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Looking for feedback: I realised (for reasons described below) that I and my students probably had quite weak rotator cuff muscles. There are a lot of stretches for the rotator cuff in the ST program, and we all know the strengthening exercises that use small weights, resistance bands, and walls. But I didnt want to use weights or resistance bands in the class (we dont have them), and the walls arent available for use. I wanted to use just the floor and body weight. Also, many of my students are elderly and some have long-standing injuries to a shoulder, so I wanted my exercises to be (1) safe, (2) easily able to be done in the mildest form, possibly progressing to stronger, with the natural starting point being the mildest form, and (3) done on one side only for those who dont want to use both shoulders. I’ve tried the exercises below a few times with my students – I cant say they actually like them, but they are getting an effect.

The first photo shows 3 panels for external rotation of the shoulder. The elbow is close in to the waist, the wrist is pushed into the floor using the shoulder muscles, and this rotates the body away from the arm. In the first one the knees are bent, and some of the body weight is taken on the legs, so the force on the shoulder is very mild indeed. In the second one the legs are straight, and if we start with the body rolled a bit towards the bent arm, there is a bit more force needed to lift the body and rotate it away from the bent arm. If the leg is taken across the body (3rd panel) more force is needed to rotate the body and this is the strongest position for activating the externally rotating cuff muscles.


In the second photo (below) for internal rotation at the shoulder, the elbow is in close to the waist, and the wrist is pushed into the mat using the shoulder muscles. Again the legs can be straight (mildest) or the leg of the same side out to the side (strongest).


The third photos (below) shows one targeting the infraspinatus and supraspinatus (confirmed by palpating). It is the same as the starting position for pushing up into a gymnastics bridge (yoga wheel). The shoulders as lifted off the ground by 1 cm or so. Many students find it impossible to move even this much, and just tense up the muscles. If can be done in a milder form with one arm at a time, in which case the body just rolls away from that side.


This third exercise is what suggested to me that our rotator cuff muscles might be weak. I and my students who push up into a bridge find we lose strength in the starting position quite rapidly, and we need to strengthen even to start to lift off the ground (once off the ground a bit, the angle changes, and the arms can push – i.e. extend – instead to lift the body, and it gets much easier).

The problems I found were (1) we had to be sure that the elbow was really as close into the side as possible – otherwise the arm muscles can push to make the movement. This needed close attention because the students seemed reluctant to do this. (2) One student who has a very slight figure did not feel anything (maybe because she is so light) until her leg was across in the strongest position. (3) One male who has a stocky muscular torso couldnt get his elbow in close enough, and I’m not sure he could get his arm in the right position so as to avoid pushing with his arm muscles to make the movement. Otherwise they all found that they had been activating the muscles. I didnt want to make it too strong, because of their age, and I thought it better to do a little rather than nothing.

I’d appreciate if anyone has any feedback on this.

Many thanks,


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21 hours ago, Jim Pickles said:

And if anyone who has more access to the controls than I do can fix the line spacing (the text was pasted from a LibreOffice document) I'd appreciate it.

Hi Jim,

I removed the text formatting in your post and resized the pictures (they can still be clicked to see the full-size image). I also added the "Remove Format" button to the toolbar in the editor so that people can remove their own formatting in the future. Thanks for pointing that out!

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