10 Best Rotator Cuff Exercises for Strengthening – Ask Doctor Jo

10 Best Rotator Cuff Exercises for Strengthening – Ask Doctor Jo

Hey everybody it’s Doctor Jo and Kail, and
today we’re going to show you the top ten exercises for the rotator cuff. so
let’s get started. So these top ten exercises are my
favorite top ten. it’s not any kind of research base, it’s just the ones that I
found work best for me and my patients. so the rotator cuff is those four main
muscles. SITS. so it’s supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and
subscapularis. however there’s a whole bunch of muscles that attach to the
scapula and it’s like 20-ish muscles, so it’s a lot. so when you think of
strengthening the rotator cuff in general, you really are going to be
strengthening all those muscles because you want that shoulder blade, that
scapula, to be working correctly and that helps if you have an injury it helps fix
all those imbalances. so if there’s one muscle that’s messing it up it can
affect that whole shoulder blade, so some of these strengthening exercises might
not be specifically for the rotator cuff, but it’s really for those muscles that
are all around it which really affect it. so we’re gonna start off with a pendulum
exercise. this can sometimes be a stretch or an exercise. I like to add in holding
on to a weight which does make it an exercise so it’s really good to start
off with the pendulums. it opens up that shoulder joint and it really just starts
getting those muscles loosened up and relaxed and warmed up for the other
exercises. so let’s check that out. for pendulum circles with a weight, lean
over on something sturdy like a chair, counter top, put the weight in the hand
that you want to exercise and just let it relax. move your whole body in a
circular motion. for pendulums front to back with a
weight, lean over on something sturdy like a chair, counter top ,put the
opposite leg forward and the closest one back. put the weight in the hand you want
to exercise and just let it relax and then shift front to back. for pendulum side-to-side with a weight,
lean over on something sturdy like a chair or countertop. put the weight in
the hand that you want to exercise and just let it relax. move your body side to
side. so exercise number two is going to be an
isometric internal rotation of the shoulder. so this starts getting that
rotator cuff. these isometric exercises are when you’re activating the muscle,
but you’re not actually moving the muscle, and this is important because
especially if you’ve had a surgery or a specific injury where you may be not
supposed to be doing the whole movement, then this is a way to start
strengthening the muscle without breaking the precautions. or maybe you’re
allowed to do the movement but it’s just too painful right now.
so the isometrics is a great way to start off doing that. so let’s see it for
internal rotation. for shoulder internal rotation isometrics, put your elbow by
your side and about a 90 degree angle. the motion you’re going to be doing is
this motion, but you’re going to take your other hand and push into the hand. number three. so now it’s going to be an
isometric external rotation. so same kind of concept with that isometric where
you’re activating the muscle, but you’re not really moving it. so if you have
those precautions or if you have a lot of pain with the movement, this is going
to start help strengthening those muscles without really irritating them
more. so let’s take a look at that. for shoulder external rotation isometrics,
put your elbow by your side with your arm bent to about 90 degrees. the motion
you’re going to be doing is going out this way,
but you’re going to take your other hand to block it. so you’re pushing into your
hand and then relaxing. number four. now we’re going to move into
shoulder internal rotation with a weight. so now you’re going to start that
movement now you’re going to have the weight to get those muscles really
strengthening throughout the movement versus that isometric where you were
just doing it to activate the muscles. so we’re gonna do this one kind of lying on
our side. so let’s check it out. for shoulder internal rotation and side
lying with a weight, you can use a soup or vegetable can. the arm you’re going to be
moving is actually on the ground. put your elbow close to your side and have
