Best Rotator Cuff Exercises For Healthy Shoulders

Shoulder injuries or rotator cuff injuries are the worst!

They are painful, restrict your movement and heal very slowly.

If you get a shoulder injury we are easily talking about 3-6+ months before you’re back to normal.

Unfortunately, they are not uncommon among experienced weightlifters or athletes/sports enthusiast.

You can injure your shoulder in an accident but it happens much more often from repetitive “bad” pressing or overhead movements.

Over time the strain from the movements build up and increase your risk of injury.

So even if it for example seems like it was that one bench press session that killed your shoulder, it is more likely that it happened due to many months of lifting in an exposed shoulder position.

This fact makes it very important to focus on preventing shoulder injuries by ensuring having a healthy and strong shoulder joint.

(by the way, having strong and healthy joints everywhere on the body is important).

Luckily a few simple exercises can help ensure healthy shoulders.

You can also use these exercises if you are already injured to rehabilitate your shoulder. Obviously, you want to avoid doing them if they cause you pain.

Then you probably have to wait a while until your shoulder is better.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

The shoulder is an impressive structure that is probably more complicated than you think.

The shoulder joint is like a ball and a socket, but there are four muscles that stabilize and move the shoulder. These muscles and their tendons all have to work together to enable the movement of your shoulder.

This group of muscles is also called the rotator cuff.

On these two images, you can see them from the front and the back.


This is the front of the shoulder

this is the back of the shoulder


Because many things have to work together and because they are not that big or strong individually there are a number of things that can go wrong.

 A rotator cuff injury is usually either caused by 1) an impingement or 2) a tear in the tendon or muscle.

An impingement happens when there is not enough space between the arm and shoulder bones causing pinching or even grinding between bones and tendons.

The tear in the tendon or muscle is exactly as it sounds. It is much less common than the impingement, but it can be a result of the continual use of an impinged shoulder. Bad cases of tears sometimes require surgery.

So if you don’t take care of the impingement it can become worse!

For people who do weight training the number one reason for shoulder problems and injuries is a muscle imbalance in the rotator cuff due to a lot of focus on the heavy bench press and little focus on other movements for the shoulder.

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis

Tendinitis in general means inflammation or irritation of the tendons.

Rotator cuff tendinitis usually happens due to overuse of the shoulder, but also impingement leads to tendinitis and because of that rotator cuff tendinitis and impingement are often used interchangeably.

Rotator Cuff Exercises

An effective way to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles is to work them individually with different isolation movements.

This is also what you see most professionals recommend.

Most people rarely do external and internal rotation of the shoulder, so that is in my opinion a great place to start.

You don’t even need to be at the gym to perform these since you need very little weight. Depending on your strength you can grab something that weighs around 500 – 1500 grams.

That could be a can of something or a liter of milk.

You can do external and internal rotations by lying on the floor on the side. Tuck either your right or left arm close to your body. Bend 90 degrees and rotate.

Another great exercise that can be done at home is the so-called wall angel.

You stand upright with body and arms close to the wall and then push arms upwards like you are doing a dumbbell overhead press but keeping the arms close to the wall all the time.

Just like seen in this video:

If you are at the gym and alright to do some heavier exercises I would highly recommend that you do face-pulls like Omar Isuf shows here and around the world shoulder exercise

Other Things You Can Do

Stretches are always good and a favorite of mine is the door-stretch because it is so easy to just lean forward with your arms arms resting on each side of the doorway.

Another easy stretch you can is one that pushes back the head of your arm bone into the shoulder socket.

You do this by standing about half a meter / one feet away from a table.

Bend your upperbody forming about 90 degree with your lowerbody and put your arm or arms in front of you with palms facing down on the table. Push down on the table and feel how your arms are being pushed back in the shoulder socket.

If you have shoulder pain this stretch can often alleviate some of it immidieatly.

Self-messaging your shoulder and the tendons can also work great.  Tuck your arm behind your back and let the shoulder rotate a little bit. Then use your thumbs to rub on the front of the shoulder.

A more tough thing but very rewarding thing you can do is the shoulder dislocations (don’t worry about the name it is not as bad as it sounds).

My AC-Joint Injury

One of the reasons I am writing this is because I injured my shoulder a few months ago and got some painful tendinitis.

I did not only get pain in my shoulders but they also became stiff, tight and rotated forward.

Which meant I have had to work my rotator cuffs a lot to regain mobility and strength.

The funny thing is that it took me 2 months to realize that I didn’t actually injure my shoulder, but instead a small joint that sits on top of the shoulder holding it together with the collarbone called the Acromioclavicular joint (AC-joint).

My best guess of why this happened is overuse and because I pushed through some pain which I, of course, should not have.

Working a lot on a laptop computer have also not made it better and I have decided to invest in some equipment to improve the ergonomics.

Did You Have An Injury?

Did you have a shoulder injury before?

Do you have one now and are you currently rehabilitating it?

Perhaps you are just learning how to prevent.

I am interested in hearing from you and you use the comment function below.




My name is Marcus, I am a lawyer (LL.M.) and the founder of this website. Besides sometimes doing lawyer stuff, I like to write about fitness and health and share what I have found “works” for people like YOU. If you want to know more about me and my vision for this website then you can click here.

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