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Rotator Cuff Exercises

Rotator Cuff Exercises

The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and help to stabilize it. Rotator cuff injuries are widespread and mainly occur in athletes, people over 40, and people with jobs requiring many overhead motions and lifting. 

As common as rotator cuff injuries are, you can reduce their risk via regular rotator cuff injury exercises. Incorporating these exercises into one’s daily routine can also help improve posture and overall shoulder function. If you already have a rotator cuff injury, rotator cuff physical therapy exercises can help manage this condition's symptoms.

Therefore, this article will explore rotator cuff exercises and how professionals at Summit Physical Therapy can help with rotator cuff injuries.

Types of Rotator Cuff Exercises

Rotator cuff exercises involve contracting the muscles without moving the joint (isometric), lengthening the muscles while they are contracting (eccentric), and shortening the muscles while they are contracting (concentric). Therefore, if you have been asking, “What exercises can I do with rotator cuff injury,” the following are some of the best exercises that can help to prevent and treat rotator cuff injury in Merrick, NY:

Internal and External Rotation

This exercise is best with the use of resistance bands or dumbbells. To perform an internal rotation, follow these steps:

  • Stand or sit while bending your elbow at 90 degrees. 
  • Ensure your upper arm is tucked against your side, and repeatedly rotate your forearm inward. 

To perform an external rotation, do the following: 

  • Take the same sitting or standing position
  • Bend your elbow at 90 degrees
  • Rotate your forearm outward while maintaining proper form and control.


This exercise suits you if you have been wondering what exercises to do with a torn rotator cuff. This exercise does not require the use of any equipment. To perform this exercise, follow these instructions:

  • Stand with your feet apart and lean forward slightly. 
  • Let your other arm hang down freely by your side. 
  • Swing your hand forward and backward gently in a pendulum and circular motion.
  • Repeat with your other arm as many times as possible.


This rotator cuff muscle exercise is also with the aid of dumbbells. 

  • Stand with your feet apart and hold your dumbbells by your side. 
  • Raise your arms diagonally forward and upward, forming a “Y” shape. 
  • Ensure that your thumbs are pointed upwards, and your arms are slightly bent. 
  • Lower your arms back down slowly and repeat this movement as often as possible.

Cross-Body Stretch

To perform this exercise, follow these instructions:

  • Bring one of your arms across your body at chest height. 
  • Use your opposite arm to gently pull your other arm closer to your body until you feel the stretch in the front of your shoulder. 
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds
  • Repeat on the opposite side for as many times as possible.

Doorway Stretch

To perform this exercise:

  • Stand in a doorway with your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle. 
  • Place your forearm against the doorframe.
  • Lean forward gently until you feel the stretch in front of your shoulder. 
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds
  • Repeat on the other side.

Crossover Arm Stretch

This exercise helps to stretch the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulders. To perform this exercise, do the following:

  • Stand with your feet apart
  • Reach across your body with your right arm. 
  • With your left hand, hold your right elbow
  • Gently pull your right arm across your body until you feel a stretch in front of your right shoulder. 
  • Repeat this with your right hand and left elbow till you feel a stretch in front of your left shoulder.

Sleeper Stretch

You must lie on your side with the affected arm on top to perform this exercise. Next:

  • Bend your elbow at a 90-degree angle.
  • Use your opposite hand to apply gentle pressure to stretch the posterior capsule of your shoulder. 
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Lawn Mower Pull

To perform this exercise, you need a resistance band. 

  • Stand with your feet apart.
  • Place one end of the resistance band under the foot opposite your injured arm. 
  • Hold the other end with the injured arm so the resistance band goes diagonally across your body. 
  • Put your other hand on your waist and bend slightly 
  • Pull the resistance band as if you were starting a lawn mower. 
  • Repeat as many times as possible and change sides if needed.

If you have been wondering what exercises aggravate the rotator cuff, some exercises to avoid with a rotator cuff include overhead lifts, upright rows, lat pulldowns, bench dips, etc.

Why are Rotator Cuff Exercises Important?