your elbow at a ninety degree angle and then just bring it up and back down. number five. so now you’re going to do
the shoulder external rotation with a weight. so same kind of concept as an
internal rotation. you’re going to be on your side. you’re going to use a weight
it can just be a soup can or vegetable can, it doesn’t actually have to be a
weight. so let’s check that one out. for shoulder external rotation in sideline
with a weight, you can use a soup or vegetable can. the arm you’re going to be
working is on top. put your elbow right next to your side with your elbow bent
at 90 degrees. then with your arm parallel to the ground bring it in to
your side and come back up. number six. so this one’s going to be a
little bit of a series. it’s a couple exercises in a row but I like to just
count them as one because it’s working kind of the same area which is that
upper thoracic back area which again has a lot to do with all those muscles
attached to the shoulder blade or that scapula. so these are going to be Is,
Ts, Ys, and Ws. so let’s check those out. here your Is, Ts, Ws, and Ys.
for Is you’re gonna lie on your stomach put your arms straight out in
front of you with your thumbs up, and then just lift your arms a little bit
off the ground. For Ys, you’re going to lie on your
stomach put your arms straight out to the side with your thumbs up, and then
just lift them a little bit off the ground. for Ws, lie on your stomach. bend your
elbows into a W position with your palms facing down and then lift your arms up. for Ys, you’re going to lie on your
stomach put your arms out at an angle in a Y position with your thumbs up, and
then lift them up just little off the ground. number seven. one of my favorites is the
row. so when you do the rowing, you can use a resistive band and this really helps
not only open up the chest in the front but strengthen those muscles in the back
and it helps get the rotator cuff area. It helps get all those muscles around that
scapula. so let’s check it out. four seated rows with a resistive band,
take the band bending your knees up just a little bit. wrap it around your feet
for an anchor. with your thumbs up and your elbows by your side, pull back and
squeeze your shoulder blades. number eight, bear hugs. yes it’s exactly
how it sounds. you’re like going in to give somebody a bear hug. using a
resistive band for this is really great as well it’s kind of the opposite
movement of the rows. so now you’re strengthening those front muscles while
you’re stretching out the back muscles. so let’s check that out. for bear hugs
with a resistive band, take the band and wrap it around behind you. keep your
thumbs upwords, and then come out and around just like you’re giving someone a
bear hug. number nine, serratus punches. so the
serratus anterior muscle is the one that helps keep that shoulder blade close to
the ribcage and the spine in the back. so when it’s not working properly that
shoulder blade comes out into a winging, we call it a winged scapula, and that’s
really bad because that can cause a lot of dysfunction and that can cause a lot
of pain in the rotator cuff area up in the shoulder. so let’s check that one out.
for serratus punches with the resistive band, take the band and wrap it around
behind you. hold the band up on top with your thumbs up, and then straighten out
your arms. keep your elbows locked out and punch forward. so not bending those
elbows but bringing your shoulders forward. number ten, bicep curls. bicep curls? well
yes of course. again the bicep muscles aren’t a part of the rotator cuff, but
that long head of the bicep muscle the bicep tendon comes up in underneath that
supraspinatus muscles. so it’s really important to make sure you strengthen
this as well because they sit so close together. if one’s irritated, the other
one might get irritated as well. so let’s check that out. for standing bicep curls
with a weight, keep your elbow by your side. turn your palm up. bring it up and
then slowly come back down. so there you have it. those were your top
ten rotator cuff exercises. do you like those? yeah. remember those were my
favorite not necessarily any kind of scientific research to it. if you’d like
to help support my channel, make sure and click on the link up here to find out
how, and don’t forget to subscribe by clicking down here. and remember be safe,
have fun, and I hope you feel better soon.

