Exercise of the Month: External Rotation
The external rotators are probably the most neglected muscles in a bodybuilding, powerlifting or general fitness routine. Most people who do external rotator cuff work are usually doing so because of current or past shoulder injuries.
Injury prevention is only part of the reason why you should do external rotation exercises. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. If the external rotators are weak, the prime movers of the upper body will decrease in performance when exposed to high levels of tension. I’ve seen many people, including myself, add many pounds to their bench press after consistently performing external rotation exercises. Other reasons for performing these exercises include: improving your backhand in tennis or racquetball, improving your throwing ability for baseball, improving your spiking ability for volleyball and improving your posture, just to name a few.
“So what muscles are we talking about?” many of you are asking yourselves. The teres minor and infraspinatus are the muscles responsible for the external rotation (turning away from your body) of your arms. They insert underneath the deltoid toward the top of the humerous and originate on the scapula. They are two of the four muscles comprising the rotator cuff which stabilizes the shoulder.
The degree to which the external rotators are involved in rotating the arm depends upon the position of the elbow in relationship to your body. If you abduct (lift away from) your arm positioning parallel to the floor, the infraspinatus is activated more. When your arm is adducted (close to your body), the teres minor is much more active. Hence, if you are going to train the external rotators effectively, you need to perform at least two different exercises.
External Rotation Exercises
External Rotation w/ arm adducted:
From a standing position, grasp a handle used for cable x-overs and turn so
the cable lies in front of your body. Make sure your elbow is bent at 90
degrees. Rotate the arm outward, pivoting at the shoulder joint, and slowly
rotate the arm back to the starting position.
Dumbbell Rotation w/ arm abducted:
From a standing position, grasp a dumbbell. Your upper arm should be parallel
to the floor and your elbow should be bent at 90 degrees. Rotate the arm upward
until your hand is directly above your elbow and slowly return to the starting
position. This exercise can be done most effectively with a Shoulderhorn. The
Shoulderhorn allows you to specifically target the external rotators without
engaging the deltoid to hold the arm in position. For more info on the
Shoulderhorn, including how to purchase one, go to www.ShoulderHorn.com.
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