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5 Exercises for strengthening a Rotator Cuff

Once you have been diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury, either by your physiotherapist or your doctor, then strengthening your rotator cuff is often the best solution. In many cases strengthening and muscle balance around your shoulder is all that is required to restore your function.

A key goal with physiotherapy strengthening is knowing which part of the cuff we need to strengthen. It is important that this is done in conjunction with your therapist, so the specific muscles are targeted. Below are 5 key strengthening exercises that might be recommended during your strengthening programme

 1. Doorway stretch 

  1. Warm up your muscles by standing in an open doorway and spreading your arms out to the side.

  2. Grip the sides of the doorway with each hand at or below shoulder height, and lean forward through the doorway until you feel a light stretch. 

  3. Keep a straight back as you lean and shift your weight onto your toes. You should feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder. Do not overstretch. 

Doorway Stretch








2. Side-lying external rotation 

  1. Lie down on the side opposite your injured arm.

  2. Bend the elbow of your injured arm to 90 degrees and rest the elbow on your side. Your forearm should rest across your abdomen.

  3. Hold a light dumbbell in the injured side’s hand and, keeping your elbow against your side, slowly raise the dumbbell toward the ceiling. Stop rotating your arm if you feel strain. 

  4. Hold the dumbbell up for a few seconds before returning to the start position with your arm down.

  5. Repeat 3 sets of 10 up to 3 times per day. Increase reps to 20 when a set of 10 becomes easy.

Side lying external rotation








 3. High-to-low rows 

  1. Attach a resistance band to something sturdy at or above shoulder height. Be sure it is secure so it doesn’t come loose when you pull on it.

  2. Get down on one knee so the knee opposite your injured arm is raised. Your body and lowered knee should be aligned. Rest your other hand on your raised knee.

  3. Holding the band securely with your arm outstretched, pull your elbow toward your body. Keep your back straight and squeeze your shoulder blades together and down as you pull. Your body should not move or twist with your arm.

  4. Return to start and repeat 3 sets of 10.

High to low pull








 4. Reverse fly 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Keep your back straight and bend forward slightly at the waist.

  2. With a light weight in each hand, extend your arms and raise them away from your body. Do not lock your elbow. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you do so. Do not raise your arms above shoulder height.

  3. Return to start and repeat 3 sets of 10.

Reverse Fly








5. Lawn mower pull 

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place one end of a resistance band under the foot opposite your injured arm. Hold the other end with the injured arm, so the band goes diagonally across your body.

  2. Keeping your other hand on your hip and without locking your knees, bend slightly at the waist so the hand holding the band is parallel to the opposite knee.

  3. As if starting a lawn mower in slow motion, straighten upright while pulling your elbow across the body to your outside ribs. Keep your shoulders relaxed and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you stand.

  4. Repeat 3 sets of 10.

Lawn mower pull