now that shoulder joint it's a ball and socket joint here's the socket here's the ball it's actually the most mobile joint in the body we have the greatest range of motion available in three different planes of movement in our shoulder joint it's a very mobile joint but then at the same time it needs to be a very stable joint that's where that rotator cuff comes in so again what you're looking at here this is my right shoulder blade looks just like that with the humerus the arm bone hanging down right here you've got four muscles that come off of your shoulder blade three of them come from the back one of them comes from the front and then you can see that they kind of wrap around the head of that humerus to form a cuff around it okay so now why is that important in order to in order for the hood shoulder to function properly that socket or the Queen that ball of the humerus needs to fit squarely into the socket of the of the shoulder blade and it needs to be seated in the right location and it needs to stay in that right location throughout movement as we're going through this motion if it doesn't that's what can lead to some of the problems that we might experience in some of the pain that you might be experiencing and a lot of time a lot of the times in my experience if you get pain kind of reaching up and overhead or just with certain shoulder motions in general oftentimes it's because of that rotator cuff the rotator cuff is not strong enough to keep that the ball squarely seated in your socket over time that can read looking that can lead to pain and pinching and inflammation irritation even like a rotator cuff tear which we absolutely want to avoid if we do the right exercises for it we actually can't avoid that now if you do have those those symptoms that pain in your shoulder and I did shoot a video it's just last week all about shoulder impingement is probably the most common cause of shoulder pain that I see if you're interested in learning more about that there's a link down below in the description I'm also going to put a link right up here floating around right now that will take you to a video that I shot all about how to treat your shoulder pain and your shoulder impingement but for now what I want to do is jump into these rotator cuff exercises just one of the best things you can do to avoid pain and even to get yourself out of pain is to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles so that they serve their proper function so I want to show you some of my favorite rotator cuff strengthening exercises but before I do that I want to show you my least favorite rotator cuff exercise so what I ask okay what are you doing for your rotator cuff they'll stand there and they'll they'll say okay well I get a pair of dumbbells I hold them in my hands and then I internally and externally rotate just like I'm showing you right here in this little clip now here's what I hate about that you guys it's not a rotator cuff exercises gravity always acts alone free weights the same way gravity is always gonna push that straight down and so what we need to do is we need to work against gravity with our free weights in order to make it an effective exercise and so if I grab my weight right here and then if I do this rotator cuff exercise in and out you'll see that the resistance is actually straight down it's an isometric contraction meaning there's no motion occurring at my bicep so it takes a lot for my biceps to hold this at a 90 degree angle now as I'm gonna kick on these external rotators so now I'm going to move through this motion but that resistance is still straight down in order to resist that rotator cuff motion I need to create a different line of pull on it I need to either use a cable or I need to do the dumbbell this row or this rotation a little bit differently which actually leads us to the first exercise that I want to show you guys we're gonna get into some side lying external rotation what you'll do is you're going to lay down on your side you'll see here I'm laying down on my left side my right elbow is at a 90 degree angle with the weight down right in front of me now what I'm going to do is keep that right elbow into my side as I rotate that weight up towards the ceiling gravity is still pushing that way straight down but because I changed the direction that I'm moving because I'm laying on my side now all of a sudden for me to rotate up towards the ceiling is a rotation exercise against gravity and so this is actually my first rotator cuff exercise that I want to share with you guys don't train your rotator cuff with a dumbbell standing up do it laying down so this is an external rotation exercise again elbows at your side you're gonna rotate away from your body and up towards the ceiling keep that elbow sucked in nice and tight what you're gonna shoot for is about 10 to 15 reps and then you're going to do that three times now you can also train your internal rotators so again the motions that the rotator cuff does would be external rotation and internal rotation we need to train both of those external rotations maybe a little bit more important but let's not forget about the internal rotators to train those internal rotators the exercise the dumbbell exercise that I like well let me back up I don't really like this exercise I prefer to train this standing with cables just because in order to train it with a dumbbell you actually have to lay on your shoulder kind of creates a little bit of some pressure some impingement stuff in there while you're strengthening this it's not my favorite but if dumbbells are all you have it's better than nothing and so to demonstrate that let's go ahead and you're gonna lay down on your right side your elbow comes out in front of you just a little bit your elbow is bent to a 90 degree angle while you grab that freeway now what you're going to do is keep your elbow bent as you pull that free weight up towards the ceiling up nice and slow and then down nice and slow again not my favorite because you're laying on your shoulder but it's a resistive motion against that internal rotation range we're going up and we're going against gravity while we do it and as it becomes an effective way to train your internal rotators so external rotators and internal rotators those are two of my favorite Nobel exercises to hit those so my favorite way to train the rotator cuff muscles are actually with these three exercises with your bands or with your cables that I want to show you right now now in the gym you can use a cable machine to set this up I'm here home we actually have these resistance bands at home probably one of my favorite home pieces of equipment just because of all the different exercises and all the different lines of pole that you can create with them what I'm going to do is I'll leave a link down below in the description to this video you can go there to check out the resistance bands that I have maybe pick up a pair of your own you won't regret it I love these exercises and so what we're gonna do is some band or some cable internal and external rotation and then I want to show you an extension exercise that I really like also now to demonstrate that let me show you what it's not first and so a lot of times