For several reasons, performing exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff is essential. Some of these reasons include:

  • To prevent shoulder pain and injuries: One of the primary reasons for rotator cuff strengthening exercises is their important role in preventing injuries. This is because the rotator cuff muscles are vulnerable to strains, tears, and other injuries, during physical activity.
  • To increase shoulder stability: The rotator cuff muscles stabilize the shoulder joints. Shoulder rotator cuff exercises help avoid the risk of dislocations or subluxations with weak and imbalanced rotator cuff muscles.
  • To enhance athletic performance: Shoulder rotator cuff exercises can help to strengthen the shoulder and aid athletes and workers that require repetitive overhead motion.
  • To correct posture: Rotator cuff exercises can help to correct postural imbalances by supporting the muscles that ensure the proper alignment of the shoulders. 
  • To improve functional movement: Rotator cuff exercises can help your shoulders carry out numerous daily activities without pain or discomfort.

What is Rotator Cuff Injury?

Rotator cuff injuries are wear and tear injuries of the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder. Common rotator cuff injuries include tendonitis, bursitis, tendinosis, rotator cuff strain, rotator cuff tear, impingement, etc.

  • Repetitive overuse: Certain activities, such as painting, throwing, or some sports activities that require repetitive overhead motions, may lead to the gradual wear and tear of the rotator cuff muscles.
  • Degeneration due to age: As you age, the blood supply to the rotator cuff's tendons reduces, making them vulnerable to degeneration. Therefore, it is common to develop rotator cuff injuries as you age.
  • Trauma: Accidents or direct blows to the shoulder may result in rotator cuff injuries.
  • Poor posture: Your risk of developing rotator cuff injuries may increase due to rounded shoulders and poor upper body alignment.

Rotator cuff injury comes with some signs and symptoms. These symptoms may vary depending on the location and severity of the injury. Some symptoms of rotator cuff injury include:

  • Shoulder pain: A typical symptom of injury to the rotator cuff muscles is shoulder pain. The pain associated with rotator cuff injury may be mild before becoming severe and constant.
  • Clicking or popping sensation: If your rotator cuff muscles are injured, you may experience clicking or popping sensations in your shoulder joint when you move your hand.
  • Limited range of motion: Rotator cuff injuries often decrease the shoulder joint’s range of motion. This leads to restrictions and even pain when certain movements are made.
  • Weakness: Rotator cuff injuries weaken the affected shoulder, making it increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks.

While some rotator cuff injuries cause a lot of pain that may even make it difficult for you to sleep at night, others may not cause pain at all. The symptoms of rotator cuff injuries can be prevented, managed, or treated with the help of rotator cuff injury exercises in Merrick, NY.

Safety Tips for Rotator Cuff Exercises

The following are tips that you can follow to ensure your safety and the effectiveness of your torn rotator cuff exercises:

  • Before commencing any safe exercise with rotator cuff injury, contact healthcare professionals in Merrick, NY.
  • Warm up before starting exercises.
  • Breathe deeply.
  • Start with light weights and gradually increase as you get stronger.
  • Avoid exercises that cause pain.
  • Do not overexert yourself, and stop if you feel any pain.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed.
  • Use proper form.

Home Remedies for Rotator Cuff Injuries

When you injure your rotator cuff, there are immediate measures that you can take at home or anywhere else. These help with the pain and limit further injury. Generally, you can also do these if you suffer muscle sprain or strain at any part of your body. The home remedies include:

  • Ice: Apply an ice pack to the affected shoulder at least three times daily, with each time lasting not less than 15 minutes.
  • Rest the affected limb: The discomfort you’ll experience is often enough warning that you shouldn’t use the affected shoulder in the early stages of injury. However, it’s important to actively rest the shoulder to prevent further damage. If possible, get a sling to rest the limb.
  • Pain relief: Some pain relief meds from any local pharmacy near you will do wonders, but you’re better off consulting a professional for the right options.

It’s important to note that these home remedies are no substitute for the standard care you’ll receive at Summit Physical Therapy.


Regular participation in rotator cuff exercises can help you to maintain strong and healthy shoulders. There are significant benefits attached to rotator cuff exercises, whether you are recovering from an injury or looking to prevent future problems in your shoulder. If you are wondering what exercises you can do after a rotator cuff surgery or injury, you can seek professional treatment and pain management at Summit Physical Therapy.

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