Rotator Cuff

Author: Rod Ferris


The rotator cuff or rotor cuff is a group of muscles and the tendons of which act to stabilize the shoulder. The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles. These are the: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis. These muscles united at the shoulder to create a thick "cuff" over this joint. The purpose of the rotator cuff is to stabilize the shoulder as well as elevating and rotating the arm. 


  • Each muscle originates on the shoulder blade, or scapula, and inserts on the arm bone, or humerus.
  • There is a big importance of rotator cuff muscles. In sports where overhead activity is dominant, the muscle can constantly feel the strain. 
  • When exercising your rotator cuff it's important to listen to how it feels. If it starts to hurt: STOP and you may want to ice it, and see a Physiotherapist to diagnose and give specific exercise for YOUR injury.

What should I do when I have pain?

The rotator cuff exercises are for defensive measures for rotator cuff injuries. If the exerciser experiences pain in the area or rotator cuff damage do not carry out any complex exercises and seek advice from an experienced healthcare professional or physical therapist.

The rotator cuff exercises use light hand weights. However, resistance band exercises could also be adapted to bring about adaptations.  Keep to a weight of 2-5 lbs (1-2kg) maximum. Complete 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions for the following exercises like external rotation, internal rotation and horizontal rotation etc.

Here are some sample rotator cuff exercises which can be experience until your arm is tired. Use a light enough weight that you don't get tired until you've done the exercise about 20 to 30 times. Increase the weight gradually and start with 2 ounces in the first week. Increase up to 4 ounces in the second week, 8 ounces in the next week and so on. The sample exercises are the following.


Note: After completing the exercises put an ice pack on your shoulder for 20 minutes. If you perform all 4 exercises 3 to 5 times a week.


Many muscles are contributed in shoulder movement and all work jointly, but strengthening the rotator cuff is very important. The rotator cuff is the important stabilizer of the shoulder joint during movement of the shoulder. If the ball of the upper arm is not kept centered, abnormal stress is placed on surrounding tissue and may cause gradual injury. Making strength to the rotator cuff helps to prevent common rotator cuff injuries including rotator cuff tears, tendonitis, and shoulder impingement syndrome.

There is a gradual loss of muscle mass that happens with aging that can be counteracted with weight training.The rotator cuff stabilizes your shoulder joint, an important piece of the shoulder muscle group. By using rotator cuff exercises you strengthen your rotator cuff and help prevent future injuries.

A rotator cuff injury is an injury to one or more of the four muscles in the shoulder. It can vary from inflammation of the muscle without any stable damage, such as tendinitis, to a whole or fractional tear of the muscle that might need surgery to fix it.

If an injury happened to the rotator cuff of the shoulder, rest the injured shoulder and apply ice for 15-20-minute periods at least three times a day for the first two days after the injury. A wrap can be taken surrounding the injured arm and across the body. Apply heat after two days of application of ice. A warm compress may be helpful.    

Take anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to reduce the pain and swelling. Do not take the drugs if you have an allergy to it or certain other medical concerns, such as stomach or kidney problems.

REMEMBER: Consult a physical therapist for accurate and individualized advice, these exercises and advice is for informational purposes only and does NOT substitute the care of a professional.