Welcome back to this week’s edition of 2-Minute Tuesdays. This week we are talking about the rotator cuff. This group of muscles is often blamed for being too weak, leading to a multitude of other shoulder issues. There may be other areas of the body that are contributing factors, though, such as the trunk and the hips, so we want to discuss exercise tips for working these areas if you have a rotator cuff issue.
Rotator cuff issues can often be influenced by how well the scapula (your shoulder blade) can move on your trunk or rib cage. Because of this, trunk proper trunk position and function of the utmost importance if you want to be able to make sure your rotator cuff muscles stay healthy.
Additionally, your hips have a strong influence over the health and function of your trunk, so keeping them working well can lead to big improvements in shoulder issues.
1) Trunk Extension
The first non-shoulder exercise to consider adding in if you are having rotator cuff issues is trunk extension. When your trunk is too flexed forward or kyphotic, your shoulder blade will have more difficulty moving on your trunk. This can lead to impingement of the shoulder, especially when doing overhead motions. Consider adding in trunk extension exercises to strengthen the muscles on the back of your trunk to help keep your posture more upright!
Action Step: Utilize a bolster or pad under your hips and abdomen to perform trunk extension, or take advantage of a back extension machine or bench. All of these are great tools to help strengthen your spinal erector muscles, which can help improve your posture and decrease stress on your rotator cuff muscles.
Related: What is rotator cuff disease?
2) Trunk Side Bend
The second non-shoulder exercise to consider adding in if you are having rotator cuff issues is trunk side bend. Improving the function of your side bender muscles may aid in your scapula’s ability to upwardly rotate or shrug. The inability to upwardly rotate the scapula is often a big contributor to rotator cuff issues, so supporting this motion with specific trunk work may be beneficial.
Action Step: This exercise can be done in a variety of ways, but one of the easies is by holding a dumbbell in one hand and lowering your body away from the dumbbell, then squeezing through your sides to raise your body back to vertical. Give it a shot!
Related: The Magic Muscle Myth
3) Hip Extension
The third non-shoulder exercise to consider adding in if you are having rotator cuff issues is hip extension. Without question, your hips help to support your trunk. The stronger the muscles of your hips are, the better-supported your trunk can be. Adding in exercises for your hips, such as hip extension, can help to strengthen the muscles of your hips and allow both your hips and trunk to function better overall.
Action Step: Do not neglect your hips even if you are having a shoulder issue! Make sure to do hip-specific exercises such as hip extension (demonstrated in this week’s 2-Minute Tuesdays video), as well as hip flexion, hip abduction, hip adduction, and even hip rotation.