Daniel Yohans

100 thoughts on “10 Best Rotator Cuff Exercises for Strengthening – Ask Doctor Jo

  1. AskDoctorJo says:

    Purchase a printable worksheet featuring the rotator cuff exercises in this video here: https://www.askdoctorjo.com/purchase-rotator-cuff-exercises-worksheet
    ⭐⭐ Leaving a Question or Comment? ⭐⭐
    If you want me to reply, make sure you hit the 🔴 SUBSCRIBE 🔴 button above first (if you haven’t already) because I always respond to my subscribers!

  2. Rod Palmer says:

    Hey Jo, Is it ok to use bands and stand up instead of a weight

  3. joan marie says:

    Dr Jo, if you're just beginning, are these safe to start with. I have weak shoulders and have shoulder impingement.
    Thanks. Joan🤷

  4. Pat connell says:

    I would like a printable worksheet for rotator cuff please

  5. Autumn R Nightsky says:

    I am so happy I came across your video..I am 7 months post op on my left shoulder replacement, and majority or these exercises I have done during pt. I'm trying to get over that hurdle of raising my arm and going behind my back.

  6. poojari vari venkatesh says:

    I'm 27.i have rotator cuff tear problem.can I go for gym,can I do push-ups..


    G’day from Australia 🇦🇺

    I’ve been doing the exercises you demonstrated in the video and found them very helpful

    After a few gentle sessions, without knowing reps and hold times, the pain in my shoulder is not as intense.

    I’ve been to chiropractor and have been doing some exercises that helped a little…but not leaving me pain free.

    I was starting to get into the habit of taking strong pain medication….NOT GOOD

    Found your videos and really feel better

    I’ll put in the work

    I’ve ordered the work sheet and will make the exercises part of my life

    Thanks 🙏


  8. NICA Physical Therapy Sport & Rehab says:

    Great explanation doc

  9. Joe Broke says:

    so after I had my Abscess extracted out from my armpit, I wore an arm-sling for almost 3 weeks so that my wound heals properly… after I decided not to use an arm sling anymore, I couldn’t move my arm the same way as I did before wearing a sling… whenever I try to reach something or extend my arm it hurts… outside and inside, I feel like a nerve is being torn inside… is this a rotator cuff? please do respond

  10. Vegan Runner says:

    You are the sun for many people. Thank you! <3

  11. nate68148 says:

    Thanks Dr Katee Sackhoff!

  12. MATT GALLEGOS says:

    Hi Dr Jo
    I am trying the side lying external rotation. I feel it burning on the outside of the shoulder, not really where the rotator cuff is. Is this normal?

  13. Ricky Wong says:

    Dr Jo,
    I am having shoulder tendon injury. Recovering and not serious now. Are those exercises meant for those still having injury or have fully recovered?

  14. David Lingner says:

    How about using bands instead of weights

  15. Mark Brandon says:

    I'm a beginner. I'm not sure how many times to do each exercise.

  16. tsering dolker says:

    Your exercise is very helpful for shoulder thanks 💕🙏🙏

  17. David N says:

    When you said "Use super vegetable cans" which super vegetables do you recommend? JK. Thanks for the vid. Very helpful. Ear ruffle to Callie.

  18. jj says:

    amazing. thank you so much

  19. jrh jrh says:

    Thank you. Looking forward starting these exercise..

  20. tx pap says:

    thank you so much for sharing!! my rotator cuff is irritated. at the gym now doing your exercises. thank you for making life better for me

  21. King Puncake says:

    So i injured both my shoulders boxing, i just threw my first few punches and shoulders started to sting. If i did these exercise it would prevent these next time?

  22. Michael Kirk says:

    Ok so I play baseball and I use my arm a lot and whenever i extend my arm and do a really big arm circle it clicks, and every now and then I will feel pain in my shoulder. Whats wrong and how can I fix it?

  23. MATT GALLEGOS says:

    Hi Dr. Jo
    I'm having trouble with external rotation. Any time I do external rotation for the rotator cuff or something else that puts my shoulders in an externally rotated position such as barbell squats or a chest doorway stretch my shoulders ache afterwards sometimes into the next day. Any ideas? Thank you for your great videos!

  24. louisphily1 says:

    Great video! I have a question, what muscle does the "bear hug" exercise strengthen?

  25. Vignesh Nchezhian says:

    Each movements should be done how many times ? And how long to hold each movement ?

  26. Philothea75 says:

    Very useful. I wasn't aware of this important muscle region until watching strongman. A former BB!? Fortunately due to being a yoga practitioner & light weight training ive being looking after the region. Great teaching & I'll be adding these exercises to my work out. Great video

  27. Ruth Tillie says:

    How often should the exercises be done? And should all 10 be done on the same day? And how many of each exercise should be done?

  28. Tim says:

    Follow up: early in the year, when I slipped on the ice. My shoulder was in bad shape. I was afraid for my job,etc..

    Well, after following your videos. I'm about %98 to %99 better. Saved me hundreds of dollars,and my career.

