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Rotator cuff exercises and the rotator cuff muscles in general, are some of the most misunderstood in the body. In this video, I am going to show you the top 5 myths when it comes to the rotator cuff and the exercises that you are or are not doing for it right now. As a physical therapist for pro athletes, I can definitely vouch for the importance of the cuff. That said, I feel it is the most overlooked area when it comes to training and this must be changed.
To begin with, many people mistake the rotator cuff for a single muscle. It is not. In fact, the cuff is made up of 4 muscles. Three of these externally rotate the shoulder while the last internally rotates the shoulder. This is important because most of our training is devoid of exercises that properly externally rotate the shoulder and the imbalance that results is leaning to a lot of shoulder injuries.
The second myth is that you need to train the entire rotator cuff. This is not true. Based on what I just said, the internal rotation function of the shoulder is more than adequately handled by the contributions of the lats and pecs to internally rotating the joint. Throw in more direct rotation exercises and you are just furthering the imbalance that already exists and is causing your shoulder to be disfunctional in the first place. That said, you would ignore the subscapularis directly and instead let it get trained via the movements that are internally rotating your shoulder.
The third biggest myth is that you need to do the empty can exercise if you want to target the supraspinatus the best. That is not true, or at least practical or safe. Why? Because while the EMG studies may point in the direction of the exercise being very active for the supraspinatus, it doesn’t mean that the position you are doing it from is a safe one for your shoulder joint. In this case, I strongly recommend opting out of the exercise and instead just flipping your hands over and performing a scaption exercise.
Next, people will make a mistake and say that you don’t have to train the rotator cuff directly since it gets all the work it needs from your regular workouts. This is simply not true. If you consider the few exercises that actually externally rotate the shoulder, they do so with a large and more dominating contribution from the deltoids. When the delts kick in the rotator cuff muscles are much less prominently involved and wind up playing second fiddle to the bigger stronger muscles.
Finally, using the same weight on all rotator cuff exercises is a common mistake and one that is not advisable, particularly if you are trying to build strength in this muscle group over time. Progressive overload will dictate that you need to lift heavy enough weights to challenge your muscles. This includes the rotator cuff. That said, the difference may be small (since the overall weights you are using will be small for the cuff).
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