5 Rotator Cuff Exercises to Keep Your Joints Healthy
Cow Face Pose
Cow Face provides a deep stretch, not just ideal for the rotator cuffs, but can also help stretch out your shoulders, deltoid, triceps and chest. Cow Face can also strengthen your abdominals and spine.
Start in a seated posture on a yoga mat or blanket. Bring your left foot under the right knee to the side of the right hip and bring your right foot over to the left hip. Keep your feet an equal distance from each hip and sit balanced evenly on your lower pelvis (sitting bones). Bring your left arm upwards, then bend the left elbow and bring your hand over the shoulder to the middle of the back. Then, bring your arm down and the right hand up the middle of your back, bringing the forearm up along the spine. Rolling your shoulders down and back, try to clasp your hands. If your hands cannot clasp behind your back, you can use a strap. Hold the strap in the upper hand and grasp it with the lower hand to get a good stretch. Hold the stretch for a few breaths, then release your hands slowly. Come back to a seated posture and switch sides.
The rotator cuff often gets overlooked in exercise and stretching, so it helps to incorporate gentle exercises like Marichi’s Pose that will help open up the muscles around the rotator cuff and strengthen the rotator cuff.
Sit on your mat with your back straight and your legs stretched out straight in front of your torso. Bend your left knee and plant your foot on the floor with your heel close to your left glute. Keep the right leg outstretched, feeling the length of the leg and pushing the back of the right heel into the mat. Place the fingers or palm of your left hand on the mat behind your body. As you exhale, twist your upper body to the left and bring your right arm around the left thigh behind the knee. Use the right arm to hug the left thigh in toward your core as you twist your head and upper body toward your left side, keeping both feet grounded. Breathe a few smooth, deep breaths while you hold the pose and feel the length of your spine. Exhale, release the pose and switch sides.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward-Facing Dog can strengthen the external rotators, infraspinatus and T. minor and improve bone density.
Begin on your mat on your hands and knees. Align your wrists with your shoulders. Bring your hands toward the top of the mat with a wide grip, fingers pointing toward the edge of the mat. Lengthen your arms supporting your upper body, and relax your upper back. Step toward the back of the mat, lifting your knees off the floor. Begin to straighten your legs, pushing your thighs back without locking your knees. Push your fingers into the floor as you engage the outer muscles of your arms, and draw your shoulders into the back toward the tailbone. Keep your neck relaxed, but don’t let the head dangle. Press back on your heels toward the floor, keeping your spine long and arms and core engaged, lifting the sitting bones toward the ceiling. You can also use this stretch to engage the hips. Bend one knee while keeping the other straight, and alternate. To release the pose, release the knees and come back to your hands and knees.
The Plank stretch is great to strengthen your rotator cuffs because, while it tones your core, it also strengthens your upper body including the muscles around the spine, wrists, arms and shoulders.
Start with your hands and knees on the mat, arms perpendicular to your shoulders, aligned to a straight 90-degree angle. Your wrists should align beneath the shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and let your hands and forearms support your upper body, keeping the chest open. Tuck your toes underneath the feet and step back, bringing your spine into alignment, keeping it straight.
The key is to keep your thighs lifted, legs straight, and glutes aligned so that you maintain alignment from wrist to shoulder. You want to press your quads toward the ceiling and stretch your spine toward your heels. Remember to breathe evenly as you hold the pose for several breaths. To release the pose, bring the knees to the floor and rest.
You can combine Plank with Downward-Facing Dog to create a short sequence or rotate between them to get an extra stretch. If you have existing medical conditions such as carpal tunnel or osteoporosis, you can do a half plank, where you support your lower body with the knees. You can also come down to the forearms to reduce stress on the hands and wrists.
Intense Side Stretch
To strengthen and rehabilitate the rotator cuff, it’s important to engage in exercises that rotate the shoulders and open the chest to strengthen the right muscles. The best exercises will focus on being well rounded and working toward total body wellness. The Intense Side Stretch works the rotator cuff by helping increase the range of motion and open the shoulder.
Begin with your mat next to the wall. Keeping your hands at waist level and shoulder distance apart, place your hands on the wall. Step your left foot back about 4 feet and keep the right foot about a foot-and-a-half away from the wall or top of the mat. Make sure you create a straight line with your hands, shoulders, hips and ears. Line up your heels. The toes of the front foot should point toward the wall; the toes of the back foot should be angled at 45 degrees. Hold the pose through several breaths, release and switch sides.
To go deeper, fold at the hips and reach your hands toward the floor or place them on the side of the front leg. As you lean into this posture, keep your torso and head parallel to the floor. If you can, bring the torso closer to the thigh, but don’t bend forward from the waist to make it happen. You can also use yoga blocks to support your hands if you need help balancing in the pose or if you can’t reach that far.
Before beginning any exercise regimen, consult with your physician to determine if these exercise recommendations are right for you.