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The rotator cuff is in reference to four muscles that originate on our scapula (shoulder blade) and insert onto our humerus (upper arm). These muscles are the suprapsinatus, infraspinatus, trees minor, and subscapularis. They are responsible for protecting and providing dynamic stability to the shoulder joint, while individually they contribute to various movements, such as external rotation, internal rotation, and abduction. Additionally, they are also shown to be active during flexion and extension as well.

Rotator cuff excesses are common in Physical Therapy for treatment of various shoulder pathologies and following surgery, as well as in the general fitness population for overall shoulder health.

The most well known exercises include external rotation variations, standing arm raises with weight, and exercises lying on our stomach and lifting our arms.

In this video we review some research in order to find out what exercises are best for preferentially activating the rotator cuff. Some exercises we look at include standing external rotation, side lying external rotation, empty and full can, prone Y, prone external rotation, and more.

Which ones are most effective? Are some better than the other? How many reps and sets should you be doing? And should you be worried about activating the deltoids or other muscles during these exercises?

We also review a few other exercises we don’t usually associate with rotator cuff strengthening, but are extremely important for overall shoulder health.

Introduction – 0:00
Rotator Cuff Anatomy/Function – 0:53
Exercise Overview – 1:46
Infraspinatus/Teres Minor – 2:04
Supraspinatus – 3:07
Does Deltoid Activation Matter? – 4:04
Unconventional Rotator Cuff Exercises – 5:26
Moment Arms of Shoulder – 6:13
Summary – 6:53

Articles referenced:

MASS Research Review:
Crossover Symmetry Bands:
Disclaimer: The information presented is not intended as medical advice or to be a substitute for medical counseling but intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are experiencing pain, please seek the appropriate healthcare professional.
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