Rotator Cuff Exercises (TOP 5 MYTHS!)

What’s up, guys? Jeff Cavaliere, Today we’re going to talk about the rotator
cuff, and more importantly the top five myths when it comes to training this muscle group. Right off the bat, let’s start with myth number
one. Is it the muscle group, or is it the muscle? You see, people call this a single muscle. As a matter of fact, my grandfather – God
rest his soul – he called it the “rotor cuff”, and then other people call it the “rotator
cup”. To clarify, it’s the rotator cuff, and it’s
four muscles that contribute to the function of this entity. Now, I will tell you this: we’re going to
ignore one of them. The reason why is going to lead to the fact
that we’re going to talk about the other three, and we’re breaking out the muscle markers
to do that. Now, why? Because it makes it really easy to understand
the function when you see them back here. To understand, really, even where these are
in the first place all you’ve got to do is start with the black line here, and that is
the spine of the scapula. It really names itself. Everything is really easy once you have that
grasped. You can literally grasp it because you can
reach over the back of your shoulder and grab onto that bone, and hook your fingers under,
and you know you’re on the spine. From there, if you just roll your fingers
upward, just a little bit until you roll off that bone, now you’re on the supraspinatus. “Supra” meaning above, “spinatus” meaning
spine. You’re right above that spine. There you go. There’s the supraspinatus. Now this is the muscle that gets all the attention
because it’s the one that tends to get pinched the most because it’s the closest here to
the shoulder joint. So when we raise our arm up it can be pinched
right here. Which they call “impingement”. So now the next one, the infraspinatus. Grab that spine again, and you roll downward. Here’s the big green area here. That muscle is the same thing, again, right
below. They’re both acting to externally rotate the
shoulder, okay? The third one, the terres minor, starts a
little bit lower on the scapula and it rolls all the way up, again, to the back of your
arm so that it too can also influence external rotation. So now, what is the one that I didn’t talk
about? That leads me to myth number two. “You should train the whole rotator cuff”. You’ve got to work internal rotation, and
external rotation. Well, the one I left out is the subscapularis,
and it sits inside – I can’t even draw this one for you, guys. This sits inside my shoulder blade on the
inside, and it actually internally rotates the shoulder. Well, here’s the problem with that. We spend so much time getting work on our
internal rotators that that’s what’s causing the problem in the first place. If you’re somebody that’s a rehab candidate
right now because you’ve already injured your rotator cuff, likely it’s because it was too
weak and being dominated by the internal rotation. So now what you have is this great imbalance. So what do we see people do all the time? They come here, they grab the band, and they
do this. I’ll show you from here, actually. You can see it better. They do this. Internal rotation all the time. All day long. Now, why? Again, it feels good, number one, because
this is strong already. Doing internal rotation doesn’t really hurt. But try and flip that around and do external
rotation here, that way. That’s weak because those muscles that externally
rotate the shoulder never get enough attention. So you ditch the internal rotation because
you’re only contributing more to the problem that you already have. Thirdly, the next myth we talk about is “You
don’t really even have to train this area because it gets all the work it needs just
from your regular training”. That’s wrong. You don’t get enough external rotation in. The external rotation component of very, very
few exercises is usually dominated by the fact that a lot of other muscles – most
importantly your delts – are really dominating those movements. So I like to do a high pull, where I pull
the dumbbells up, and I externally rotate my arms as I go up. As opposed to an upright row. However, even on that exercise the delts are
definitely doing a lot more of the work, and they’re also contributing to this dominate
imbalance between the deltoid strength, versus the rotator cuff. So unless you’re really focusing on doing
the rotator cuff specifically, you’re not ever going to train it enough and you need
to specifically hit it with exercises to do that. Now, number four: the empty can exercise. Remember when I just talked about exercises? How many times have you been told to do this? Maybe you’re doing it right now. If you are, please do me a favor and stop
doing it. They tell you to turn your arms this way,
okay? Turn them like you’re pouring out two cans. Then get your arms about 45 degrees in front
of your body here. Now we come up, we lift the dumbbells, we
