T Nation

Shocked, Weak Rotator Cuff

Hi,
just wanted to introduce myself and tell you about my idiocy of not paying and special attention to my rotator cuff.

I fancy myself a strong and muscular guy (198lbs, 5’6, 18% bf), can bench about 400lbs, do some 220lbs behind-the-neck presses but guess what?

My damn rotators aren’t stronger than my girlfriend’s.

Last time I benched and worked my shoulders in a triset (bench press, laterals, bent over laterals), I felt a burning and very uncomfortable pain in my left shoulder while benching. After the triset I braced myself with my left arm on a table to get some much needed air into my lungs (I was kinda winded, because I usually warm up with tabata squats) and WHAM! I felt the same kind of pain, but much stronger.

Needless to say, I stopped the workout (I’ve already had my part of injuries and know when to ignore the ego).

Anyhow, after bitching about my wimpy delts a notion popped up:
“Could it be my rotator cuffs?”
“No way!”, I wanted to tell myself, but I wasn’t quite sure.
Up to that point, I didn’t even know the exact function of the rotator cuff other than that they might ‘cuff’ the shoulder somehow.

I performed some doorway stretches for my anterior delts which made my delts feel quite good and got to business:
lying on my side on my bench I performed
-external dummbell rotations
-internal dumbbell rotation

It’s a shame that I needed my girlfriend to show me these exercises (I thought I was the strength guy! Oh well…).

Long story short:
she’s even stronger than me at these exercises. Stronger. She’s about 43lbs lighter than me and doesn’t work out on a regular basis.
I’ve been working out for more than seven years.
Go figure.

What have I learnt?
I’m going to drop my chest-shoulder routine for some weeks and perform external and internal rotations and cuban presses; additionally I’ll incorporate a thorough stretch routine for my delts.

If it helps I remember reading somewhere here that you should be able to externally rotate 10-12% of your bench. Cressy or Staley I think said it.

[quote]Rawbread wrote:

What have I learnt?
I’m going to drop my chest-shoulder routine for some weeks and perform external and internal rotations and cuban presses; additionally I’ll incorporate a thorough stretch routine for my delts.

[/quote]

Take a look at Phase I of this shoulder program written up by Chad Waterbury and Alwyn Cosgrove.

http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=818555

2 months ago I was starting to get some weird pains + loss of mobility in my shoulders from all the heavy overhead pressing and push pressing in the strenght phase of a program I was doing. So I took off from almost all upper body movements other than what is outlined in the Phase I of the article and I’m already pain free and my flexibility/mobility is better than when I started. Some of the exercises look easy, but they are humbling, especially the reach rock and lift.

Now I’ve gone back to doing upper body work and am more use some of the exercises they outlined as a warmup on some days or by themselves on other days.

[quote]Backlash79 wrote:
Rawbread wrote:

What have I learnt?
I’m going to drop my chest-shoulder routine for some weeks and perform external and internal rotations and cuban presses; additionally I’ll incorporate a thorough stretch routine for my delts.

Take a look at Phase I of this shoulder program written up by Chad Waterbury and Alwyn Cosgrove.

http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=818555

2 months ago I was starting to get some weird pains + loss of mobility in my shoulders from all the heavy overhead pressing and push pressing in the strenght phase of a program I was doing. So I took off from almost all upper body movements other than what is outlined in the Phase I of the article and I’m already pain free and my flexibility/mobility is better than when I started. Some of the exercises look easy, but they are humbling, especially the reach rock and lift.

Now I’ve gone back to doing upper body work and am more use some of the exercises they outlined as a warmup on some days or by themselves on other days.

[/quote]

Agreed, very humbling. I’m on the Phase I section right now.

