By Ben Musholt, PT Men's Fitness
Whether tossing a football, swimming, or painting the ceiling, you demand a lot from your shoulders. However, unlike the big joints of your lower body, soft tissues are the main form of support for the shoulder.
The four rotator cuff muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) are the key to providing stability to the shoulder complex. Given the relatively small size of these muscles and the amount of work that is demanded of them, they can be torn due to trauma or inflamed from overuse.
Here are two fundamental concepts for maintaining optimal rotator cuff health:
1. Maintain Full Shoulder Range of Motion.
Self-assessment Range of Motion Test:
> Reach one hand behind your back. Can you slide your hand upwards along your spine, to touch the bottom of your shoulder blade?
> Reach one hand behind your head. Can you move it down your neck to touch between your shoulder blades?
> Note any differences from one arm to the other.
Post-assessment Range of Motion Exercises:
If there is any restriction, do the towel stretch to gain flexibility:
> Place a towel behind your back, with one hand holding from the top and the other hand holding from the bottom.
> Try to walk your fingers together and also gently pull from either direction, into the most restricted motion.
> Hold 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
2. Strengthen The Rotator Cuff Muscles
Do these three exercises at a cable tower, starting with enough weight to fatigue at 10 to 12 repetitions:
Stand with your lifting arm closest to the cable machine, with your elbow flexed to 90-degrees. Rotate your hand from outside to inwards, bringing your hand towards your belly.
Switch positions so that your lifting arm is farthest from the cable machine. Keep your elbow bent at 90-degrees and rotate your hand outwards from your abdomen.
Scaption: "Scapular plane elevation"
Similar to a lateral shoulder fly, you lift your arm upwards on an angle 30-degrees forward of the frontal plane. Prevent your shoulder blade from hiking up towards your ear.