Rotator Cuff Exercises (TOP 5 MYTHS!)

What’s up, guys? Jeff Cavaliere, Today we’re going to talk about the rotator
cuff, and more importantly the top five myths when it comes to training this muscle group. Right off the bat, let’s start with myth number
one. Is it the muscle group, or is it the muscle? You see, people call this a single muscle. As a matter of fact, my grandfather – God
rest his soul – he called it the “rotor cuff”, and then other people call it the “rotator
cup”. To clarify, it’s the rotator cuff, and it’s
four muscles that contribute to the function of this entity. Now, I will tell you this: we’re going to
ignore one of them. The reason why is going to lead to the fact
that we’re going to talk about the other three, and we’re breaking out the muscle markers
to do that. Now, why? Because it makes it really easy to understand
the function when you see them back here. To understand, really, even where these are
in the first place all you’ve got to do is start with the black line here, and that is
the spine of the scapula. It really names itself. Everything is really easy once you have that
grasped. You can literally grasp it because you can
reach over the back of your shoulder and grab onto that bone, and hook your fingers under,
and you know you’re on the spine. From there, if you just roll your fingers
upward, just a little bit until you roll off that bone, now you’re on the supraspinatus. “Supra” meaning above, “spinatus” meaning
spine. You’re right above that spine. There you go. There’s the supraspinatus. Now this is the muscle that gets all the attention
because it’s the one that tends to get pinched the most because it’s the closest here to
the shoulder joint. So when we raise our arm up it can be pinched
right here. Which they call “impingement”. So now the next one, the infraspinatus. Grab that spine again, and you roll downward. Here’s the big green area here. That muscle is the same thing, again, right
below. They’re both acting to externally rotate the
shoulder, okay? The third one, the terres minor, starts a
little bit lower on the scapula and it rolls all the way up, again, to the back of your
arm so that it too can also influence external rotation. So now, what is the one that I didn’t talk
about? That leads me to myth number two. “You should train the whole rotator cuff”. You’ve got to work internal rotation, and
external rotation. Well, the one I left out is the subscapularis,
and it sits inside – I can’t even draw this one for you, guys. This sits inside my shoulder blade on the
inside, and it actually internally rotates the shoulder. Well, here’s the problem with that. We spend so much time getting work on our
internal rotators that that’s what’s causing the problem in the first place. If you’re somebody that’s a rehab candidate
right now because you’ve already injured your rotator cuff, likely it’s because it was too
weak and being dominated by the internal rotation. So now what you have is this great imbalance. So what do we see people do all the time? They come here, they grab the band, and they
do this. I’ll show you from here, actually. You can see it better. They do this. Internal rotation all the time. All day long. Now, why? Again, it feels good, number one, because
this is strong already. Doing internal rotation doesn’t really hurt. But try and flip that around and do external
rotation here, that way. That’s weak because those muscles that externally
rotate the shoulder never get enough attention. So you ditch the internal rotation because
you’re only contributing more to the problem that you already have. Thirdly, the next myth we talk about is “You
don’t really even have to train this area because it gets all the work it needs just
from your regular training”. That’s wrong. You don’t get enough external rotation in. The external rotation component of very, very
few exercises is usually dominated by the fact that a lot of other muscles – most
importantly your delts – are really dominating those movements. So I like to do a high pull, where I pull
the dumbbells up, and I externally rotate my arms as I go up. As opposed to an upright row. However, even on that exercise the delts are
definitely doing a lot more of the work, and they’re also contributing to this dominate
imbalance between the deltoid strength, versus the rotator cuff. So unless you’re really focusing on doing
the rotator cuff specifically, you’re not ever going to train it enough and you need
to specifically hit it with exercises to do that. Now, number four: the empty can exercise. Remember when I just talked about exercises? How many times have you been told to do this? Maybe you’re doing it right now. If you are, please do me a favor and stop
doing it. They tell you to turn your arms this way,
okay? Turn them like you’re pouring out two cans. Then get your arms about 45 degrees in front
of your body here. Now we come up, we lift the dumbbells, we
come up that way, and then we come down. Now, on somebody that already has a little
bit of a shoulder issue – especially if you’re in rehab right now for your shoulder
– this is going to kill. Why? Because this is a bad position for your shoulder. It is anatomically a bad position for your
shoulder. This is what will cause impingement because
we’re instantly rotating, we’re clearing less room inside the shoulder joint here, so that
when I try to elevate it I can’t even do it without hitting, likely, the acromion which
is creating a lot less space in there, and aggravating and already inflamed tendon that’s
in there. So we look at that exercise and say “Yeah,
but the EMG study says that it’s the best thing you can do. It maximally activates the supraspinatus.” Great! The EMG study is not matching up with the
biomechanics and the anatomy of your shoulder joint. So this could be the best thing you could
do EMG-wise, for activation of the supraspinatus, but the worst thing you can do for actually
causing more problems in the first place. So you need to understand the difference and
not just do what EMGs say, but do what your body is telling you. So what do you do? Easy. You just flip them around. Make it the full can. So you come here, you come to this plane – which
I’ve already talked about a lot of times, this is a better plane for your shoulder anyway. It’s more natural because the shoulder blade
sits more forward just like that. So if my arm moves in the direction that the
shoulder blade sits in, then I’m actually doing a really good – really the glenoid,
the ball and socket sits more forward like that. So I’m able to get a more smooth up and down
motion here. So full can, not empty can. Then finally we have a myth where people say
“Oh, just use the same weight on all of your rotator cuff exercises.” This one always puzzles me because, again,
you have to understand the function of the rotator cuff. If it’s external rotation, realize that you
could do external rotation a lot of different ways. We can do it the way we normally see it, which
is elbow in and tucked into the side, and the move my arm out to the side. That’s external rotation, okay? We could also do external rotation with my
arm up high. So from here, now I come up that way. External rotation, okay? More of a 90-90 position. A little more difficult here. We could also do it across our body. This is an internally rotated arm here. I can come up and across my body that way. Now I’ve externally rotated my arm. I don’t even have to get into full external
rotation. I’m just going from an internal rotation to
a more neutral position, and that’s external rotation, too. So we’re up here like that. All these different planes of motion – even
this. We can go on our sides here, all right? Like this. We could do sideline, right here. You probably see people doing this all the
time also. All this is external rotation, but I’ll tell
you this: we’re not using the same weight. That would be like saying “Use the same weight
for squats, deadlifts, bench press, tricep extensions, and bicep curls”. That’s not the way you do this. Now I’m not saying there’s going to be a great
variation in the weight that you’re using because these are small muscles. But you might use a 5 on one, an 8 pounder
on one, a 12 pounder one, a 10 pounder on one. Make sure you’re challenging yourself and
trying to fatigue these muscles, because remember what I said in the first place. Your problem is likely a lack of strength. If you want to build strength in these muscles
to start correcting that huge imbalance, then you’d better start working on building strength
by challenging yourself with weights that would cause you to increase your strength. So there you have it, guys. I hope you understand the rotator cuff a little
bit more. As I said in the beginning, if you’re going
through rehab right now on a rotator cuff injury, or a surgery you’re going to want
to make sure you go back and watch this a couple times because as a physical therapist,
it’s always something that I take with great care, and passion here on this channel. That’s to make sure you’re aware of your own
body. Empower yourself with education so you know
what you can do. It’s not always in someone else’s hands. If it doesn’t feel right it might not be right
for you, and now you might be able to do something about it. All right, guys. If you’re looking for a program as you get
healthy, as you get back into it, or if you’re looking for a program that actually places
a high priority on a rotator cuff in the first place so that you’re not winding up with these
imbalances; I’ve built it into all of our regular strength work. You can get that over at It’s our ATHLEANX training system. In the meantime, if you’ve found this video
helpful, leave your comments and thumbs up below. Let me know what you want me to cover here
on this channel, and I’ll do my best in the days and weeks ahead. All right, guys. See ya!

