We all need to take a second to examine the most frequently injured area of the shoulders: the rotator cuff. The muscles that make up the rotator cuff are small and can be strained easily.
The four small muscles that make up the rotator cuff:
Each of these smaller muscles can easily be strained, pulled, or even sometimes overtrained. So important are each of the muscles of the rotator cuff, that once one muscle is damaged the whole cuff is thrown into disarray, often requiring rehab.
Rotator cuff injuries result from:
These four muscles aid in all overhead and rotational movements at the shoulder.
For people who play sports that have overhead motions such as baseball, softball, swimming, and tennis, your shoulder is very susceptible to injuries.
Common rotator cuff injuries include:
Tendonitis is the most common injury from overhead movements.
Bursitis and tendonitis can both be caused when the space between the rotator cuff and the acromion is narrowed, which results in the rotator cuff tendons and overlying bursa getting squeezed.
The very worst case scenario of rotator cuff injuries would be the partial and full tears. These types of injuries normally require surgery, can set any athlete back 6 months or more in their training, and can sometimes result in retirement from professional sports.
Many types of exercises can be preformed to specifically rehabs and strengthen the rotator cuff. These exercises must be done with light weight, bands, or tubing. Using heavy weights for rotator cuff exercises can very easily cause problems or make existing problems worse.
Common exercises that are usually done for the rotator cuff include:
One of the best rotator cuff strengthening exercises that I know of, is called the shoulder roll (video – front view).
|images & video courtesy bodybuilding.com|
If you feel you have injured your rotator cuff you should get it checked by your physician before you do anything else. Continuing to exercise or play sports with a rotator cuff injury could aggravate the injury and cause worse problems, or ultimately result in a muscle tear from poor form or function.
One of the most comprehensive articles that I have found online is called Shoulder Fix-It 101. You should read this repeatedly until you absorb and understand it.
Use a weight that you can control throughout each movement with a full range of motion using the proper form and technique in order to minimize injuries. Partial reps and explosive movements in the contraindicated exercises listed below, will put undue stress on the shoulders.
Exercises that could compromise the health of your rotator cuff include any exercises behind the neck:
These movements put unnecessary stress on the rotator cuff and can easily cause an injury due to the external rotation of the shoulder.
Be proactive in strengthening your rotator cuff even before you have the symptoms of a shoulder injury.
Learn more about training the rotator cuffs by checking out Effective Rotator Cuff Exercises by my friend Rick Kaselj, an expert on the subject!