10 Best Rotator Cuff Exercises for Strengthening – Ask Doctor Jo

10 Best Rotator Cuff Exercises for Strengthening – Ask Doctor Jo


Hey everybody it’s Doctor Jo and Kail, and
today we’re going to show you the top ten exercises for the rotator cuff. so
let’s get started. So these top ten exercises are my
favorite top ten. it’s not any kind of research base, it’s just the ones that I
found work best for me and my patients. so the rotator cuff is those four main
muscles. SITS. so it’s supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and
subscapularis. however there’s a whole bunch of muscles that attach to the
scapula and it’s like 20-ish muscles, so it’s a lot. so when you think of
strengthening the rotator cuff in general, you really are going to be
strengthening all those muscles because you want that shoulder blade, that
scapula, to be working correctly and that helps if you have an injury it helps fix
all those imbalances. so if there’s one muscle that’s messing it up it can
affect that whole shoulder blade, so some of these strengthening exercises might
not be specifically for the rotator cuff, but it’s really for those muscles that
are all around it which really affect it. so we’re gonna start off with a pendulum
exercise. this can sometimes be a stretch or an exercise. I like to add in holding
on to a weight which does make it an exercise so it’s really good to start
off with the pendulums. it opens up that shoulder joint and it really just starts
getting those muscles loosened up and relaxed and warmed up for the other
exercises. so let’s check that out. for pendulum circles with a weight, lean
over on something sturdy like a chair, counter top, put the weight in the hand
that you want to exercise and just let it relax. move your whole body in a
circular motion. for pendulums front to back with a
weight, lean over on something sturdy like a chair, counter top ,put the
opposite leg forward and the closest one back. put the weight in the hand you want
to exercise and just let it relax and then shift front to back. for pendulum side-to-side with a weight,
lean over on something sturdy like a chair or countertop. put the weight in
the hand that you want to exercise and just let it relax. move your body side to
side. so exercise number two is going to be an
isometric internal rotation of the shoulder. so this starts getting that
rotator cuff. these isometric exercises are when you’re activating the muscle,
but you’re not actually moving the muscle, and this is important because
especially if you’ve had a surgery or a specific injury where you may be not
supposed to be doing the whole movement, then this is a way to start
strengthening the muscle without breaking the precautions. or maybe you’re
allowed to do the movement but it’s just too painful right now.
so the isometrics is a great way to start off doing that. so let’s see it for
internal rotation. for shoulder internal rotation isometrics, put your elbow by
your side and about a 90 degree angle. the motion you’re going to be doing is
this motion, but you’re going to take your other hand and push into the hand. number three. so now it’s going to be an
isometric external rotation. so same kind of concept with that isometric where
you’re activating the muscle, but you’re not really moving it. so if you have
those precautions or if you have a lot of pain with the movement, this is going
to start help strengthening those muscles without really irritating them
more. so let’s take a look at that. for shoulder external rotation isometrics,
put your elbow by your side with your arm bent to about 90 degrees. the motion
you’re going to be doing is going out this way,
but you’re going to take your other hand to block it. so you’re pushing into your
hand and then relaxing. number four. now we’re going to move into
shoulder internal rotation with a weight. so now you’re going to start that
movement now you’re going to have the weight to get those muscles really
strengthening throughout the movement versus that isometric where you were
just doing it to activate the muscles. so we’re gonna do this one kind of lying on
our side. so let’s check it out. for shoulder internal rotation and side
lying with a weight, you can use a soup or vegetable can. the arm you’re going to be
moving is actually on the ground. put your elbow close to your side and have
