The Rotator Cuff is the group of muscles and their tendons that act to stabilize the shoulder. The four muscles of the rotator cuff, along with the teres major muscle, the coracobrachialis muscle and the deltoid, make up the seven scapulohumeral (those that connect to the humerus and scapula and act on the glenohumeral joint) muscles, so important for swimmers.
The rotator cuff muscles are important in all shoulder movements and in maintaining glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) stability. These muscles arise from the scapula and connect to the head of the humerus, forming a cuff at the shoulder joint. They hold the head of the humerus in the small and shallow glenoid fossa of the scapula. The glenohumeral joint has been described as a golf ball (head of the humerus) sitting on a golf tee (glenoid fossa).
These muscles are relatively small and if neglected the shoulder girdle can easily be pulled out of alignment, particularly by the larger muscles of the Chest and the Lattisimus Dorsi, limiting movement and often causing impingement and pain.
The exercises described below can help you strengthen the muscles of the rotator cuff, improve range of motion and prevent injury. These exercises should not cause you pain. If you feel any pain, stop exercising. Start again with a lighter weight aim for two sets of 15-20 reps.
Start by lying on your stomach on a table or a bed. Put your left arm out at shoulder level with your elbow bent to 90° and your hand down. Keep your elbow bent, and slowly raise your left hand. Stop when your hand is level with your shoulder. Lower your hand slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired aim for 15-20, then do the exercise with your right arm.
Lie on your right side with a rolled-up towel under your right armpit. Stretch your right arm above your head. Keep your left arm at your side with your elbow bent to 90° and the forearm resting against your chest, palm down. Roll your left shoulder out, raising the left forearm until it’s level with your shoulder. (Hint: This is like the backhand swing in tennis.) Lower the arm slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then do the exercise with your right arm.
Lie on your right side. Keep your left arm along the upper side of your body. Bend your right elbow to 90°. Keep the right forearm resting on the table. Now roll your right shoulder in, raising your right forearm up to your chest. (Hint: This is like the forehand swing in tennis.) Lower the forearm slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then do the exercise with your left arm.
In a standing position, start with your right arm halfway between the front and side of your body, thumb down. (You may need to raise your left arm for balance.) Raise your right arm until almost level (about a 45° angle). (Hint: This is like emptying a can.) Don’t lift beyond the point of pain. Slowly lower your arm. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then do the exercise with your left arm.