The Best Rotator Cuff Stretches

by Kent Ninomiya

About Kent Ninomiya

Kent Ninomiya is a TV news anchor and reporter who worked in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Minneapolis and San Diego. He is a prolific writer and editor who pens articles on a wide range of subjects. He is the managing editor of Bellamax Media which owns websites such as,,,,,,, and Kent Ninomiya holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley in Social Sciences with an emphasis in History, Political Science and Mass Communications. He was a fellow of Journalism Ethics at the Poynter Institute. He is an avid traveler who lived abroad in Europe, Africa, and Asia. He is a lifelong martial artist who holds black belts in karate, tae kwon do, and hapkido. His hobbies include photography, numismatics, scuba diving & fitness.



Effectively stretching the rotator cuff is important before engaging in any strenuous activity involving the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint is one of the most complex and easy to injure on the body. If you have strained the rotator cuff, you can tear or inflame the tendons and muscles in the shoulder. According to the Stretching Institute, stretching the rotator cuff before strenuous activity will increase blood flow to the shoulders and reduce the chances of injury.

Behind the Back Stretch

To perform this exercise, stand up and place both hands behind your back. Lace your fingers together and keep your arms straight. Next, gradually raise your hands upward behind your back. You should feel a slight stretch in both of your shoulders. Then you should raise your hands as high as you can without pain and remain in that position for 20 seconds. According to sports injury consultant Brad Walker, this is a basic stretch to help people warm up and increase blood flow. You should perform this exercise first.

Outward Rotation Stretch

Begin this exercise by standing with both arms hanging down at your sides. Bend both elbows at a 90 degree angle, raising both hands in front of you. You should also keep your thumbs pointed up and keep your upper arms next to your body. After that, rotate both hands outward while keeping your elbows stationary against your body. You should feel a stretch in the back of your shoulders. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. According to, doing this exercise while holding a light dumbbell will strengthen the rotator cuff. This will help to stabilize the shoulder joint and prevent injury.

Elbow Hang Stretch

To begin this exercise, place both hands on your waist with your thumbs facing forward. Bend forward at the waist until your upper body is at a 90 degree angle with your legs. Next, allow your elbows to hang down toward the floor while keeping your hands on your waist. You should feel the stretch on the front of your shoulders as you hold this stretch for 20 seconds.

Cross Stretch

Place your right hand on your left shoulder, and then place your left hand on your right elbow. After that, gently push with your left hand moving your right arm farther across your body. Then allow your right hand to come off of your left shoulder as your arm straightens. You should feel the stretch on the back of your shoulder. You should hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and then switch arms.

Stick Stretch

To perform this exercise, stand with one arm extending out from your side. Bend the arm at the elbow at a 90 degree angle so your hand points straight up. Next, place a long stick behind your forearm and grab it with your thumb and index finger. After that, grasp the stick with your other hand beneath the elbow of the arm sticking up, and then gently pull forward with this hand. This will bring your elbow forward and stretch the rotator cuff. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds. The Stretching Institute warns that this is an advanced stretch that puts quite a bit of stress on the rotator cuff tendons. You should perform this exercise after the rotator cuff has thoroughly warmed up with the previous stretches.

Photo Credits:

  • Steve Mason/Photodisc/Getty Images

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or