But do you know what it is? The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles, that originate on the shoulder blade and attach to the upper arm bone. They work together as a team to rotate the upper arm bone within the shoulder joint. I sometimes teasingly call it the “Rotary Club” because of their group effort.
The four individual muscles are: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. They’re commonly injured because of the lack of stability of the joint. The more mobile a joint is, the less stable it is, and the shoulder is the most mobile joint of the body.
Strengthening the Rotary Club, excuse me, I mean the rotator cuff, aids in the stability of the shoulder, but is often neglected because the muscles are small and don’t change one’s outward, physical appearance. You just don’t hear a compliment of, “Ooh, nice rotator cuffs!”
To work these muscles, all you need is an elastic band. They are inexpensive and available at any fitness store. The exercise is simple, but you must use proper form or you’ll waste time doing little to nothing for your shoulder. Follow the instructions below, precisely, and your shoulders will become stronger, and more stable to prevent injury.
Attach an elastic band, at elbow height, to something that won’t move. Hold the other end in your right hand, with your right side closest to the fastened end of the band. Bend your right elbow to 90 degrees, upper arm vertical at your side. Standing tall, pull your shoulder blades toward each other and make sure your elbow is plumb line to your shoulder and pressed inward toward your body. Slowly pull the tube across your body, away from the fastened end, keeping the right elbow pinned to your side, your shoulders level to the ground. Slowly return to the starting point. Make sure your forearm stays parallel to the floor. Do this 10-12 times, take a break and repeat. If it’s too difficult, sidestep closer to the fastened end of the tube. If it’s too easy, sidestep away from it. If this movement hurts you, stop and get professional help.
Keep the tube in your right hand and turn your entire body clockwise, 180 degrees so you’re facing the opposite direction. With the same arm and shoulder position as above, keeping the elbow pinned to your side throughout the exercise, slowly rotate the arm outwardly, stretching the tube away from the fastened end. Slowly return to the starting position. Do 10-12, rest and repeat. Again, discontinue if it hurts. Repeat with the left arm. Make sure that when it’s time to turn your body, this time turn counterclockwise, so you don’t get wrapped up in the band.
Do this exercise three times per week to help stabilize your shoulder, keeping it strong and healthy.