your elbow at a ninety degree angle and then just bring it up and back down. number five. so now you’re going to do
the shoulder external rotation with a weight. so same kind of concept as an
internal rotation. you’re going to be on your side. you’re going to use a weight
it can just be a soup can or vegetable can, it doesn’t actually have to be a
weight. so let’s check that one out. for shoulder external rotation in sideline
with a weight, you can use a soup or vegetable can. the arm you’re going to be
working is on top. put your elbow right next to your side with your elbow bent
at 90 degrees. then with your arm parallel to the ground bring it in to
your side and come back up. number six. so this one’s going to be a
little bit of a series. it’s a couple exercises in a row but I like to just
count them as one because it’s working kind of the same area which is that
upper thoracic back area which again has a lot to do with all those muscles
attached to the shoulder blade or that scapula. so these are going to be Is,
Ts, Ys, and Ws. so let’s check those out. here your Is, Ts, Ws, and Ys.
for Is you’re gonna lie on your stomach put your arms straight out in
front of you with your thumbs up, and then just lift your arms a little bit
off the ground. For Ys, you’re going to lie on your
stomach put your arms straight out to the side with your thumbs up, and then
just lift them a little bit off the ground. for Ws, lie on your stomach. bend your
elbows into a W position with your palms facing down and then lift your arms up. for Ys, you’re going to lie on your
stomach put your arms out at an angle in a Y position with your thumbs up, and
then lift them up just little off the ground. number seven. one of my favorites is the
row. so when you do the rowing, you can use a resistive band and this really helps
not only open up the chest in the front but strengthen those muscles in the back
and it helps get the rotator cuff area. It helps get all those muscles around that
scapula. so let’s check it out. four seated rows with a resistive band,
take the band bending your knees up just a little bit. wrap it around your feet
for an anchor. with your thumbs up and your elbows by your side, pull back and
squeeze your shoulder blades. number eight, bear hugs. yes it’s exactly
how it sounds. you’re like going in to give somebody a bear hug. using a
resistive band for this is really great as well it’s kind of the opposite
movement of the rows. so now you’re strengthening those front muscles while
you’re stretching out the back muscles. so let’s check that out. for bear hugs
with a resistive band, take the band and wrap it around behind you. keep your
thumbs upwords, and then come out and around just like you’re giving someone a
bear hug. number nine, serratus punches. so the
serratus anterior muscle is the one that helps keep that shoulder blade close to
the ribcage and the spine in the back. so when it’s not working properly that
shoulder blade comes out into a winging, we call it a winged scapula, and that’s
really bad because that can cause a lot of dysfunction and that can cause a lot
of pain in the rotator cuff area up in the shoulder. so let’s check that one out.
for serratus punches with the resistive band, take the band and wrap it around
behind you. hold the band up on top with your thumbs up, and then straighten out
your arms. keep your elbows locked out and punch forward. so not bending those
elbows but bringing your shoulders forward. number ten, bicep curls. bicep curls? well
yes of course. again the bicep muscles aren’t a part of the rotator cuff, but
that long head of the bicep muscle the bicep tendon comes up in underneath that
supraspinatus muscles. so it’s really important to make sure you strengthen
this as well because they sit so close together. if one’s irritated, the other
one might get irritated as well. so let’s check that out. for standing bicep curls
with a weight, keep your elbow by your side. turn your palm up. bring it up and
then slowly come back down. so there you have it. those were your top
ten rotator cuff exercises. do you like those? yeah. remember those were my
favorite not necessarily any kind of scientific research to it. if you’d like
to help support my channel, make sure and click on the link up here to find out
how, and don’t forget to subscribe by clicking down here. and remember be safe,
have fun, and I hope you feel better soon.

