Rotator cuff stretches should be a fundamental element of rotator cuff exercising. Stretches are a fantastic preventative measure. Not only that they are a superb method for regaining complete range of motion.
I have always failed to understand why stretches are so seldom endorsed in the treatment of rotator cuff tear symptoms. They are, without doubt, some of the finest exercises for the cuff.
Stretches have numerous benefits
Anyone can do them
They can be performed almost anywhere and at anytime
Work for a wide range of rotator cuff conditions
Provide a variety of exercises appropriate for all the rotator cuff muscles
No specialist equipment is required
Benefits of stretching
Why incorporate a rotator cuff stretch into an exercise regime?Simply because stretching often brings a "double whammy" of benefits.
Firstly, stretching encourages an increase in the range of movement that can be achieved.
Secondly, it aids in the building of strength.
This is achieved by helping to lay down tendon fibres in an orderly manner. The tendon fibres become correctly aligned, meaning they stretch further and bond better, thereby increasing strength.
It is, for the reasons above that stretching and strength conditioning, when undertaken together, are so effective at improving muscle performance. If you only undertake one without the other you will be selling yourself short.
Follow the simple rules
Following some simple rules before and during exercise will ensure you perform stretches safely.
Always warm up before hand, even just applying a heat pack or take a hot shower / bath
Stretch only to the point you feel resistance
Hold each stretch steadily for between 20 to 30 seconds
Do not over stretch - this can do much more harm than good
Breathe through stretches
Stop if you feel pain, a little discomfort is to be expected.
Repeat each stretch 4 or 5 times
Have a rest between each stretch
What is the best stretch to use?
"What is the best rotator cuff stretch?" This is a question I am asked all of the time. Unfortunately there is no such thing.
The rotator cuff is made of four separate and distinct muscles. It is for this reason that only one stretch can not impact equally on each muscle.
Three excellent rotator cuff stretches are the wall climb, overhead stretch and the door stretch.
Wall climb - Stand side on to a wall approximately 9 inches away. Reach the near arm up the wall and place the palm of the hand flat against the wall. Now, gradually walk the hand up the wall using the fingers - hold once a stretch is felt.
Overhead stretch - Place your palms on the edge of a work top and gradually bend forwards at the hips to stretch.
Door stretch - stand in front of a door frame, hold an arm out to the side and bend the elbow at a 90-degree angle. Press your palm against the door frame and move forward to stretch.
Two slightly tougher examples:
Stand upright and clasp your hands behind your back. Keep your arms straight and lift your hands slowly upwards.
Stand with your arm out to the side at 90 degrees and your forearm pointing up at 90 degrees. Hold a stick in your hand and let it hang behind your elbow. With the opposite hand, slowly ease the bottom of the stick forward - not too hard mind! Take it real easy with this stretch; a large strain can be exerted.