Rotator Cuff Exercises


These rotator cuff exercises will help improve your strength for lifting, overhead movements and throwing.   Pick the 3-4 exercises that work best for you and practice them daily to every other day.  As a general rule, the higher you raise your arm overhead, the more challenging the exercise will be.

Try to match the form you see in the illustrations and increase your repetitions and / or resistance as the exercises become easier for you.   For an introductory routine, see my article on shoulder exercises.

*Please check with your health care provider before beginning any exercise program. 


#1  Shoulder Swings

Alternate swinging your arms in front of your body and stretching them back to the side. Switch the top arm each time (from left to right). Move through your full range of motion to stretch the chest and scapular muscles. Repeat 15 times. If you prefer, you can cross your arms in front of your chest to increase the stretch. You can combine this move with scapula circles to help boost your circulation and prepare your muscles for this routine of rotator cuff exercises.


#2 Chest Expansion

Close 2 light resistance bands into the top or upper 1/3 of a door. (Tie a knot in 1 end of the band, put the knot outside the door, and then close and lock the door so the band is secure and the door won't come open during the exercise!) 

Next, grab the ends of the band or tubing and face the door frame. Keep your elbows straight and palms facing down as shown. Step far enough away from the door so that you feel some resistance in the band. 

Then pull your arms back against the resistance of the band or tubing. As you pull your arms back, expand your chest and maintain good posture. Also, keep your arms 12 inches (or further) away from your sides as you stretch back Adjust the level of resistance to moderate by stepping closer to or further from the door during the exercise. Repeat up to 25 times.


#3 Shoulder Rotation 2

Anchor a light resistance band into a door. (Tie a knot in 1 end of the band, put the knot outside the door, and then close and lock the door so the band is secure and the door won't come open during the exercise!) 

Next, grab the end of the band or tubing and turn so that your side is facing the door frame. Bend your elbow 90 degrees. Step far enough away from the door so that you feel some resistance in the band. Turn your arm inward across your body as shown for the starting position. 

Then turn your arm outward against the resistance of the band or tubing as shown. Adjust the level of resistance by stepping closer to or further from the door during the exercise. Repeat up to 25 times. 

After your rotator cuff exercises, complete your workout with stretching.  Try this routine.


#4 Shoulder Circles

With your arms out to the side and elbows straight, slowly roll your arms forward, down, back and up as shown. Stand tall with your chest out and keep your arms long to maintain good posture. Repeat 12-15 times and then reverse directions. Note: with slow movement and light weights in your hands, this can become one of the more challenging rotator cuff exercises. Start with 1/2 to 1# weights at first.


#5 Incline Press

Wrap a medium resistance band (tubing tends to roll up your back so use a band) around your back and stand in a partial lunge position as shown. 

Next, grab the ends of the band or tubing and take the slack out of the band (gather it up in your hands) so that you feel some resistance in the band. 

Then pull your elbows back so that your hands are in line with your chest as shown. Maintain good posture as you press the band up at an angle until your elbows are straight. Adjust the level of resistance in the band as needed. Repeat up to 20 times.


#6 The 'Y' Raise

Kneel in front of a stability ball and then lean your weight over the ball. Rest your arms off to the side as shown. Slowly raise your arms so that they are fully overhead but about 9-12 inches away from your ears. Keep your elbows straight and your thumbs pointing up. Slowly return to the start position. Repeat up to 25 times. Use light weights, starting with 1-2# (can of beans) to increase the challenge.  If you find this exercise especially helpful, you can add  the 'T' raise to your routine. If you feel discomfort with this exercise, try limiting the motion or substituting the 'T' raise for now.

*For easier rotator cuff exercises, see my shoulder exercises article.


#7 The Sword

Stand on one end of a light to medium resistance band / tube, then step into a side lunge position as shown with your knees pointing out. (You can also do this exercise in a front lunge or just standing.)

Next, take the slack out of the band (gather it up in your hands) so that you feel some resistance in the starting position: hand above your opposite hip. 

Then maintain good posture as you press the band up in a diagonal until your elbow are straight. Keep the band in a straight line (close to your body) on the way up and down. Adjust the level of resistance in the band as needed. Repeat up to 20 times.


Return from rotator cuff exercises to physical therapy exercises.

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Shoulder exercises 
Isometric and resistance band exercises.



Shoulder stretching exercises
Convenient upper body routine relieves muscular tension







Knee exercises 
Isometric, range of motion, and strengthening exercises.