T Nation

Rotator Cuff Conundrum


I was pleasantly surprised when I opened this week's T-mag to find that Eric Cressey had a feature article. About time, eh?

After reading the article, I spared no time, and promptly went down to my dungeon and gave his RC routine a go. The only piece of equipment I was missing was a floor cable. (So I improvised with a stretch-band.) I banged out the routine in about ten minutes.

Thoughts: For almost a full half hour after doing the routine, my posture was altered - to say the least. I felt like a "human T-square." (I couldn't have slouched If I wanted to!)

Also, If you're a regular guy, (like me), do the Cuban rotation with a bar lighter than the 7ft O-bar and work your way up. I used small bar with 28 lbs for 3 sets of 8. Stick with a bar though; it definitely feels more natural than DB's - at least I think so.

P.S. Peeps, give this routine a go! And, good job, Eric!


Eric did an excellent job. listen to him about this.


I also want to thank Eric for another great article. I strained my right rotator cuff a month ago and was trying to think of ways to strengthen it now that it is sufficiently recovered. Perfect timing Eric!


The routine is recommended at the end of a workout, but would it be advisable to use it at the beginning of a light workout? My next periodization phase involves 4 weeks of 20 reps with light weights. I would like to put these at the beginning of my training session to give them the best attention and most improved association with my CNS, and I don't think they would be recruited heavily later in the workout. TIA.



It shouldn't too much of a problem, although I'm not sure the rotator cuff-CNS association constitutes an important training focus. They'll actually get quite a bit of work indirectly from your higher rep training, too. Give me an idea of what your training split looks like; we'll see where it would fit in best.


My planned split starting Monday is upper back Monday, DLs and obliques Tuesday, back lat emphasis Thursday, and legs ham emphasis Friday. The only day including external rotator work currently is Thursday. It is standard rack pulls and pullovers, followed by wide pronated pulldowns and cuban rotation, followed by t-bar row and BNP. There are rear delt raises Tuesday.



I'd shift your rear delt work to Monday and also include the Cuban Presses there. Then, perform the other three exercises on Thursday. Training your RC directly twice a week will give it more attention, as the blood supply to these small muscles in essentially inadequate. Simply going through the motions will do a lot to prevent injury and correct imbalances.


Eric do you feel that you should do some light RC work before chest, back and shoulder work. I strained my several months ago and I use a theraband to warmup prior to these workouts. Thanks for the article and exercise suggestions!



Warm-ups are definitely one of the most individual aspects of weight training. Some guys can just jump right into things; others need a prolonged warm-up period. Personally, I prefer to go right to an exercise-specific warm-up, as I notice a difference if I prefatigue the RC. That said, if you're going to use the theraband, I encourage you to do more of a dynamic warm-up that emphasizes range of motion rather than prolonged concentric and eccentric muscle actions.



Great article and very timely for me as I am undergoing ART for impingement in my right shoulder. A few questions though.
1. On the Cuban press- Prior T-mag articles have listed a 2 secound pause at the peak of the upright row portion, do you agree?

  1. Will the press portion cause further impingement?

  2. Would it be OK to incorporate overhead figure 8's or would it be too much.


good question HHH. i have been doing light rc work before upper body sessions twice per week, and have made some improvement. i feel just as strong on all of my presing movements, as opposed to when i dont performe the rc work.



To be very honest, all but one of the movements in this program are contraindicated if you have impingement! Essentially, this program is a PREhabilitation setup; you should be using it to prevent future problems as well as after you're over the initial inflammation of impingement or related conditions.

That said, your exercise selection should be based entirely on movements that keep your humerus to below 90-degrees of abduction and flexion. Likewise, the internal rotation/flexion combination in the Cuban press is a no-no right now.

For your external rotators, you'll want to stick with low pulley external rotations, theraband work from the low position, and side lying external rotations. Some people can tolerate seated external rotations with the arm supported on a preacher bench at 90-degrees. Additionally, you'll want to be doing lower trap raises and plenty of seated rows to strenghten the scapular retractors and upward and downward rotators.

In the meantime, you'll want to avoid any kind of overhead work (militaries, chins, lateral raises), horizontal adduction (flyes), and scapular protraction (presses). In other words, rows take precedence over the stuff you can see in the mirror for a while.

Good luck!


Great article!

Don't have a low cable pulley. What do you recommend with free weights to substitute for this? Lying L Fly?


bald scholar,

Two options:

1) Side Lying External Rotation

2) Loop a theraband around the opposite foot or the base of a door.

The idea with the low pulley external rotation is to preferentially activate the teres minor by keeping limiting abduction and flexion (otherwise, you hit the infraspinatus more). Both these substitutes work well.