Muscles of the Month – January – The Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and their tendons that act to stabilize the shoulder and allow for its extensive range of motion.

What and where is it?

The rotator cuff consists of 4 muscles that make your shoulder move and stabilise your shoulder joint. The Supraspinatus sits at the top of the shoulder blade, helps stabilise the shoulder and takes the arm away from the body. Insfraspinatus takes the whole area of the shoulder blade and laterally rotates the arm (turns the palm forwards). Teres minor sits just beneath the Infraspinatus from the blade to the top of your shoulder; it laterally rotates the arms and brings the arm towards the body. Subscapularis sits on the front side of the shoulder blade attaching it to the arm, it internally rotates the arm, (turns the palm to the back of the body) and adducts the arm (bring the arm to the body).

Why is the muscle important?

The muscles sit around the shoulder joint which is a ball and socket joint, however, as its a very shallow joint it can get injuried very easily. The rotator cuff muscles help keep the joint stable and strong as well as allowing movement. If the rotator cuff muscles were to become weak or loose, the shoulder would lose all stabilitly and be suseptable to injury. Injuries are more likely in those that do overhead movements for their job or sport, such as; builders, racket sport players and painters. Symptoms of an injury can include; dull ache of the shoudler that worsens when lying on that side, difficulty lifting arm or talking it behind the back and arm weakness

How to activate the muscle?

Resistance band single arm lift against wall
• Elbows and forearms against wall shoulder width apart
• Hold resistance band width medium resistance in hands
• Stabilise the left shoulder lift right hand up in a ‘c’ shape until straight – keeping contact with wall the whole time – perform 10 times

Resistance band external rotation if shoulder
• Tie the resistance band to a stable base at chest height
• Standing side one to pole and hold band with outside hand, arm bent at 90 degrees
• Keep elbow glued to side and take hand out away from body and back in.

Resistance band over head pull
• Hook resistance band to stable base at chest height
• Stand face on to pole and hold with both hands with no resistance in the band
• Keep small bend in the elbows so they don’t lock out
• Pull arms above head and back down.

How to train the muscle?

When training the shoulder muscles it’s important to set it up correctly. Always roll the shoulders back and down so they are set and strong before training.

Shoulder Press
• Standing tall and place barbell in hands at just below shoulder height
• Keep core tight, back strong and small bend in the knees so they don’t lock out
• Press barbell over head until arms are straight and back down

Side Raise
• Standing tall and hold dumbbell in each hand at sides
• Keeping a small bend in the elbows and keep wrists strong
• Take arms up to shoulder height and back down to sides

Front Raise
• Standing tall and hold dumbbell in each hand in front of thighs
• Keeping a small bend in the elbows and keep wrists strong
• Take arms up to shoulder height and back down to thighs

How to stretch?

Stretching shoulders out is something that most people forget about. Having tight shoulders can cause so many other problems with your shoulders, arms and back. It can lead to having a tight chest which can pull your back forwards and in turn create lower back pain.

Across body deltoid stretch
• Bring arm straight across the chest
• Hold with other arm so you can pull it into the body
• Drop shoulder down as much as possible
• Pull until you can feel a stretch in your shoulder

Upper Trap and neck stretch
• Hold head in centre
• Take left ear over to left shoulder and drop right shoulder down
• Repeat other side

Upper back and shoulder rotator cuff stretch
• Bring hands in front of chest and hold on to the other
• Push chest back and pull arms forward

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