Are you struggling to improve your shoulder’s range of motion?
Experiencing aches and pains in your shoulder when throwing, swimming, or rowing?
Well, cable exercises that specifically target the rotator cuff might be just the thing you need. They help to improve the shoulder’s stability, strength, and mobility.
We’ve tried all of the exercises out there and put together this list of the four best to give you a headstart. We’ll tell you about the benefits of each one, how to perform them properly and give you some other useful information about the rotator cuff.
Table of Contents
- 1 The 4 Best Cable Exercises For The Rotator Cuff
- 2 Cable Machine Benefits For The Rotator Cuff
- 3 The Anatomy Of The Rotator Cuff
- 4 FAQs About Rotator Cuff Cable Machine Exercises
The 4 Best Cable Exercises For The Rotator Cuff
- External rotation press
- Standing external rotation
- Standing internal rotation
- Standing diagonal rotation
Here’s our list of the four best shoulder workouts you can perform with a cable machine!
1. External rotation press
Benefits of the external rotation press
Specifically, this cable exercise targets the infraspinatus muscle which is one of the key rotator cuff muscles. It works the posterior deltoid and teres minor muscles too.
The exercise helps to build strength in these muscles which provides stability for the shoulder joint. It also helps address any imbalances in the shoulders and can help prevent injury.
How to perform the external rotation press
- Adjust the cable to approximately hip height.
- Pull the cable back, keeping your forearm parallel to the ground.
- Externally rotate your shoulder until your forearm is vertical to the floor.
- Continue raising your arm until it’s above your head.
- Ensure you keep your elbow stacked directly below your wrist.
- Reverse the steps to complete the rep.
Check out this video to see how to perform this exercise perfectly!
2. Standing external rotation
Benefits of the standing external rotation
As with the previous exercise, this routine builds rotator cuff strength by targeting the infraspinatus and teres minor muscles. This leads to more stability and good shoulder health which are important for other activities like swimming, throwing, and weightlifting.
Performing external rotation exercises regularly can improve the range of motion in your shoulders. This makes you more flexible and can contribute to better posture.
How to perform the standing external rotation
- Adjust the cable so that it’s level with the height of your elbow.
- Stand side-on to the cable machine and hold the handle with the hand that’s furthest away from the machine.
- Keep your elbow bent at a 90-degree angle and locked by your side.
- While exhaling, externally rotate your shoulder to pull the cable away from your body. Ensure your elbow remains locked by your side.
- Hold for two seconds, then bring your forearm back to the starting position. Inhale as you perform this movement.
- When you’re ready, repeat the process with the other arm.
This video gives you expert guidance on how to perform the standing external rotation.
3. Standing internal rotation
Benefits of the standing internal rotation
The standing internal rotation targets the subscapularis muscle in the rotator cuff. It builds strength in your shoulder muscles, improves stability, and helps to prevent injuries.
Performing this exercise as part of your regular workouts can enhance your shoulder’s internal rotation capacity. This can make everyday activities like putting your coat on or reaching behind your back more comfortable (if you suffer from shoulder pain).
In fact, internal rotations are often used in shoulder rehabilitation for injuries to the subscapularis muscle like rotator cuff impingement and tears.
They also help to improve performance in sports like rowing, swimming, and baseball.
How to perform the standing internal rotation
- Adjust the cable to elbow height.
- Stand side-on to the cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend the elbow closest to the machine at a 90-degree angle and keep it locked at your side. Hold the handle with the hand nearest to the machine.
- Slowly rotate your shoulder until your forearm is in front of your abs.
- Return back to the starting position.
- Repeat for as many reps as you like and then repeat the process with the other arm.
Watch this video to see the standing internal rotation in action!
4. Standing diagonal rotation
Benefits of the standing diagonal rotation
The standing diagonal rotation combines the benefits of internal and external rotation. This provides a well-rounded exercise for shoulder function and health.
It targets both the subscapularis and infraspinatus muscles which enhances the mobility of your shoulder and can make athletic movements easier.
It’s a functional exercise that replicates the motions involved in swinging, throwing, and reaching. This leads to a reduced risk of injury when performing these movements in daily life.
