The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder that hold the upper arm bone into the shoulder socket, providing effective movement and function.

As a result of shoulder trauma like a fall, or repetitive wear and tear, the rotator cuff can become inflamed. The local inflammation can cause pain and loss of function and range of motion in the shoulder. The pain can make it difficult to reach your arm overhead or behind your back and can disturb your sleep. 

Rotator cuff injuries are more common as we age and with certain professions that require excessive overhead lifting such as painters or sports that involve throwing like baseball or tennis. 

If you have shoulder pain and weakness, you should consult with your physician. Once diagnosed with a rotator cuff tear or injury, your physician can prescribe the correct treatment based on your condition which may include physical therapy, pain relief injections, and/or surgery. 

If you would like to strengthen the weak components of the rotator cuff muscles to help prevent pain, injury and tears, add some of the following exercises into your weekly program.

Strengthen Rotator Cuff Muscles

Focus on lighter resistance and higher repetitions for this group of muscles and build up to 3 sets. 

 Floor Press

To perform a floor press, lie on your back.

Extend your arms to the side with your palms facing up, keeping your shoulder joint in neutral position. 

Contract your abdominal muscles. 

Press the back of your arm/hand into the floor, squeezing your shoulder blades together slightly and hold for 2 seconds. 


Raise your arms about 4 inches and repeat. 

Continue raising your arms to various positions, pressing into the floor.

Perform this exercise approx. 15-20x total at various angles. 

You can also perform this exercise standing with your arms against a wall.

Prone Retraction and Arm Lifts

Lie on your stomach, stretch your arms straight out to the side. 

Turn your thumbs up to the ceiling and then slowly lift your arms upwards. 

Concentrate on pulling your shoulder blades together as you lift your arms straight up towards the ceiling/sky.

Do 15-20 reps.

“Hands Up!”

Wrap a tube around a pole and hold the handle in each hand. 

Start with your arms outstretched in front of your body with your palms down. 

Then slowly lift your arms backwards until they finish in the “Hands up!” position. 

Do 15-20 reps.  

External Rotation

Anchor tubing around a pole at waist height.

Stand sideways to the pole and hold the tube handle in your furthest arm.

Position your elbow at your side and bend it to 90 degrees.

Keep your upper arm at your side and slowly rotate your forearm away from your body.

Complete 15-20 reps each arm.

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan

Sherri McMillan, holds a master's degree in exercise physiology and has been inspiring the world to adopt a fitness lifestyle for more than 33 years. She has received numerous industry awards including 2010 CanFitPro International Presenter of the Year, 2006 IDEA Fitness Director of the Year, 1998 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 1998 CanFitPro Fitness Presenter of the Year and 2005/2006 ACE Fitness Educator of the Year - Runner up. She is a fitness trainer, fitness columnist for various magazines and newspapers, author of five books and manuals including "Go For Fit - the Winning Way to Fat Loss" and "Fit over Forty" and the featured presenter in various fitness DVDs. She has presented hundreds of workshops to thousands of fitness leaders throughout Canada, Australia, Mexico, Jamaica, New Zealand, Germany, England, Spain, South America, Asia and the U.S. She is the owner of Northwest Personal Training in downtown Vancouver, the founder of WHY Racing Events & WHY Community, participates in various community fundraisers and can be found running, biking, or hiking around the community. Find more information at

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