20 February, 2020

Your rotator cuff works incredibly hard for you, and it does so more often than you might think. The rotator cuff is made up of 4 small (but mighty!) muscles; Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis. Each of these muscles has a primary joint action:

Rotator Cuff Diagram

  • Supraspinatus – Shoulder abduction
  • Infraspinatus – Shoulder external rotation
  • Teres minor – Shoulder external rotation
  • Subscapularis – Shoulder internal rotation

While each muscle has a primary joint action, they also play a much larger role in stabilising the shoulder during movement. Take a barbell bench press for example. The primary joint action occurring at the shoulder is horizontal shoulder adduction/flexion, however as you move through the range of motion you are also asking your shoulder to stabilise and not drive the bar too far forward or backward. This is where your rotator cuff starts going to work.

If you’ve ever torn your rotator cuff, you’ll know how painful and debilitating it can be and you might be familiar with some of these exercises. If you have never torn a rotator cuff, now is a good time to get familiar with them to make your shoulder solid and stable!



This exercise is performed with little to no weight in a prone position. The idea behind this exercise is to squeeze the scapulas together with each movement to maximise the effect, and specifically to work the under appreciated external rotators of the shoulders. This is an excellent exercise to include as a part of a warm up or specific movement preparation for upper body exercises as it activates the external rotators and scapula retractors.



Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press

This exercise is all about the position of the kettlebell and the instability it creates by being held upside down. This instability means to keep the kettlebell stable a firm grip is required which creates a lot of tension in the arm, which irradiates to create more stability in the shoulder. It doesn’t take a lot of weight to really make this exercise challenging. During the press, the core should be tight, and focus should be put in to creating movement of the shoulder. We can progress this exercise by adding a resistance band laterally which will require further stability.

bottoms up kettlebell press


Cable Face Pulls

Depending on how you perform this exercise, it can often be performed in such a way as to be counterintuitive to a stable, healthy shoulder. The key to performing this exercise is to create as much external rotation of the shoulder as possible.  The cable is positioned high to avoid the weight pulling the arms down and into internal rotation, and we lead the exercise with our thumbs pointing posteriorly, rather than leading with the elbows. This is great for challenging the external rotators of the shoulder, as well as the muscles that retract the scapula. Because of these benefits it is an excellent choice for reversing hunched posture.

Cable Face Pull





Written by:

Chris Meggyesy

Course Developer / Student Support Officer

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