Your rotator cuff problems may not be just from rotator cuff weakness. Doing external shoulder rotations is a must. It’s a good idea to do those first just to make sure you don’t leave them out. But an imbalance between you front and rear deltoid’s size might be forcing your humeral head into your rotator cuff and causing it to swell. By doing rear-delt isolation work you can correct this discrepancy. Using the Hammer-Strength plate loaded linebacker machine can also strengthen your rear delts by forcing them to act as breaks for the negative motion of that machine.

Good luck with your shoulders!

[quote]FightingScott wrote:
Your rotator cuff problems may not be just from rotator cuff weakness. Doing external shoulder rotations is a must. It’s a good idea to do those first just to make sure you don’t leave them out. But an imbalance between you front and rear deltoid’s size might be forcing your humeral head into your rotator cuff and causing it to swell. By doing rear-delt isolation work you can correct this discrepancy. Using the Hammer-Strength plate loaded linebacker machine can also strengthen your rear delts by forcing them to act as breaks for the negative motion of that machine.

Good luck with your shoulders![/quote]

I second this.

Also, while internal rotations may indeed work your rotator cuff (well… the subscap anyway), I seriously doubt you need any additional internal rotation work. (Especially in light of the fact you can bench 400lbs.)

I would recommend sticking to various forms of external rotations work using mostly cables and bands. Also be sure to perform these exercises abducted at 0, 15, and 90 degrees.

Soft tissue work on your pecs/lats/and posterior capsule (back of shoulder) will also help tremendously. As will staticly/dynamicly stretching your pecs, lats, etc.

I’m curious, do you have any issues with your scapula as well (i.e. scapular winging)? If so, get on that pronto. And work on the mobility of your thoracic(sp?) and cervical spine as well if that’s an issue.

Good luck. Fixing one’s shoulders is definitely a process… a long, long, practically never-ending process…

[quote]comedypedro wrote:
If it helps I remember reading somewhere here that you should be able to externally rotate 10-12% of your bench. Cressy or Staley I think said it.[/quote]

Well, in case you’re right it’s gonna be a long way for me to get there.

[quote]Backlash79 wrote:
Take a look at Phase I of this shoulder program written up by Chad Waterbury and Alwyn Cosgrove.

http://www.T-Nation.com/...ic.do?id=818555
[/quote]
Thanks, I’ll check it out.

[quote]FightingScott wrote:
Your rotator cuff problems may not be just from rotator cuff weakness. Doing external shoulder rotations is a must. It’s a good idea to do those first just to make sure you don’t leave them out. But an imbalance between you front and rear deltoid’s size might be forcing your humeral head into your rotator cuff and causing it to swell. By doing rear-delt isolation work you can correct this discrepancy. Using the Hammer-Strength plate loaded linebacker machine can also strengthen your rear delts by forcing them to act as breaks for the negative motion of that machine.

Good luck with your shoulders!
[/quote]
Thanks for the advice.
I guess your right: my rear delts suck.
Although I’ve never eschewed to work my back thoroughly (bent over rows, bent over laterals, dumbell bent over rows, weighted chins (in the past)) my rear delts can’t quite compare to my side and front delts.

Since I work out at my own home, I won’t be able to use the equipment you’ve mentioned; that’s why I’m going to add bent over rows to the chest on my back day.

[quote]Meta-Monster wrote:
I second this.

Also, while internal rotations may indeed work your rotator cuff (well… the subscap anyway), I seriously doubt you need any additional internal rotation work. (Especially in light of the fact you can bench 400lbs.)
[/quote]
I guess you’re right. Besides, my delts felt much better after doing external rotations only.

I’ll have to stick to dumbells (working out at home). What do you mean by performing external rotations abducted at 0, 15 and 90 degrees?

I just know the one where you lie on a bench on your side with one arm stretched out over your head, a towel stuffed between your armpit and the bench and the other arm doing the external rotation.

That’s the 0 degree position, I guess.
How would I benefit from doing this exercise at 15 and 90 degrees?
No disrepect intended, I just don’t see the point but I’m willing to learn :slight_smile:

You got me hanging in there again, buddy.
What exactly is soft tissue work?
Do you mean things like deep friction performed by a physiotherapist to target tendons and ligaments or even the foam roller thing?

