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The Five Best (and Worst) Exercises for Your Rotator Cuff

The human body is a complex machine with many moving parts that work in unison to get us through our daily lives. One of the most integral components of this system is our rotator cuffs. The rotator cuff consists of a large group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint, which allows our arms to perform various actions. Injuries to the rotator cuff can result in loss of motor function and require months of ongoing rehabilitation. There are exercises that you can do to help strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and lessen the chance of injury and some exercises that, if done incorrectly, can lead to an injury. 

The Four Best Exercises For Rotator Cuff Recovery

Here are some exercises that aid in the rehabilitation of a rotator cuff injury:

Doorway Stretch

All you need is a sturdy door frame and yourself for this one. Stand in your doorway and place your hands on the edges of the frame just below shoulder height. Keep your back straight as you begin to shift your weight forward and then backward. This move allows you to start loosening up your rotator cuff muscles and get them primed for more strenuous activities. 

High to Low Rows

This exercise requires a sturdy anchor point and resistance bands. Secure the bands to the chosen anchor point and set it to above shoulder height. Drop to one knee and keep it in line with the rest of your body. Grasp the band with both hands and slowly bring it towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you perform the move. 

Reverse Flys

Grab a set of dumbbells for this movement. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in the knees. Keep your back straight and hinge slightly at the hips. With a weight in each hand, extend your arms away from your body and avoid locking your elbows. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and avoid bringing your arms above shoulder height. 

Lawn Mower Pull

Get your resistance bands out again and place them on the ground. Once you adjust the bands to give you tension and room to perform the move, start by placing your feet shoulder-width apart and placing the foot opposite the shoulder you are using. Place your hand on your hip, bend at the waist, and reach down and grasp the bands. Pull the bands up in fluid motion like you would pull a lawnmower cord, straighten upright, and pull the band up and across your body. Return to the start position. 

The Four Worst Exercises for Injured Shoulders

Here are exercises that exacerbate an ongoing issue:

Overhead Lifts

During the recovery phase of a rotator cuff injury, avoiding overhead lifts with any weight is highly recommended. Movements that require the shoulders to be put under intense pressure or performing complex motions will put more strain on the muscles and potentially cause more significant injury. 

Beyond the Neck Pulldown

The lat pulldown machines are a popular option for gym-goers. However, if you are recovering from a rotator cuff injury, this move is not recommended. By bringing the bar behind the neck, you are extending your rotator cuff beyond its natural range of motion and placing additional and unneeded stress on the joint. 

Upright Rows

A popular exercise in most gyms, this is another activity to avoid for anyone recovering from a shoulder injury. Your arms’ starting position is the source of the discomfort and potential for aggravating any existing injury. The motion brings your arms and the weight up, a small tendon in your shoulder can potentially get pinched by the bones.

Bench Dips

Bench dips might be fantastic for your tricep definition, but it can cause undue stress if you are in recovery from a shoulder injury. The move requires internal shoulder rotation and can potentially pinch the rotator cuff itself. 

Are you interested in getting a consultation on your shoulder injury? Contact Philadelphia Hand to Shoulder Center to get in touch with our expert staff today!

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