The muscles of shoulder that make up the rotator cuff include the supraspinatus, the infraspinatus, the subscapularis and the teres minor. Many different tendons and ligaments surround the shoulder, making rotator cuff injuries relatively common. The push-up is a popular exercise that puts a lot of pressure on the rotator cuffs and may lead to injury. If you experience shoulder pain when performing push-ups, stop immediately. Alternative exercises can provide similar training benefits while strengthening your rotator cuffs.
To perform a wall push-up, stand 3 to 4 feet from a wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Lean forward to place your palms on the wall, slightly wider than shoulder-width. Focus on contracting your shoulder blades as you slowly bend your elbows to lean your body into the wall. Exhale as you straighten your arms, contracting your pecs to return to the starting position. Be sure to maintain a straight torso and legs throughout the movement.
Lateral dumbbell raises are great for building your delts. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart while holding a dumbbell in each hand. Your palms should be facing your body. Keep your head neutral and torso straight. Exhale and raise your arms out to your side until they are parallel with the floor. Inhale as you lower the weights to return to the starting position. This exercise should be performed with light weights to avoid placing too much torque on the rotator cuffs. Move in slow, controlled movements and avoid jerking your arms during the contraction. If your movements are not slow and controlled, you are likely using too much weight.
Shoulder Blade Squeeze
The shoulder blade squeeze is a simple exercise to increase scupular stabilization. Sit upright in a chair with your arms at your side. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull your shoulders back. Hold the position for 10 seconds before releasing and returning to the starting position.
Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
Hold a dumbbell in each hand while standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend forward at the waist, allowing your arms to dangle in front of you. Hold the dumbbells parallel to the ground with your palms facing your body. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together as you bend your elbows 90-degrees and pull your arms back. Slowly straighten your arms to lower the weight back to the starting position.
Always consult a physician when beginning an exercise program. Ask a professional if you are unsure about how to perform an exercise. If you are experiencing continued shoulder pain, see a doctor to make sure you haven't developed a serious injury.
- Medline Plus: Rotator Cuff Exercises
- Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America; Shoulder Impingement Syndrome; Wing K. Chang, MD
- Bodybuilding.com: Don't Let a Rotator Cuff Injury Stop You
- Closed Kinetic Chain Exercise: A Comprehensive Guide to Multiple Joint Exercise; Todd S. Ellenbecker & George J. Davies
- Rotator Cuff Deficient of the Shoulder; Mark A. Frankle
Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.