By Susan Manning
Small Muscles Doing Big Things
Everything we do with our upper body, lifting, pushing, pulling requires us to use a group of four small muscles that surround our shoulder joint often referred to as your Rotator Cuff muscles. Specifically they are the Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres minor and Subscapularis or also known as your SITS muscles. These muscles stabilize your shoulder joint and hold the bone (humerus) in place.
As we age these muscles can become weaker and not do their job properly. For example, if the rotator cuff (specifically the supraspinatus) is weak when we lift our arm out to the side the upper trapezius kicks in and we end up shoulder shrugging as the arm comes up.
There are specific exercises for these muscles that we can do which will not only strengthen the rotator cuff but overall shoulder movement. Following are some rotator cuff exercises along with a couple of overall shoulder exercises which will give you the strength you need to perform your daily tasks and more!
Start by warming up the shoulder joints by doing some arm swings front to back and arm raises to the sides, about 10 of each. Then perform 8 – 12 repetitions of each exercise.
Rotator Cuff Exercises
Equipment needed: Resistance Band
Time Estimate: 15 Minutes including warm-up
Internal Shoulder Rotation
Directions: Keep your elbow tucked into your side and hold the resistance band in one hand. Pull the band across your body. Slowly return to starting position. Perform the exercise 8-12 times on both arms.
The key is to keep your elbow tucked into your side. You can put a towel under your elbow and hold it there to ensure that you don’t pull the elbow away from your side. The body always tries to cheat and find an easier way to do things by having the larger muscles kick in to do the work.
External Shoulder Rotation
Directions: Cross your arm over your stomach and hold the resistance tubing. Pull the band across your stomach and to your side. Return to starting position.
Side Raise 0 to 60 degrees
This is a small movement but focuses on the Supraspinatus Rotator Cuff muscle. As you lift higher the larger shoulder muscle (deltoid) takes over.
Side Raise to 90 degrees
This time we want to incorporate the Shoulder muscle (Deltoid) so we will take it up to 90 degrees.
This exercise focuses on the front of the Shoulder muscle (anterior deltoid).
This exercise focuses on the back of the Shoulder muscle (posterior deltoid).
Small muscles that are doing big things for us. Enjoy!
About the Author: Susan Manning is a BCRPA TFL, ACE, ACSM, TWIST certified Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist in BC. She is Dr. Carolyn Anderson’s co-author of It’s Never Too Late To Be Fit, a comprehensive guide for older adult’s fitness.