Are Dumbbell Rows Bad for Injured Rotator Cuffs?

Dumbbell rows may help strengthen your rotator cuffs.
i Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

Almost two million people suffered from rotator cuff problems in the U.S. In 2008, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. If you have injured rotator cuffs, it is essential you perform your strength-training exercises with correct technique, while avoiding those that may hurt your shoulders and worsen your injuries. Exercises that may hurt your rotator cuffs include lat pulldowns behind the head, and upright rows. However, there is no indication that properly performed dumbbell rows will hurt your rotator cuffs.


    The shoulder is often referred to as the most complex joint in the human body. It is made up of three bones: the humerus, or upper-arm bone; the scapula, or shoulder blade; and the clavicle, or collar bone. Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint, with the end, or ball of the humerus fitting into a socket in your scapula. Your humerus is kept in the socket by a network of four muscles and tendons known as the rotator cuff. Your rotator cuff helps lift and rotate your arm.

Rotator Cuff Injuries

    Rotator cuff injuries stem from a variety of causes, according to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. These include acute tears from falling on an outstretched arm or lifting a very heavy object with a jerky motion. However, most problems are caused by degeneration as your rotator cuff tendon wears down over time. This can be caused by repeating the same shoulder motion over time while performing racket sports such as tennis, or activities such as rowing or weight lifting. Poor blood supply to the tendons as you get older may also contribute to the problem.

Dumbbell Rows

    You can perform dumbbell rows in a variety of ways. For example, you may place one knee and hand on a bench, and perform single-arm rows with your torso parallel to the floor. Alternatively, you may grasp a pair of dumbbells, hinge forward from the hips, row both dumbbells upward to just below your chest with your back straight and torso parallel to the floor. If you want to avoid any possible stress on your lower back, perform the exercise lying face-down on an inclined bench or a stability ball.

Strengthening Rotator Cuffs

    Performing chest presses, bench flyes and dumbbell presses will strengthen your shoulders and build lean muscle tissue in your chest and anterior deltoids, but you should be wary of neglecting your rear deltoids and upper back muscles. Such neglect could cause muscle imbalances that weaken your rotator cuffs and pain. Dumbbell rows strengthen your rotator cuffs, work your rear deltoids and upper-back muscles and help address any imbalances.

Risky Exercises

    Exercises that cause excessive internal or external rotation of your shoulders may hurt your rotator cuffs, notes These include close-grip upright rows, which cause you to internally rotate or pull your shoulders toward the midline of your body, lat pulldowns behind the head, or press-behind-neck barbell presses that externally rotate or pull your shoulders away from the mid-line of your body. Don't do these exercises if you have a rotator cuff injury.

the nest