100 thoughts on “Rotator Cuff Exercises (TOP 5 MYTHS!)

  1. You have contributed valuable information and, in an understandable way. You are a 1st class engineer of muscular/skeletal physiology. Thank you!

  2. Let me sort out the corn from the feces. What this guy is barking in a nutshell in 50% of his videos about shoulders:
    1. Don't lift or raise arms with an internally rotated shoulder
    2. Exercise specifically the 3 muscles that externally rotate the shoulders (Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus and Teres Minor)

  3. Everything I learned about weight training from an anatomical standpoint I learned right here watching these videos.

  4. Hi, I got a question.
    Im just having problems with what he called Bursitis in another video and i actually got this chanel from a doctor in healthcare as a tip.

    However the empty can Excersise goes for me (right here without weights) without pain. But the full open can immediately hurts…
    Can anyone explain why this is? Thanks in advance…

  5. When training the rotator cuff how many reps are best and how many sets per exercise. Also how many days per week should I do this routine. Both my rotator cuffs were torn and it took me over a year to be able to do a shoulder routine but I cannot lift even light weights over my head without feeling like I tore them again. Please help those of us with this problem.

  6. I will never be able to thank you enough for making these videos, but I WILL give my absolute best to utilize the knowledge you are offering and become worthy of your efforts.
    You are a legend among men,

  7. I'm 50 and just recently gone back to the gym so it is nice to watch a video like this so that I can strengthen those muscles as to avoid any serious issues…You are now my go to guy for this type of information.