100 comments

  1. Dr Jo. I have dislocated shoulder and my shoulder pops out quite often. Are these exercises going to strengthen my shoulder?? Please help

  2. Excuse me, my body is straight line when my waist pressed elbow during internal rotation with a weight. But I think it is wrong position. Waist should not pressed elbow during internal rotation with a weight, right?

  3. Dr. Jo, in general how many sets and repetitions should I do of these exercises? Thanks for another informative video.

  4. Thank you! I found your video very helpful….im so glad for peop!e like you who are willing to share their knowledge to help others ….Blessings to you, dr Jo😊

  5. Good stuff.
    Any pointers on how to stabilize a super weak humeral head while doing these excercises would be greatly appreciated 🙂

  6. I remember doing these exercises when I broke my clavicles 4 yrs ago. Good to know that I can do them to strengthen my rotator cuffs, too. Thanks!

  7. Thanks doc for this great video, but how often and how long for each exercise, and do I do these exercises in one session …thanks again 😊

  8. hi I'm hoping you can really answer a question for me I'm having a very difficult time finding anyone with the same symptoms I recently had a rotary cuff repair I'm 4 months into the healing process my right shoulder is dramatically lower than my left and it's been like that almost for 4 months now ever since I had surgery is this typical for your shoulder to sit lower after surgery please I hope to hear back from you
    Thanks Ritchie

  9. Question…..when performing int/ext rotation movements, do you want the scap to stay in place, not moving with the humerus?

  10. Great advice Doc.
    I'm a swimmer and after some shoulder pain I got into the habit of doing the internal and external rotations underwater. I can't recommend it enough. The resistance of the water compliments the excercise and you can do both the internal and external rotations at the same time in one smooth movement.

  11. Thanks doc for these amazing exercises..i have 2 questions:

    1. Can rotator cuff pain in shoulders radiate to upper scapula and neck musles too. As i have been diagnosed with C5-C6 mild disc bulge but i suspect my neck weakness or mild pain in left side of neck is due to rotator cuff issue on left shoulder as once when my physio inserted dry needle on my left arm i felt immediate relief on left side of my neck. As i also have permanent pain and weakness in upper left arm but not in elbow and i feel pain in rotating my left arm.
    2. Should i take 10 mins heating on my left shoulder before doing these exercises for better results.

    Thanks

  12. one of the most frustrating things i have dealt with last 2 years…Had my left shoulder surgery which gave me the pain relief but the shoulder weakness/stifness is still not improving after 6 months….now I am dealing with right shoulder pain….Constantly thinking about jumping in front of a 18 wheeler and crush this SOB shoulders…..

  13. Hi dr Joe, I'm a beginner in weight training. Last week my left shoulder hurted a little bit when I was doing a movement then from next day onwards I didn't feel any pain. But from yesterday I have a bad pain when I'm raising my arm. Can I do the exercises from now onwards or do I need to wait for a while? Can I give some cold therapy on the shoulder?

  14. Hey Doctor. Is there any way to test if I've torn a muscle, tendon and or ligament in my upper back area?
    How would I be able to check if I've torn my serratus?
    Pain started from a military press around a year ago and at the time it was sharp and severe when breathing. Also felt deep within my chest. After a couple months pain subsided however still feel a tiny bit of nagging. Clicking during lat pull downs in serratus area. I havent worked out since out of fear of injury.. I really just want to go back and workout because I miss it. I'm 17.

  15. Yr biggest fan ..love from india,☺😘 i hv couple of problems with my body listing them
    1. Tmj
    2.and rotator cuff tenditis
    Following yr videos, much relief👍🤗

  16. Thanks for making this video that really helps me a lot I've struggled with a broken rotator cuff my whole life without treatment

  17. Dr Jo. Is there anyway to test for a torn muscle tendons and or ligaments? Despite the fact it's been a year since the military press that caused a strain which lead on to severe sharp breathing. I know the pain went away after a couple months. But I still get clicking during lat pull down under and the very bottom tip of my shoulder blade , it also clicks when I push down on the muscles, it's very odd. I've trained multiple online tests and dont feel any issues with them. When I do external rotation with a dumbell on the "injured" side I do feel like the teres minor muscle bulges thanks.

  18. My shoulders pop when doing pretty much anything in the gym. Even push ups make them pop but it doesn't hurt. now bench-pressing does hurt.

  19. Hello Doctor, I have dislocated my right shoulder in a Gym while doing overhead Dumbbell pull over with 40 lbs. Now it's one month and I'm heading with physiotherapy. So could I rejoin Gym in future and how long should I have to wait for it?….. Please suggest……

  20. I had been doing your 10 Best Rotator Cuff Stretches for the past few weeks. My shoulder and upper arm feel better and I have now moved onto your strengthening exercises. Your I's, T"s, Y's and W's exercises are painful to do, not so much on the shoulder but radiating around my upper arm towards shoulder. Should I continue to do these? Is this a case of the more strength I build the less it will hurt?
    Thanks, JM

  21. Dr. Jo, thank you very much for this video, I have been doing the exercises for four days now and I'm geting a good feeling. Hope to overcome pain in shoulder. Love the way you present the video in a clear and friendly manner, and of course Kali who seems very interested.

