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8 External Rotation Exercises for the Shoulder

8 External Rotation Exercises for the Shoulder

Rotator cuff strengthening is increasingly important as you age. The vascularity to the rotator cuff muscles decreases over time and it can cause significant loss of muscle tissue and shoulder function. These external rotation exercises for the shoulder focus on the infraspinatus and teres minor of the rotation cuff group.

Both internal and external rotation exercises for the shoulder should be done prior to any chest or shoulder workouts. It’s essential to warm up and activate these smaller rotator cuff muscles to prevent shoulder instability.

As with all workouts, make sure you release tension in the muscles that surround the shoulder joint. This includes the traps, deltoids, rotator cuff muscles, triceps and biceps. You can use a theracane or lacrosse ball for tension release.

infraspinatus
Infraspinatus
Teres Minor

It’s not shown in these exercises, but I suggest rolling up a small towel and placing it between your elbow and torso when performing some of these exercises. Doing that will help you keep your elbow from straying too far from your torso. Furthermore, if your elbow is completely locked on to your torso you could end up cutting off the blood supply to your rotator cuff muscles, which would be counterproductive.

 

Horizontal External Rotation

Use a comfortable amount of weight, hold your arms at shoulder level and keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees as you rotate your shoulders posteriorly.

Be careful with this exercise. If you have seen my post about shoulder impingement you will know that this level of lateral shoulder movement may cause pain if you have mild to moderate impingement. With that being said, avoid this exercise if you feel any pain.


 

Side Lying External Rotation

Using a bench, lay on your side with your top arm bent at 90 degrees. Proceed to externally rotate your shoulder, as far as you comfortably can without letting your elbow pull away from your side.

 


Dumbbell External Rotation

Keep a bit of distance between the torso and elbow. If you’re a beginner, definitely use a towel between your elbow and torso if available. Keep your shoulder relaxed, do not let your shoulder creep up towards your ear.


 

Banded External Rotation

I like this exercise because it can be done at home. All you need is a resistance band!

 


Rapid Fire External Rotation

A good variation to the external rotation exercises for the shoulder. Rapid fire external rotations are a good way to quickly activate and wake up the rotator cuff muscles.


Iso Hold for External Rotators

This exercise will force several muscle fibers to activate while resisting the force of the band. It’s a good alternative to those whom have limited shoulder range of motion.


 

Cable External Rotation

Again, I would use a towel between the elbow and torso for this exercise. Same concept as the dumbbell except it’s with a cable.


Banded Double Arm External Rotation

You’ve probably already seen this one in a different post, but I threw it in there anyway because it’s a good one. Double arm external rotation with a resistance band. Not only can you see the rotator cuff muscles activating, but the traps, rear deltoids and rhomboids are getting some work as well.


 

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