come up that way, and then we come down. Now, on somebody that already has a little
bit of a shoulder issue – especially if you’re in rehab right now for your shoulder
– this is going to kill. Why? Because this is a bad position for your shoulder. It is anatomically a bad position for your
shoulder. This is what will cause impingement because
we’re instantly rotating, we’re clearing less room inside the shoulder joint here, so that
when I try to elevate it I can’t even do it without hitting, likely, the acromion which
is creating a lot less space in there, and aggravating and already inflamed tendon that’s
in there. So we look at that exercise and say “Yeah,
but the EMG study says that it’s the best thing you can do. It maximally activates the supraspinatus.” Great! The EMG study is not matching up with the
biomechanics and the anatomy of your shoulder joint. So this could be the best thing you could
do EMG-wise, for activation of the supraspinatus, but the worst thing you can do for actually
causing more problems in the first place. So you need to understand the difference and
not just do what EMGs say, but do what your body is telling you. So what do you do? Easy. You just flip them around. Make it the full can. So you come here, you come to this plane – which
I’ve already talked about a lot of times, this is a better plane for your shoulder anyway. It’s more natural because the shoulder blade
sits more forward just like that. So if my arm moves in the direction that the
shoulder blade sits in, then I’m actually doing a really good – really the glenoid,
the ball and socket sits more forward like that. So I’m able to get a more smooth up and down
motion here. So full can, not empty can. Then finally we have a myth where people say
“Oh, just use the same weight on all of your rotator cuff exercises.” This one always puzzles me because, again,
you have to understand the function of the rotator cuff. If it’s external rotation, realize that you
could do external rotation a lot of different ways. We can do it the way we normally see it, which
is elbow in and tucked into the side, and the move my arm out to the side. That’s external rotation, okay? We could also do external rotation with my
arm up high. So from here, now I come up that way. External rotation, okay? More of a 90-90 position. A little more difficult here. We could also do it across our body. This is an internally rotated arm here. I can come up and across my body that way. Now I’ve externally rotated my arm. I don’t even have to get into full external
rotation. I’m just going from an internal rotation to
a more neutral position, and that’s external rotation, too. So we’re up here like that. All these different planes of motion – even
this. We can go on our sides here, all right? Like this. We could do sideline, right here. You probably see people doing this all the
time also. All this is external rotation, but I’ll tell
you this: we’re not using the same weight. That would be like saying “Use the same weight
for squats, deadlifts, bench press, tricep extensions, and bicep curls”. That’s not the way you do this. Now I’m not saying there’s going to be a great
variation in the weight that you’re using because these are small muscles. But you might use a 5 on one, an 8 pounder
on one, a 12 pounder one, a 10 pounder on one. Make sure you’re challenging yourself and
trying to fatigue these muscles, because remember what I said in the first place. Your problem is likely a lack of strength. If you want to build strength in these muscles
to start correcting that huge imbalance, then you’d better start working on building strength
by challenging yourself with weights that would cause you to increase your strength. So there you have it, guys. I hope you understand the rotator cuff a little
bit more. As I said in the beginning, if you’re going
through rehab right now on a rotator cuff injury, or a surgery you’re going to want
to make sure you go back and watch this a couple times because as a physical therapist,
it’s always something that I take with great care, and passion here on this channel. That’s to make sure you’re aware of your own
body. Empower yourself with education so you know
what you can do. It’s not always in someone else’s hands. If it doesn’t feel right it might not be right
for you, and now you might be able to do something about it. All right, guys. If you’re looking for a program as you get
healthy, as you get back into it, or if you’re looking for a program that actually places
a high priority on a rotator cuff in the first place so that you’re not winding up with these
imbalances; I’ve built it into all of our regular strength work. You can get that over at It’s our ATHLEANX training system. In the meantime, if you’ve found this video
helpful, leave your comments and thumbs up below. Let me know what you want me to cover here
on this channel, and I’ll do my best in the days and weeks ahead. All right, guys. See ya!


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