Accelerate Physical Therapy

Rotator Cuff Strengthening – Overhead Athletes take Note!

When it comes to athletes, strength training is vital for optimum performance, as well as maintaining a body healthy enough to compete safely. And, overhead athletes, such as pitchers, swimmers, or volleyball players have their own core strength training to follow, in addition to overall strength training.

Zeroing in on one area in particular, the rotator cuff is a focal point to work on for anyone frequently using overhead motion. And, that can be true for non-athletes as well. If your job demands a lot of overhead movement, this could significantly improve your work environment and production.

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons, which aid in stabilizing the shoulder, raising the arm, and rotating the arm outwardly from the body. When any of these tendons or muscles weakens, it drastically increases the risk of injury. And rehab for a rotator cuff can be very painful.

So, let’s take a look at a few exercises that can help.

Strengthening the Rotator Cuff

Physical therapy and conditioning is an essential part in preventing injury, as well as speeding up the rehabilitation process if injury occurs. Optimum health and wellness for an athlete is making sure the body is properly trained and conditioned before, during, and after activity.

A physical therapist can help in recovery from injury, but also reduce the risk of injury in the first place by guiding the athlete in improving flexibility and strength. Take a look at a few examples of exercises that can help strengthen and protect the rotator cuff:

Exercise #1:

  • Lie face down on a bed, table, or floor
  • Arm out, bend the elbow at a 90 degree angle, with the top of the hand facing down
  • With the elbow still bent, raise the hand slowly until it is at the shoulder level
  • Slowly lower the hand back down
  • Repeat these steps 12 times, then repeat with the other arm

Exercise #2:

  • On a table, bed or floor, lie on your right side
  • Keep the upper arm next to your side, elbow at 90 degrees
  • With the forearm resting across the chest, keep your palm side towards the body
  • Rotate the shoulder outward, lifting the forearm off the body until level with the shoulder
  • Lower it back down slowly
  • Repeat these steps 12 times, then repeat on the left side

Exercise (with a dumbbell) #3:

  • Stand upright
  • With a dumbbell in hand, place it palm side down on the opposite thigh or hip
  • Do not bend the arm, and lift it slowly across the body to straight above the shoulder
  • Without bending the arm again, lower it back down slowly to the original starting position
  • Repeat these steps 12 times, then repeat the process on the other arm 

Exercise (with a ball) #4

  • Stand upright
  • Hold the ball with both hands, arms out in front
  • Bend the arms slightly at the elbow through the entire process
  • Moving from the shoulders, “draw” the alphabet in the air with full motion
  • Stay below the head, and above the waist with each movement

Keep in mind, stretching the rotator cuff each day can aid in strengthening the shoulders as well as in helping to prevent future injuries.

The Total Package

It’s not just a matter of top performance, but as mentioned above… to help prevent injury, or strengthen again after an injury. And, in order to do that, the entire body has to be in prime condition. Contrary to what many people might believe, it takes far more than your arm and shoulder to contribute in successfully throwing a ball.

The wrist, elbow, and even the legs and trunk also play a significant role in each planned movement when it comes to athletics. In fact, the core trunk area and legs are relied upon in overhead actions by athletes. For example, imagine pushing off the mound as a pitcher with a sprained ankle.

Other parts of the body are often taken for granted in overhead motion, until something is not in full working condition. In addition, it will also lead to other parts of the body being overused and possibly injured as well. So, it’s important to not ignore the body in whole when it comes to exercise and stretching.

Consider seeking out professional advice in which exercises and stretches would be most beneficial for your individual needs. A Physical Therapist would be able to help you determine what is best for you.