Exercise the Rotator Cuff Muscles for Stronger Shoulders!

Strong rotator cuff muscles means strong shoulders that are less prone to injury and heal more quickly if they are injured.

Shoulder exercises to help strengthen and stabilize the rotator cuff should include those that focus the four muscles that make up the rotator cuff, as well as those that stabilize the shoulder joint complex.

The rotator cuff joint helps to stabilize and steer the head of the humerus (upper arm) to provide for smooth rotator cuff muscle action.

To do shoulder muscle exercises first understand that there are 4 muscles that make up this rotator “cuff” surrounding the shoulder joint.

The four muscles that make up the Rotator Cuff are:

1. Subscapularis – Located on the inferior or the lower edge of the front of the scapula and inserts on the lesser head of the humerus (upper arm), which helps to internally rotate the arm.

2. Infraspinatus – Located on the back side and inferior or lower edge of the scapula and inserts on the upper head of the humerus, which helps to externally rotate the arm.

3. Supraspinatus – Located on the back side and upper edge of the scapula and inserts on the upper head of the humerus, which abducts or raises the arm overhead.

4. Teres Minor – Located on the back inferior outside edge of the scapula that inserts on the upper head of the humerus, which externally rotates the arm.

Exercise for rotator cuff muscles should include working these four shoulder muscle groups with proper form and execution of the movements:

A. Subscapularis – Internal Shoulder Rotation

internal shoulder rotation exercise imag

Can be accomplished by using lightweight dumbbells or a medium tension stretch band.


Using a light 3-5 pound dumbbell or green stretch band. Standing or sitting with good posture, wrap the band as shown around a solid object or have someone hold it for you.

Keep your working arm bent at a 90-degree angle and elbow tucked at your waist with a little space there between your waist and elbow.


Pull or draw the dumbbell or stretch band across the body at about navel height feeling the muscles of the front of the shoulder working and the back of the shoulder stretching.

Repeat this rotator cuff exercise for 8-10 repetitions to start with.

Check out all the great pictures and descriptions of exercises for the rotator cuff muscles in the new Shoulder ebook here!

B. Supraspinatus – Shoulder Abduction

shoulder abduction exercise image
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This shoulder exercise works the rotator cuff by raising the arms out to the side or horizontal to the floor.


Standing with good posture with light or no weight to begin. Palms can be face up or down.


Raise your arms out to the side and up until they are just parallel to the floor or about chest high.

Repeat for 8-12 repetitions. 1-5 pound dumbbell recommended.

C. Infraspinatus and Teres Minor Rotator Cuff Muscles – External Shoulder Rotation

rotator cuff muscles external shoulder rotation imag

This exercise for rotator cuff muscles can be accomplished by using a stretch band or light dumbell.


Sitting or standing with a light to medium tension stretch band,

Palms face up and elbows pulled into your waist with a towel squeezed there to open the subacromial space.

Action: Draw your hands apart opening the chest and feeling the shoulder blades draw in toward the spine.

Repeat this rotator cuff exercise for 8-10 repetitions holding the end stretch for about 2 seconds.

Learn more about the best shoulder exercises by going here!

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