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Using Your Rotator Cuff for Stable Strong Shoulders

Posted on July 5, 2019

Get more out of your shoulders by keeping your rotator cuff activated when you train.

Everyone wants strong rotator cuff muscles, but do we all understand WHY?

Applied Anatomy of Aerial Arts

Your rotator cuff is a group of muscles that stabilize your shoulder joint. That is their primary role (or roll if you are feeling pun-y). So, as you pick up weight or move your arms overhead or behind you, your rotator cuff is working hard to support your shoulder joint. In the process, the cuff adds a bit of internal or external rotation, but mainly it is working on stabilizing not rotating. (If you are interested in the anatomy and mechanics of how this works with movement check out my book. Otherwise keep reading….)

When your cuff isn’t working well the thing you will notice is that your shoulder will not feel as strong.

Since your cuff is does most of its work as a stabilizer, HOW do you get it to help you in your circus skills? Working on your internal and external rotation will only get you so far. You need to train the muscles in the way you are using them. So, try activities that make your rotator cuff work throughout your range and in your skills.

Try this trick to facilitate more activation of those deep stabilizers (especially if you are having trouble with an overhead movement or have difficulty feeling your stretch more at your joint than in your muscles)

Place a resistance band around your wrists and gently press outward and you can increase the recruitment of your rotator cuff muscles. This stabilizes your shoulder joint allowing you to more effectively work the larger muscles around the shoulder in a stretch or even in a handstand.

Use a resistance band with a stretch or skill to increase the recruitment of the rotator cuff

For even more support, rotate your arms into external rotation (think palms turning back or elbow points rotating forward)

Left: without support, limited range and painful.
Right: with band and external rotation, increased range and almost pain-free

Want to see how you can improve your performance of one of the most common rotate cuff exercises? Check out this post

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