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Four Rotator Cuff Muscles and What They Do

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that help stabilize our shoulder within it’s socket as we do overhead movements. There are four muscles that make up the rotator cuff, each muscle has a different action and all must be equally strong and flexible in order to avoid a number of different shoulder injuries.

Shoulder Injuries

Rotator cuff strains are common in professions that require a lot of repetitive overhead movements and rotator cuff tears are common in sport athletes who participate in overhead motions for example baseball, tennis, and basketball. It is also possible to experience rotator cuff tendonitis which is inflammation of the muscle tendons.  Though strains may be common, there are a number of stretches and exercises that can be performed in order to heal the rotator cuff and eventually strengthen so that the injury does not occur again.

Shoulder Stretches

Stretches that can be performed in order to increase flexibility and prevent tightening of the muscles include:

  • Pectoralis stretches
  • Posterior shoulder stretch
  • Sleepers stretch
  • Single arm door stretch
  • Tricep stretch,
  • Internal rotation and external rotation towel stretch.


Along with stretching, it is important to strengthen the muscles that comprise the rotator cuff. All rotator cuff muscles are located on the back of your body therefore exercises that will strengthen your rotator cuff (performed with thera-bands or hand weights) include:

  • Mid-trapezius row
  • Shoulder extension
  • Scapula squeezes
  • Serratus punches
  • Standing external rotation and internal rotation
  • Horizontal abduction

Exercises should be performed in conjunction with stretching in order to keep a balance between flexibility and strength. If you perform strengthening exercises only, it can lead to muscle tightness. If you only do stretches, it can lead to hyper-mobility of your shoulder joint. In conclusion, though rotator cuff injuries can sound intimidating, performing the correct stretches and strengthening exercises can fix the issue.

By Timmy Huynh, ATC

If you are feeling any kind of pain or discomfort in your shoulder, don’t wait to address it. HANDLE IT NOW so you can avoid more invasive medical treatment like injections or even surgery.

Call Loudoun Sports Therapy Center in Sterling, VA at 703-450-4300 and schedule your personalized evaluation with one of our physical therapists. Start your journey back to PAIN-FREE living! 

CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you.

For more on shoulder injuries CLICK HERE

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