It seems like every time I go to the gym, I see people doing rotator cuff exercises incorrectly. Given the importance of this quartet of stabilizers and decelerators, it is essential that they receive adequate and appropriate training to ensure effective and efficient movement. This is true of your everyday clients as well as your athletes.

Understanding movement requires understanding the function of the musculature before determining the form of exercise that is required.

Although the rotator cuff muscles are involved in internal and external rotation of the humerus, the primary and essential function they serve is to decelerate the humerus during powerful movements and to stabilize the humerus in the glenoid fossa during all movement. Unlike internal and external rotation, these are not concentric and eccentric contractions, but instead a series of short burst isometric contractions. Though potentially valuable in phase 1 post-injury rehabilitation for muscle reeducation, concentric and eccentric movement is not helpful in improving the function of the rotator cuff.

In deceleration and stabilization, the muscle group turns on and then off in a series of isometric contractions that last milliseconds. You cannot consciously train muscles to turn on and off at that rate, but you can set up the appropriate environment for that sequence to occur, with the requisite overload, in a safe, effective setting.


Warding patterns are great for any client. Because they feature manual resistance, you can add more or less resistance based on the client’s capabilities in the moment. Warding patterns train the on-off neurological behavior of the muscle. This movement pattern should be done within a pain-free range of motion if your client is returning from injury. It should be done in a functional range of motion for an asymptomatic client. Continue Reading and find pictures of this and other exercises on the ACE Experts Blog

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