  8. I've always said that a professional can explain things in a way that anybody can easily understand. That's exactly what you do. Thanks for the video.

  9. What about the teres major? You didn't mention that, I saw a diagram stating that it's very important for shoulder health

  10. I'm definitely going to incorporate rotator cuff work into my back day. My left rotator cuff has been bothering me recently especially while doing arms. Hopefully some attention on these muscles will prevent these problems in the future. Thanks Jeff!

  11. 12 week post Op and I'm so scared I'll do to my R shoulder what ever I did to my Left..will watch this 4 times Thanks.

  12. 1:10 Supraspinatus Supra = above, spinatus = spine (Spine of the scapula)

    3:10) Myth 3 Dont train ext rot b/e already gets enough = wrong
    3:30 Even in an exercise that uses ext rotation, as long as its not an iso ext rot movement, delts and other muscles will still take over more of the work
    3:40 So unless you are only doing ext rot iso exercies, you will not ever be overtraining it

    3:55) Myth 4
    4:10 3/4 anterior lateral raises with internal rotation = shit exercise for impingement of supraspinatus
    5:30 Alt exercise, move the arm in parallel to the way the scapula moves and sits on the rib cage

    5:40) Myth 5 – Use same weight on all rotator cuff exercises
    6:10 2nd way of doing ext rotation with arms in shoulder press position
    6:20 3rd way diagonally across body
    6:45 4th way
    7:00) Buy these are all different planes of motion and each can use different weight
    He compares it to saying use the same weight for squats, deadlifts, bench press, etc
    (This comparison doesnt check out though because they are all ext rotation versus comparing different muscle groups entirely like squat to bench press to deadlift)

    7:10) Even then these are small muscles so it would be a diff like 5lb on one, 8lb on one, 10lb on one, etc

  13. Hey Jeff… just had Rotator Cuff surgery 2 weeks ago… I've been rehabing with resistance bands thus far…I try and listen to my body and push myself further all the time to strengthen the area. How much am I at risk for injuring the said area internally, i.e., re-tearing, at this early stage post OP? Thanks !

  14. Love the videos can you do a video on some exercise to help recurrent shoulder dislocation if there even is any I messed up my shoulder and it constantly gets dislocated probably one of the most annoying things ever can’t even box without my left shoulder getting dislocated I try to stay away from weights even though I can lift them it just feels awkward on my shoulder

  15. Great advice !) I notice my shoulder pops when i externally rotate ? Will strengthening of the rotator cuff realign better ? Or should i quit surfing ? Lol) Thanks !)

  16. This video makes a hell of a lot of sense , had years of shoulder pain , affecting my sleep even , so had ultrasound and discovered a tear in a tendon , these simple changes in the exercises I was already doing should help me a lot , cheer's !

  17. My shoulders tilt forward a bit and it results in my posture being bad and constantly needing to be fixed, I've incorporated face pulls in my workout already, but would exercises for the rotator cuff also help in correcting my posture? Thanks 🙂

  18. Man, I am suffering from a supraspinatus tendinopathy and I found that this is extremely helpful, thank you so much, many thanks really because these will make me much more cautious❤

  19. I have the same rear delts as you and also had a jacked up labrum but had it repaired last year. Back at gym but they tightened my shoulder too much and I struggle to externally rotate infact if I try to press directly over head its goes 30 degs foward if u get me, like turns into an incline press. Anyway my rear delt is hurting bad n always tight n swolen where it connects to the scapula at the closest to the spine point. If I dig my fingers in it feels like a swollen hard band, maybe like 2 of them 1 is really hard. If I lay on my back with humerus 90 deg n elbows bent at 90 n try force external rotation and make the back of my hand touch the ground (it gets to about 45 degs) I feel I may force a dislocation as that's the way it used to dislocate. Should I continue to stretch like this gently? Is there anything else I can do to help free it up? And I think u never had surgery so I'm wondering how you have overcome your labrum weakness and what have you done to strengthen it. Sorry long ass msg. Doctors in aus just say dont lift weights and you'll be ok cause It doesnt effect my every day living just my passion to grow n be fit. Thanks Jeff

  20. Brilliant video!!! I have a question though and would be interested in what you think .. I have gross wasting of both the supraspinatous and infraspinatous muscles on my right side. Will this stop me from building muscle in the shoulders , traps, bicep and tricep and back??
    I can do bench presses, over head presses, curls and tricep extensions and pull downs but not very heavy!! But I can’t seem to do side or front laterals at all even with a light weight. Will this stop me building muscle and stop me from developing a wider frame and bigger shoulders and arms ???

  21. I can't believe I found this without searching. I'm actually in pain for month due to frozen shoulder syndrome. I don't know anymore what to do wich doctor/fisio/personal trainer will help me that doesn't cost a fortune.

