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What Is The Rotator Cuff? How Do I Keep It Healthy?

What Is The Rotator Cuff? How Do I Keep It Healthy?

If you’ve been training long enough, one of the most common injuries or pains you’ll come across is shoulder pain. Whether it hurts while bench pressing and overhead pressing or simply just nags at your mechanics during other lifts, rotator cuff miscues can be frustrating when not addressed. The good news is that surgery is usually not the course of action that’s needed and that through some release, therapy and strengthening of the correct muscles, your rotator cuff will be stronger than ever and have you back to lifting stronger than you were before.

What is the Rotator Cuff?

The muscles that make up the rotator cuff include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and the subscapularis. The supraspinatus muscle acts as an abductor of the shoulder girdle and its’ main purpose is to aid in allowing the arm to move up and down from horizontal planes. The infraspinatus muscle is attached on the backside of the scapula and is one of the larger muscles that make up the rotator cuff. Its main purpose is to help stabilize the shoulder joint as well lateral rotation of the shoulder.

The teres minor goes right along with the infraspinatus in that its main function is to also stabilize the shoulder joint and very lightly adducts the arms, but it also assists in drawing the humerus into the scapula correctly. Finally, the subscapularis (which is the largest and strongest cuff muscle) has the main function of medially rotating the shoulder at the shoulder joint itself.

How To Fix The Rotator Cuff

We all know that injuries occur all to often from incorrect shoulder mechanics that leave the shoulder in a vulnerable position and thus can create either trigger points, pulls, tears or just leaving the shoulder in a poor position. The first and foremost thing we can do to correct rotator cuff mechanics and to alleviate a lot of shoulder pain is working on your posture. Most of us probably have a job where sitting at a desk for the majority of the day is inevitable. But just because you have to sit a majority of the day doesn’t give you the excuse to sit poorly. Ensure your abs and core are tight, keep the hips and glutes slightly engaged (yes even while sitting) and have your shoulders pulled back with the muscles of the middle back providing strength for this hold.

rotator cuff

With posture fixed, the next thing to do is to release bound up trigger points, scar tissue and overall tightness within the rotator cuff region. More than likely if you’ve had poor posture, the backside of the rotator cuff is extremely stretched and the front side of the shoulder is incredibly tight. Using either a tennis ball or lacrosse ball, roll directly on all the muscles of the rotator cuff (YouTube exercises if you don’t know already) and get your rotator cuff back to functioning properly through a new found range of motion.

Exercises to Keep The Rotator Cuff Strong

Because the rotator cuff is such a weak link on many, getting it strong is a key foundation in keeping it healthy. For the vast majority of folks reading this, your shoulders are probably already internally rotated which means your external rotators are weak. Do things to strengthen the upper back and external rotators like DB external rotators off the knee, lying db side raises, incline Y raises and face pulls to offset the constant pushing motion and rolled forward shoulders. These movements will help strengthen the rotator cuff as a whole and keep the shoulder set into the correct girdle position and the scapula in a healthy plane of movement.

Take-Home Message

Although we all have nagging things on our body that make us feel under 100%, but this is not a reason to not address these issues with just as much intensity as training. Do your body some good and keep yourself far from injury and your fitness journey will last as long as you make it.

Tyler Stark

Tyler Stark

Writer and expert

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