  29. Vincent Cheval says:

    Very helpful! Thanks for taking the time to make this!

  30. kawika dav says:

    Hi Dr Jo, is it better to use my electro stem machine or ultra sound on my rotator cuff injury?

  31. Larry Borshard says:

    Thanks, Doc! Great synopsis of fave RC/shoulder exercises. Looking forward to trying them for my one year extensive repair on right, nerve damage on left. Did I miss suggested reps, sets, hold times? Instead of 90-degrees for int and ext rotation, what do you think of my PT's direction to do 60-degrees at elbow and shoulder- rolled up towel under the arm?

  32. Cody Irwin says:

    Cali is the name of my dog as well…

  33. Rex Parrish says:

    I'm having rotator cuff surgery on the 30th of October. I have a complete tear of the supraspinatus and bones spurs. The procedure will be done using Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair Using SCOI Row Technique (reattaching the torn tendon by securing it to one or more anchors embedded into the shoulder bone). I am also having bone spurs removed during this same procedure. I know that it is critical not to do anything stupid concerning rehab as I do not wish to tear the tendon away from the anchor(s). I have read that a rotator cuff repair can heal in 2 to 4 weeks after surgery, but a full recovery can take up to 6 months. I know that physical therapy is in two phases. Phase 1 is to regain motion (normally 6 weeks) and Phase 2 to rebuild strength (again normally 6 weeks). Doctor Jo, I followed your excises when I had a severe knee pain and within a short time, my pain was gone and my quality of life was restored. What's your advice to me on using your video on Rotator Cuff Recovery? I believe that I should rely solely on the instructions of my physical therapist for the Phase 1 and Phase 2. I want to use your video as well. Here's the question…..when can I safely start doing the exercises in your video as part of my recovery?

  34. Александра Ш says:

    For how long am I ment to do one exercise? And how many reps? Thank you in advance)

  35. Hkhalsa Singh says:

    Hey dear I really got so much pain in left should front from 6 months. And that shoulder pain from shoulder to neck now.

  36. Farah Gee says:

    How long do you recommend doing these for to take affect? I have a supraspinatus tendinopathy with partial intrasubstance tear

  37. James Mary says:

    Love these!,…Question, will they repair a partial tear?

  38. The Misterious says:

    First time doing it and I feel like it could help me alot! Thanks, also how often should I do those exercises, do I just do all of them 1 set of each daily? And if yes how many times a day? Thanks again!

  39. Tammy Laurain says:

    Doctor Jo just want to thank you for your rotator cuff exercise video. I did PT for 3 months and my range of motion was still stuck at about 65%. I quit PT and turned to You Tube and found you. After only a few weeks of your exercises I was at 90% range of motion by the time I hit 6 weeks I was 100% and pain free. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge it was a true blessing for my life. I almost quit my job because my performance was starting to suffer. Whenever I happen upon someone with a rotator cuff injury I tell them you need to get on You Tube and find Dr. Jo, she is amazing. Again, thank you!!!!

  40. stringbender68 says:

    Would combining this with some yoga be helpful?

  41. LEC Elle says:

    Could also wear a "light" weighted cuff instead of can if your arms are long like mine.

  42. H. Rehaief says:

    thank you very much

  43. doowoppify says:

    I have a partial tear and would like to know how many reps you would suggest doing in the beginning of recovery. I would love to have less pain in 6 weeks or less.

  44. Andromydous says:

    How long, or how many reps, for each of those exercises? The biggest anti-motivator for me is the pain itself. Lately, it's not just the shoulder, but the bicep, elbow, and even my hand. So, I tend to look for ways to not cause anymore pain. Just barely bumping that arm, or even sneezing, can cause a massive shock wave of pain.

  45. Chris Kennedy says:

    I had subacromial decompression and slap tear debridement.
    Is this good for me?

  46. sami bahous says:

    Hey doctor joe . Ive had ac joint inflamation + c5 c6 nerve irritation . My doctor said that i must do a shoulder rehab . I dont know wich exercises and for how long . I hope that u could help me

  47. Jim Wilkes says:

    Thanks Jo. Great exercises. I'm going to try them all.

