Rotator cuff strengthening exercises are the key to shoulder health, whether you are trying to build strength, recover from a shoulder injury or avoid injury. In my case it was a damaged shoulder that got me looking into ways to strengthen my rotator cuff but whatever got you started you can learn from my experience.
Shoulders are the most complicated joint that we have. They have to be simply so that they can give us the wide range of movement that we enjoy. They can move our arms in almost any direction. This flexibility comes about because the shoulder is a very shallow ball and socket joint. The ball at the head of the arm sits on a shallow socket of bone at the edge of the shoulder blade. If you think of this as like a soccer ball sitting on a saucer you get apicture of teh make up of teh joint.
Although the shape of the shoulder gives us the benefit of a wide range of movement it also gives the shoulder its inherent weakness which is that it is very easy to knock the ball off the saucer and dislocate the shoulder.
Along with cartilage and ligaments the rotator cuff group of muscles are designed to hold the ball on the saucer preventing dislocation and giving us stability in the joint. Whenever we use our shoulder joints in a way that puts a strain on them, our cuff muscles pull on the arm to hold it in the socket. They are worked hardest when we rotate our arm, hence the name. When we raise our arm out to the side or front we put an extra load on the rotator cuff. This is why these movements hurt if you have damaged the rotator cuff.
So a weak or damaged rotator cuff equates to a weak shoulder. Research has shown that weight lifters who include rotator cuff strengthening exercises in their regime can lift significantly higher weights than those who neglect this group of muscles.
So the secret to healthier shoulders is to strengthen this group of muscles.
Unfortunately it is not quite that simple if you have damaged your rotator cuff. I had managed to tear my left rotator cuff lifting something that was too heavy. I was booked for shoulder surgery to correct the problem but through exercise managed to avoid surgery.
The first thing I had to do was rest my shoulder properly avoiding any movement that caused pain. I stopped driving and rearranged my desk at work to help with this. At the same time I treated the pain and inflammation with anti inflammatory drugs.
Then I started some stretches to help bring back the mobility in my shoulder. Several months of not working properly had caused some stiffness.
Next I began a series of exercises designed to stabilise and strengthen not only the rotator cuff but the whole shoulder. These were low weight, low resistance exercises that gradually built up over a few weeks. Because I had actually torn my rotator cuff it was important to strengthen the other shoulder muscles in order that they could help the injured tendon while it healed. With over twenty muscles involved in moving your shoulder there are plenty to help out as long as you have got them working properly.
It took me a couple of months to get my shoulder back to one hundred percent pain free movement. It would have been much easier to have started exercising my rotator cuff before I tore it. So take my advice, if it's not too late, and start working on your shoulders.
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