The?rotator cuff?consists of a group of four muscles that perform several functions, including: helping to lift your arm away from your body, rotating your arm in its socket, and stabilizing your shoulder during overhead motions. Generally, these muscles act as dynamic stabilizers while you are lifting your arms up and away from your body.


The rotator cuff muscles can be prone to inflammation and tears due to repetitive overhead motions. An important way to reduce tears?or rotator cuff injury is by strengthening these muscles?and the exercises below will show you how to to do just that.

Be sure to check in with your doctor before starting these exercises for your rotator cuff muscles. A visit or two with your local (or?online) physical therapist can also help ensure that you are doing the exercises properly and that they are safe for you.

Exercise One

  • Lie on your stomach on a table or a bed
  • Put one arm out at shoulder level with your elbow bent to 90 degrees and your hand down
  • Keeping your elbow bent, rotate your shoulder so that the back of your hand raises up towards the ceiling
  • Lower the hand slowly
  • Repeat 10 times
  • Perform with opposite arm

Exercise Two

  • Lie on your side on a bed or the floor
  • Place your upper arm at your side with your elbow bent to 90 degrees, and your forearm resting against your chest, palm down
  • Rotate your shoulder out, raising your forearm until it is level with your shoulder
  • Lower the hand slowly
  • Repeat 10 times
  • Perform with opposite arm

Exercise Three

  • Stand with your arms slightly behind you with both thumbs down
  • Raise your arms up, pretending that you are emptying a can with each hand
  • Lower the arms slowly
  • Repeat 10 times


You can make any of these exercises more challenging by holding a small dumbbell. Start light?usually 2 or 3 pounds is enough to create adequate resistance. Another way to add resistance is to perform shoulder exercises with a resistance band.

Common Problems

If you have weakness in your rotator cuff muscles, you may experience various problems with your shoulders. These may include:

Any and all of these problems can cause a loss of range of motion and limited function of your upper extremities. Working to keep your rotator cuff muscles strong can help you possibly avoid these problems with your shoulders.


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