Weight training injuries: Rotator cuff injury

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The rotator cuff is a group of muscles that are responsible for stabilizing the shoulder joint during physical activity. Always bear in mind that the shoulder joint is one of the only 2 joints in the body that has a wide range of movement in every plane. As long as proper strength and flexibility are maintained, the rotator cuff muscles are susceptible to injuries that can be debilitating and often require surgery. During weight training with a rotator cuff injury, it is vital to ensure proper rehabilitation with guidance from a physical therapist as well as a doctor’s consent before activity.

Close look on rotator cuff injuries

The rotator cuff is comprised of 4 vital muscles. The usual injures to the rotator cuff include strains and slashes on the muscles and tendons.

The injuries usually develop due to usual wear and tear as well as the aging and breakdown of the collagen fibers which can cause the muscles and tendons to be at risk for degeneration. Sustaining acute blunt trauma from falls on the shoulder, pulling or lifting heavy objects and even poor posture can also result to rotator cuff injuries.

Rehabilitation and prevention

Rotator cuff injury
Always bear in mind that weight training on the damaged shoulder can further damage the rotator cuff and cause more harm than good.

Always bear in mind that weight training on the damaged shoulder can further damage the rotator cuff and cause more harm than good.

During and after rehabilitation, there are some shoulder exercises that that doctor will recommend to further strengthen the shoulder joint in which most often involve scapular retraction and strengthening, adduction, shoulder rotation and abduction. It is not recommended to perform these exercises if pain is still present and a doctor is not consulted yet.


Weight training exercises that increase the strength of the scapula must be performed before attempting to strengthen the joint. During the initial 3-4 weeks after release from rehabilitation, the scapula exercises must be completed using a light weight with 15-20 repetitions at 2-3 times in a week.

During the next 6-8 weeks, the individual can progress to 12-15 repetitions at a slightly heavier weight. The rotator cuff exercises can be included with the scapular retraction exercises.

The individual should not engage in exercises in which dumbbells or a barbell is directly lifted over the head such as a military press or shoulder press since these require extreme shoulder stability and can even further damage the rotator cuff.

Avoid the lateral raises in which the arms are directly moved outwards to the side of the body. It is recommended to bring them close to the midline so that both arms can be seen from the peripheral vision.

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