when I see people doing this there's two mistakes that I see most often people will set up okay but then what they do is they let their elbow kind of migrate out to the side in this direction and then back down and so what this is we're not rotating the shoulder joint where this motion is called abduction we're abducting the shoulder shoulder joint we're working on the deltoid muscle not the rotator cuff and so what you need to do is keep your elbow tucked right in to your side now oftentimes what I'll see you can actually grab a towel to help you out with that and tuck that towel in to your side and so now as we rotate around that towel that's a little bit better the common error that I see with a towel is people don't make it thick enough naturally your shoulder joint isn't parallel to the floor it's actually angled up about 15 or 20 degrees and so that being said this position tucked right into my side isn't very natural for my shoulder you'll see that I can only rotate to about Oh 45 maybe 50 degrees there I should be able to take that through about 80 to 90 degrees of rotation so what I'm going to do let that stray from my side a little bit and now as I rotate you'll see that I can rotate even a lot further with it so don't be so concerned about pinning it down to your side what I tell people is you need to be more concerned about how that resistance is traveling start with the with the band right here at your bellybutton and then when you finish I want you to finish with your hand higher than your bellybutton okay so we start low and we finish high and what we're doing there is we're ensuring that again that proper that about 15 degrees of rotate is maintained as we get out to the side and so if your towel is too little it kind of pins your elbow into your side that's not a bad thing but we can make it better if we get the towel maybe kind of ball it up a little bit fatter you'll see that that's about all three or four inches now all of a sudden that becomes a lot more natural for me to rotate away from it and so that's just a quick note on that towel the other common error that I see is you start right in here at your side and then as you pull it out you want to get it all the way out there and so you'll see what I did I just straightened my elbow out and so again don't be so concerned about how far it's moving as you are about the quality of the motion so to show you how to do it correctly good posture okay so shoulders back head high chest high you're gonna go that band is right across it's just right above my belly button my elbows bent to a ninety degree and then as I pull against that resistance again elbow can stray a little bit as long as that hand finishes higher and so it looks just like this right here what you'll do is ten repetitions and you'll do that three sets I want you to fill that right in the back right in these little muscles right up here in the back of your shoulder so that's your exercise number one exercise number two would be an extension with external rotation so to set that up I'm now gonna face my acre uhm I get into this position elbow straight shoulders at about shoulder flexes up to about shoulder height and then what you're gonna do is just pull kind of straight back and behind you now the key to this that I like to kick on that rotator cuff you'll see here I've got thumbs up down here at the bottom I've got thumbs out meaning I've rotated my thumb towards you ideally what I'd even shoot for so thumbs up here some even pointed back behind me there what that's doing is that's adding a rotation component to the extension it just kicks those rotator cuff muscles on a little bit more as you go through that resisted extension and external rotation again that's going to work those muscles right in the back of your shoulder finally third exercise again we can't forget about the internal rotators now I always tell people and twice as worried about the X ternal rotators as I am about the internal rotators it's typically those external rotators these little guys in the back of your shoulder right here that are weak and those are the ones that often cause the pain and the dysfunction your internal rotators they're actually assisted by this big PEC muscle that kind of assists in this internal rotation motion therefore it's typically not as weak as the external rotators so we don't need to train it as hard but then at the same time I don't want to neglect it so to Train those internal rotators what we're gonna do now all sudden it's in my left hand so I'm my left elbows at a 90 degree angle and tucked in right to my side again don't worry about sticking it right into your side worry about the form as you're going through the motion started with my hand high here and then as I pull across I'm gonna finish with my hand lower here so high here lower here really good posture while you do this I don't want you to round forward and really if you're pulling with that PEC muscle that has a tendency to take over keep your chest high keep your shoulders back keep that elbow to 90 keep your hand high on the outside all the way to low on the inside and then right back out what I typically tell people is shoot four is three sets of ten to twelve of each one of those exercises in order to maximize strength and function in that rotator cuff okay guys I think that's everything so again shared with you about five of my favorite exercises – with dumbbells three with bands to strengthen your rotator cuff again it's imperative that those rotator cuff muscles are strong and healthy to keep your shoulder pain free and functional so I hope you guys enjoyed this video if you did do me a favor hit that thumbs up button down below also if you haven't done so already take this chance to subscribe to tone and tighten so you never miss tips like this from me if you have any questions or comments please leave those down below I'll get to those just as soon as I can if you know anybody with shoulder pain hit that share button down below also and then you can post it to your social media or their social media help to get the word spread and so that's it for me you guys thanks so much for joining me here on tone of Titan and we'll see you next time


  1. Have you tried these exercises? What do you think? Leave me a comment below and be sure to share with your friends! Thanks for watching here on Tone and Tighten!

  2. Thank you for sharing your professions.

  3. my internal rotation is just below parralel and i cant move overhead or locking out elbows for 5 years already time to recover

  4. Ur best man

  5. Great video!
    What about face pulls for the rotator cuff?

  6. I had a bankart lesion surgery but after a year I managed to dislocate my shoulder again. Will these excercises help me to gain range of motion without pain?Thanks Doc…

  7. Easy to follow, great video

  8. Please do a video with Exercises for SLAP tears.

  9. Thank You!
    So I Am clearly understanding that with the pain now that goes and comes; these functional moves will alleviate?

  10. Hello

  11. I need this as my shoulders still paining during work and at home will let you guys know how it goes Thanks Ramya

  12. Tennis elbow please

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