  22. I broke both of my scapula due to a motorcycle accident and I went to physical therapy and I was doing these same exercises & it does help personally

    I just don’t know if my shoulders will get back to normal far as growing back to how they use to be

  23. I completely agree that he has completely Changed the way I train I thought I knew it all until in listened to his advice once and game changer my shoulder had been F’d up for a year and now is healing because of what I learned on this channel!! Thanks for all the content!!

  24. Hi, So I've had this issue for years (I'm 71 yr young). Got C shots, phisio therapy, ya da. What do you recommend when the PAIN prevents the full motion? Force it thru the pain? Thanks.

  25. Really love this channel as physiotherapist. It always helps me to improve.. Thanks a lot..keep going..

  26. in some of your face pull videos you put the ban hammer on some of the exercises you're advising around 6:40, I think I'm missing some context on the low to high rotation exercises?

  27. jeff i have a question could you please tell me what i should do,
    my supraspinatus is torn for abotu 40 %, i am doing PT therapie right now, and after every single massage of that area it feels like it even torn more….
    should i stop thme from massagin it? i tell them and even scream from pain when the press they wooden massage stick in thre as hard as they can, but they say i need to get " my muscles lossened" but it just feels like they tear it appart even more…

    so should i let them torture and hope they know what they do, or should i listen to my body and make them stop from massaging it?

  28. I've watched about a dozen videos today to figure out what to do with my left shoulder….going from empty-can to full-can gives me full range of motion without pain. The moment I "tip" the can, the pain is instantly there. I'm psyched, thanks! P.S. I'm sixty one, and lost a decade of lifting due to a couple of strokes and a heart attack, but…I'm getting there! This is the last year's progress:

  29. Thank you for these videos, they've helped me quite a bit. Could you tell me how many sets I should do for strengthening the rotator cuff (external rotation) and should I do these everyday or a few days a week.

  30. These videos are awesome. I haven't been able to stop watching them since I found them. I have a long history of shoulder pain and I know that finding the right form can be the difference between working out and not working out. It's interesting to see someone explain, in an intelligent way, why something is hurting and what you can do to make it better.

  31. Jeff, not sure you will read my comment or not but you have noooo idea how much this video helped me. I'm so grateful to you

  32. Thank you Jeff! As an osteopath I send many clients to your videos and website. For my own training I use your videos and your programs. Many thanks!

  33. I've been having sooooo much trouble and pain in my right shoulder. I thought it was an impingement at first. But I had no problems lifting my hands above my head, with no pain or problems. Then I thought maybe it was AC joint problems. And that seemed like it could be it, but again, several of the exercises to show this pain didn't produce it. Finally, this vid puts it right on the nose. I have a ridiculously tight posterior capsule. Now that I realize it, I will start doing this stretch, and using a band to strengthen those smaller muscles in my shoulder blade. Thanks.

  34. I had shoulder bursitis, bicep tendon problems, and pinching when overhead & bench pressing. I found partial help from shoulder bursitis excersises, but this video finally cracked the case. Now I know how to avoid and treat this problem in the future.
    Thank you!

  35. My mother (who is used to going to the gym) tore a tendon in the upper arm and suffered bursitis – this was a year ago and she has been trying to work through it via her PT. She now has an appointment for surgery but is trying to look for something to help with strength, movement and avoiding the surgery. Is it possible to heal a tear oneself and not go through surgery, do you have any idea how long repair can take and is it something that should be completely rested (as suggested) or should it be exercised and gently used to aid repair?

  36. So we need to fatigue those muscles? I hear from PowerExplosive that this is bad because reduce the subacromial space and you can get injured… I know that you have more knowledge but I want to clarify this.

  37. Jeez. I reached back there on my shoulder that's bugging me a bit. The supra and the inter (?) are both a little tight, adjacent to the spine. New sub, learning a lot to correct issues like this video as I move from weight loss (50+ pounds in 6 months) into mobility and then strength training.

  38. I had rotator cuff surgery & was told to never do any exercises that had arms straight out, such as straight arm pull downs. My question is…is that true, no exercises with arms straight? Thanks!

  39. I am so glad, you have so many videos on Shouldertraining ! Had a injury and now recoveing. Best channel for good muscletraining =)

  40. i love how you said go back and watch this a couple times. Your not joking, every time i rewatch a video of yours i litterally soak up more and more of the information. You give out soooo much valuable and deep detailed things to learn in each video it blows my mind. I thought i was just slow, im glad you mentioned rewatching a video of yours. LOL foreal JAMMED PACKED FULL OF AMAZING EDUCATIONAL LESSONS AND TIPS.

  41. Jeff is speaking a foreign language until you learn how to speak dictionary language lol hes so smart its starting to rub off on me THANK YOU GOD FOR JEFF CAVALIERE OF ATHLEANX.COM

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