As it addresses external and internal movements, it can help to prevent muscle imbalances that can lead to dysfunction and pain in the shoulder joint and muscles.
How to perform the standing diagonal rotation
- Position the cable as low as possible. Stand side-on to the machine.
- Place your feet in line with your shoulder blades and hold the handle with the hand that’s farthest from the machine. Your arm should be across your abdomen and your hand should be beside the hip on the opposite side of your body (imagine you’re drawing a sword).
- Keep your elbow bent and, while exhaling, rotate your shoulder diagonally until your hand is above your head. Your palm should be facing forward.
- While inhaling, slowly lower your hand to its original position.
- Repeat for the required number of reps and then repeat the process with the other arm. Remember to keep your elbows bent.
Watch this video for guidance on how to perform this exercise the right way.
Cable Machine Benefits For The Rotator Cuff
There are plenty of benefits to performing rotator cuff exercises with a cable machine, such as:
- Constant tension: Unlike free weights, which rely on gravity, cable machines offer consistent tension throughout the entire range of motion. This means the rotator cuff muscles are constantly engaged during the exercise.
- Muscle isolation: Cable machines are ideal for isolation exercises that target specific muscles in the rotator cuff without having to rely heavily on larger muscle groups. This allows for targeted strengthening and helps to address imbalances.
- Versatility: As you can use a number of different attachments like cuffs, handles, and ropes, you can vary exercise angles and movements. This enables the targeting of specific rotator cuff weaknesses.
- Reduced stress: Cable machines use a fixed fulcrum (anchor point) which reduces the amount of stress placed on shoulder joints. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with rotator cuff issues and pre-existing shoulder injuries.
- Adjustable resistance: It’s easy to adjust the resistance levels of cable machines which means they’re suitable for people of all fitness levels. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll be able to find a cable machine exercise that works for you.
The Anatomy Of The Rotator Cuff
The primary muscles that make up the rotator cuff are the subscapularis, infraspinatus, teres minor, and supraspinatus muscles. The functions of these four muscles are:
- Subscapularis: Internal shoulder rotations.
- Infraspinatus: External shoulder rotations.
- Teres Minor: External shoulder rotations.
- Supraspinatus: Abduction of the arm.
As you can see, the rotator cuff is responsible for a wide range of motion, but that’s not its only function. It also maintains the stability of the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint).
The glenohumeral joint is very mobile but highly unstable. This is one of the reasons rotator cuff exercises are so important as they help to build and maintain stability in this joint. When combined with other cable shoulder exercises, they can lead to a healthy, stable shoulder with a wide range of movement.
FAQs About Rotator Cuff Cable Machine Exercises
What weight should I use for these exercises?
The weight that’s best for you depends on your experience and fitness level. If you’re a beginner, start with the lightest weight stack or the weight that allows you to perform 15 to 20 reps comfortably while maintaining proper form.
As your strength increases, gradually increase the weight of the machine in small increments. Increasing by around 2.5 lbs each time is a good rule of thumb.
Always focus on proper form with a weight you find comfortable rather than pushing yourself too far, too early.
What are some good warm-up exercises for the rotator cuff?
Some of the best warm-ups for the rotator cuffs include:
- Arm swings: Relax your shoulders and swing your arms back and forth as if you’re walking. Do 10 to 15 reps in each direction.
- Arm circles: Rotate your arms forward and backward gently for 10 to 15 reps in each direction. Start with small circles and gradually increase the size.
- Shoulder shrugs: Raise your shoulders slowly up towards your ears and hold for several seconds. Do this 10 to 15 times.
- Pendulum swings: Use one hand to lean forward onto a table. Gently swing the other arm back and forth and in small circles. Do 10 to 15 reps and then repeat with the other arm.
What should I do if I experience pain during one of these exercises?
If you experience any sudden pains when performing these exercises, stop immediately. You should rest and ice the affected area for around 20 minutes.
If the pain is mild and goes away after a short amount of time, then you can modify the exercise and try it again. If the pain is moderate or severe and doesn’t go away, you should seek advice from a healthcare professional.