  22. Hi Dr. Jo, thank you for sharing this video. How many repetitions for each exercise and how many times should I do them in a day.

  23. Hi. Are these for before rotator cuff surgery or after? If before rotator surgery, do you have any exercises for after the surgery? Thank you.

  24. Just wanted to thank you for the video. Two mths ago my doctor said lets do surgery now after looking at my MRI. I had had previous RC surgery 10 ys ago, with great results, until now. I had full range of motion and not a lot of pain, so I said NOPE, and went home and found your video on u tube. After 1 week I noticed a lot of improvement, and after 2 mths it feels much better, probably 90%. My doc said there was a 50% chance of either better or worse after surgery on a re-do, and I just am so happy I saw your video, because those odds are terrible I think, with my range of motion and pain level that I had.

  25. Thank you! I seem to have torn both RCs in both arms. I do not want surgery. I think I tore my right one trying to start my mower I will try these.

  26. Hey Doctor Jo!

    For a while now I’ve been dealing with a shoulder dislocation injury on my left shoulder. I was told by my doctor that it’s all due to the fact that my muscles that hold my joint are loose/weak. With that in mind, will these exercises help strengthen my shoulder muscles and keep the joint from popping out again? I’ve been dealing with this for a while now and I want to get back to working out without the fear of having my shoulder joint pop out, can you help me in any way?

    Thank you again for giving me this opportunity, I truly am thankful! 🙂

  27. I have hypermobilty and a Infraspinatus that won’t contract. I wondering if I can do the exercises without the resistance band and weight?

  28. This is great because a lot of the exercises I can do at work.  Except for the lying on the ground stuff.  Wouldn't be a good idea in the Arizona desert.  But thank you for another great video.

  29. Purchase a printable worksheet featuring the rotator cuff exercises in this video here: https://www.askdoctorjo.com/purchase-rotator-cuff-exercises-worksheet

  30. OH, wow, thank you Doctor Jo, both arms benefited from the rotator cuff pendulum, can't wait to learn more.

  31. How many times a week would you recommend doing these exercises? My MRI said no rotator cuff tear but fraying of the supraspinatus tendon.

  32. I cannot tell you how much these exercises have helped my shoulder pain! I’m going to keep it up and can’t thank you enough!

  33. Hey Dr.Jo, thanks for this video. I am an endurance swimmer and do a lot of isometric internal and external rotation exercises. Would other exercises be beneficial for my swimming or would you suggest another sequence?

  34. Hii doctor…my right shoulder is paining…there is no swelling..but i cant rotate my arm freely…my question is that…can we perform the gym activitist after performing u r suggested workout…

  35. Dr Jo, if you're just beginning, are these safe to start with. I have weak shoulders and have shoulder impingement.
    Thanks. Joan🤷

  36. I am so happy I came across your video..I am 7 months post op on my left shoulder replacement, and majority or these exercises I have done during pt. I'm trying to get over that hurdle of raising my arm and going behind my back.

  37. G’day from Australia 🇦🇺

    I’ve been doing the exercises you demonstrated in the video and found them very helpful

    After a few gentle sessions, without knowing reps and hold times, the pain in my shoulder is not as intense.

    I’ve been to chiropractor and have been doing some exercises that helped a little…but not leaving me pain free.

    I was starting to get into the habit of taking strong pain medication….NOT GOOD

    Found your videos and really feel better

    I’ll put in the work

    I’ve ordered the work sheet and will make the exercises part of my life

    Thanks 🙏

    Bob

  38. so after I had my Abscess extracted out from my armpit, I wore an arm-sling for almost 3 weeks so that my wound heals properly… after I decided not to use an arm sling anymore, I couldn’t move my arm the same way as I did before wearing a sling… whenever I try to reach something or extend my arm it hurts… outside and inside, I feel like a nerve is being torn inside… is this a rotator cuff? please do respond

  39. Hi Dr Jo
    I am trying the side lying external rotation. I feel it burning on the outside of the shoulder, not really where the rotator cuff is. Is this normal?
    Thanks

  40. Dr Jo,
    I am having shoulder tendon injury. Recovering and not serious now. Are those exercises meant for those still having injury or have fully recovered?