  48. Irvin Esmabe says:

    8 years back, I had a motorcycle accident dislocating my left shoulder (I think I have a rotator cuff tear). Failed to do any therapy or having it checked because of very busy lifestyle. For 8 years I'm getting dislocated shoulder twice or trice a month until I learned to fix it myself. I'm trying to find a safe way to strengthen my shoulders because going to gym seems to make it worse. Every time it dislocates it gives me an immense pain and makes me have cold sweats. I'm also avoiding over-head movements because it's one of the things that triggers the dislocation. I'll try this workout and hopefully will help me strengthen my shoulder.

  49. Perislip Perislip says:

    Very interested in this. I lifted my 6 year old granddaughter back in the summer at speed and felt something go in my upper arm/shoulder. 3.5 months down the line it still hurts when I try lifting above my head. My problem, although quite fit for my age, 72, I find getting up and down off the floor a struggle. Can your floor exercises be adapted to the standing or sitting position?

  50. Mike Josie’s Cosmetics says:

    mi shoulder pop out when I reach to the back how can I fix it permanently at home so it will never pop again

  51. npxmnpxm says:

    I couldn't do the "Is" at all, although the "Ts" were no problem. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  52. Em Johnson says:

    Hi Dr Jo, I think I have a rotated cuff, I twanged it about two weeks ago. I can’t reach up to put my hair back so I’m quite restricted. How long would you say if I did your exercises 3-4 times a day would I see some difference in my shoulder?
    Is it normal for the shoulder to feel slightly achey after doing some of your exercises?
    Many thanks

  53. Flavia Cimpean says:

    Hi Doctor Jo! Thank you for this extremely useful video. Could you please let us know how many repetitions and sets you recommend on doing? Thank you very much, wish you all the best. P. S. Love your dogs 😍

  54. allan drueco says:


  55. Harlan Roeser says:

    Great! Thanks.

  56. M Efron says:

    After suffereing with Rotator Cuff pain for 6 months, these exercises have started to provide relief right away

  57. raja sekahr says:

    Will these exercises prevent recurrent shoulder dislocation ? Because I dislocated my shoulder thrice

  58. Ruth Malone says:

    Ask Doctor Jo. Can I do this kind of exercise standing up?

  59. Jennifer Dubon says:

    How many reps of each should we be doing?

  60. Jayant Nagarkar says:

    Perfect & helpful tech shown , thanks.

  61. Ali Hajal says:

    I have a rotator cuff pain …my question is: can I go to gym and workout with lightweight after I warm up with your exercise? Please advise

  62. Kristóf Pap says:

    Hi , I was diagnosed with 'bursitis subacromialis'. Can these exercises be good for treating it?

  63. onika meyers says:

    What size band should I get. One says 5-15lb, the other says 15-35? What one at you using in the video?

  64. Dina Colada says:

    I’ve had issues with my shoulder for almost 2 years, and I’m starting to feel relief after only doing these exercises for 2 days! Excited to have found Dr. Jo!

  65. Barry Lyon says:

    You are awesome 😊

  66. Andy says:

    I can tell you are right handed, a little imbalanced 😁

  67. Manish Boby says:


  68. Mohammad Ali says:

    thanks for the video
    i have rt supraspinatus tendinopathy
    i did shock wave therapy
    8 sessions there is a good improvement
    they advised me to start swimming to strengthen muscles
    i started 3 sessions till now
    but still feel pain on extra range of movement
    any advise from you

  69. Sam10947 says:

    I can't lift my arm above 90 deg (extension)…..it's stiff and hurts a 9/10 , I'm not sure if I have tendon injury or the actual ligament. I remember the first couple days, my humerus bone leaves its socket forward…

  70. Derma Amore says:

    Thank you soo much for informative and well thought out collective range of movements. I felt like I'm starting my Physical Therapy. Today was day 1 and on.

  71. mandar kumthekar says:

    Very well showed.

  72. deponics says:

    Hi Dr. Jo, thank you so much for being generous with your time. I have a partial tear and I really feel it during the bear hugs, external rotation with a can and serratus punches. I can’t even lift anymore with this injury so I hope these will fix it.