  41. When you said "Use super vegetable cans" which super vegetables do you recommend? JK. Thanks for the vid. Very helpful. Ear ruffle to Callie.

  42. thank you so much for sharing!! my rotator cuff is irritated. at the gym now doing your exercises. thank you for making life better for me

  43. So i injured both my shoulders boxing, i just threw my first few punches and shoulders started to sting. If i did these exercise it would prevent these next time?

  44. Ok so I play baseball and I use my arm a lot and whenever i extend my arm and do a really big arm circle it clicks, and every now and then I will feel pain in my shoulder. Whats wrong and how can I fix it?

  45. Hi Dr. Jo
    I'm having trouble with external rotation. Any time I do external rotation for the rotator cuff or something else that puts my shoulders in an externally rotated position such as barbell squats or a chest doorway stretch my shoulders ache afterwards sometimes into the next day. Any ideas? Thank you for your great videos!

  46. Very useful. I wasn't aware of this important muscle region until watching strongman. A former BB!? Fortunately due to being a yoga practitioner & light weight training ive being looking after the region. Great teaching & I'll be adding these exercises to my work out. Great video

  47. How often should the exercises be done? And should all 10 be done on the same day? And how many of each exercise should be done?

  48. Follow up: early in the year, when I slipped on the ice. My shoulder was in bad shape. I was afraid for my job,etc..

    Well, after following your videos. I'm about %98 to %99 better. Saved me hundreds of dollars,and my career.

  49. Thanks, Doc! Great synopsis of fave RC/shoulder exercises. Looking forward to trying them for my one year extensive repair on right, nerve damage on left. Did I miss suggested reps, sets, hold times? Instead of 90-degrees for int and ext rotation, what do you think of my PT's direction to do 60-degrees at elbow and shoulder- rolled up towel under the arm?

  50. I'm having rotator cuff surgery on the 30th of October. I have a complete tear of the supraspinatus and bones spurs. The procedure will be done using Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair Using SCOI Row Technique (reattaching the torn tendon by securing it to one or more anchors embedded into the shoulder bone). I am also having bone spurs removed during this same procedure. I know that it is critical not to do anything stupid concerning rehab as I do not wish to tear the tendon away from the anchor(s). I have read that a rotator cuff repair can heal in 2 to 4 weeks after surgery, but a full recovery can take up to 6 months. I know that physical therapy is in two phases. Phase 1 is to regain motion (normally 6 weeks) and Phase 2 to rebuild strength (again normally 6 weeks). Doctor Jo, I followed your excises when I had a severe knee pain and within a short time, my pain was gone and my quality of life was restored. What's your advice to me on using your video on Rotator Cuff Recovery? I believe that I should rely solely on the instructions of my physical therapist for the Phase 1 and Phase 2. I want to use your video as well. Here's the question…..when can I safely start doing the exercises in your video as part of my recovery?

  51. Hey dear I really got so much pain in left should front from 6 months. And that shoulder pain from shoulder to neck now.

  52. How long do you recommend doing these for to take affect? I have a supraspinatus tendinopathy with partial intrasubstance tear

  53. First time doing it and I feel like it could help me alot! Thanks, also how often should I do those exercises, do I just do all of them 1 set of each daily? And if yes how many times a day? Thanks again!

  54. Doctor Jo just want to thank you for your rotator cuff exercise video. I did PT for 3 months and my range of motion was still stuck at about 65%. I quit PT and turned to You Tube and found you. After only a few weeks of your exercises I was at 90% range of motion by the time I hit 6 weeks I was 100% and pain free. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge it was a true blessing for my life. I almost quit my job because my performance was starting to suffer. Whenever I happen upon someone with a rotator cuff injury I tell them you need to get on You Tube and find Dr. Jo, she is amazing. Again, thank you!!!!

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