    Do you recommend sets and reps, x number of days or anything like that?

  73. G Kro says:

    Thank you, kind madam, for helping me with my right rear shoulder pain. I did the isometric internal isolation exercises just once I now I am free to do my push ups again. God bless you.

  74. gout from pork rinds says:

    Dr JO, Excellent..I had bone spur surgery 8 months ago, but shoulder feels sore when i do heavy weights like swings. Is soreness suppose to last this long post surgery? To remedy this issue, less weights and more shoulder stretching with bands? After a few days of no working out my shoulder feels fine.

  75. SHILPA says:

    Pls mention how many times ,how many days for exercise and the weight of the small bar

  76. Shipwreck Motel says:

    Great exercises! I've already been doing a few on my own, but after seeing this video I'm excited to try some more. It has been a journey getting my rotator cuff back in action, but I'm not giving up!

  77. Gangsta Field says:

    Hello Doc. I have a queation. Yesterday I had my mri results it says: – slight irritation on ac joint capsule
    – TENDINOSIS on my supraspinatus tendon
    – slight bursitis

    My question is do I have a rotator cuff tear ? Can you heal TENDINOSIS ( not tendonitis ) without surgery ? And how is my mri result ?


  78. barcaman101 says:

    Excellent vid tore my cuffs so many times , gonna try these.

  79. Aiden F says:

    When I do exercises like the pendulum, I have a really difficult time doing them without my shoulder coming out of the socket. I'm assuming that I should avoid that exercise because of this but I'm not sure. Also, your videos have been really helpful so thank you!

  80. Rick Yonovitz says:

    Can’t I just take a pill and wake up fine the next day?

  81. Robert Damia says:

    Too much pain for me to do a lot of these…I'm contemplating passing on suggested surgery but am still experiencing fairly serious pain in certain positions (i.e. arm behind back, shoulder extended upward horizontally)…the floor exercises are great but the resistive band ones (especially) "behind" me are not …way too painful…I intend to do all others I'm capable of…thanks so much !! Great stuff.

  82. PŔE says:

    yew have good knowledge about the muscles and where dey are located.

  83. wadhava singh says:

    Very good exercise and good video

  84. Elizabeth Malangmai says:

    I am having problem with my shoulder, my right hand cannot go back side also cannot Raise my hand.

  85. quick jessy says:

    You cured my tendonitis thanks

  86. curvenut says:

    For the I Y T and W , how many sets and how many repetitions in a set should I do ?

  87. xXxExLa says:

    I have impingement syndrome and the I’s, T’s, W’s & Y exercises are very difficult for me to do without a LOT of pain in the deltoid/biceps area.

  88. The Weatherman says:

    Thanks Doctor Jo…very effective exercises!

  89. Juliette Klein says:

    What are the reps on all of these exercises?

  90. Willow Lepanto says:

    Thank you so much, I am excited to try all my new stretches, so far nothing has helped.

  91. gondiamond says:

    I cannot say thank you enough for this video. It isn't the only video that has been massively beneficial, but I have had problems with my rotator cuffs for over a decade.

  92. George G says:

    Doctor Jo. I'm going to start doing these exercises. Do you recommend to stop them if you are in pain during any of them or is that expected in some cases.

  93. Art says:

    love the shirt at the beginning of the video!

  94. whoselinelove says:

    How heavy should the weight be?

  95. SIK FUK says:

    Can u make a video about a test on how to know what type of the shoulder pain that we are facing now & how to fix it, one by one, type by type.

  96. mark gatti says:

    Great part two—thx for the great info.👍

  97. Ralph Rodriguez says:

    You are awesome!!!

  98. George Nelson says:

    Thanks Doc Jo. Late to the party, but these exercises will absolutely help me strengthen some weak muscle groups for rock climbing!

  99. Dr. Ramona Hyman says:

    Although I have pain in my arm, does not show in my xray. Is that strange?

  100. Dylan Snyder says:

    Dislocated my shoulder 4 times, will this help get it more tight to prevent dislocation

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