I always wanted to give the latter a try, though.
Or would it help if I just let my girlfriend massage my pecs, lats and posterior capsule thoroughly?

Could you give me examples for dynamically stretching the pecs and lats, please?

Luckily not, my scapula is fine.

How should I go about doing this?

Thanks, man, I appreciate it.

Your rear deltoid won’t really be getting much action even if you’re doing adequate rowing and big compound pulling movements.

You don’t need that hammer strength contraption to hit your rear delts. Just do rear delt bent over lateral raises and upright rows (safely)

[quote]Rawbread wrote:
comedypedro wrote:
If it helps I remember reading somewhere here that you should be able to externally rotate 10-12% of your bench. Cressy or Staley I think said it.

Well, in case you’re right it’s gonna be a long way for me to get there.

Backlash79 wrote:
Take a look at Phase I of this shoulder program written up by Chad Waterbury and Alwyn Cosgrove.

http://www.T-Nation.com/...ic.do?id=818555

Thanks, I’ll check it out.

FightingScott wrote:
Your rotator cuff problems may not be just from rotator cuff weakness. Doing external shoulder rotations is a must. It’s a good idea to do those first just to make sure you don’t leave them out. But an imbalance between you front and rear deltoid’s size might be forcing your humeral head into your rotator cuff and causing it to swell. By doing rear-delt isolation work you can correct this discrepancy. Using the Hammer-Strength plate loaded linebacker machine can also strengthen your rear delts by forcing them to act as breaks for the negative motion of that machine.

Good luck with your shoulders!

Thanks for the advice.
I guess your right: my rear delts suck.
Although I’ve never eschewed to work my back thoroughly (bent over rows, bent over laterals, dumbell bent over rows, weighted chins (in the past)) my rear delts can’t quite compare to my side and front delts.

Since I work out at my own home, I won’t be able to use the equipment you’ve mentioned; that’s why I’m going to add bent over rows to the chest on my back day.

Meta-Monster wrote:
I second this.

Also, while internal rotations may indeed work your rotator cuff (well… the subscap anyway), I seriously doubt you need any additional internal rotation work. (Especially in light of the fact you can bench 400lbs.)

I guess you’re right. Besides, my delts felt much better after doing external rotations only.

I would recommend sticking to various forms of external rotations work using mostly cables and bands. Also be sure to perform these exercises abducted at 0, 15, and 90 degrees.

I’ll have to stick to dumbells (working out at home). What do you mean by performing external rotations abducted at 0, 15 and 90 degrees?

I just know the one where you lie on a bench on your side with one arm stretched out over your head, a towel stuffed between your armpit and the bench and the other arm doing the external rotation.

That’s the 0 degree position, I guess.
How would I benefit from doing this exercise at 15 and 90 degrees?
No disrepect intended, I just don’t see the point but I’m willing to learn :slight_smile:

Soft tissue work on your pecs/lats/and posterior capsule (back of shoulder) will also help tremendously. As will staticly/dynamicly stretching your pecs, lats, etc.

You got me hanging in there again, buddy.
What exactly is soft tissue work?
Do you mean things like deep friction performed by a physiotherapist to target tendons and ligaments or even the foam roller thing?

I always wanted to give the latter a try, though.
Or would it help if I just let my girlfriend massage my pecs, lats and posterior capsule thoroughly?

Could you give me examples for dynamically stretching the pecs and lats, please?

I’m curious, do you have any issues with your scapula as well (i.e. scapular winging)? If so, get on that pronto.

Luckily not, my scapula is fine.

And work on the mobility of your thoracic(sp?) and cervical spine as well if that’s an issue.

How should I go about doing this?

Good luck. Fixing one’s shoulders is definitely a process… a long, long, practically never-ending process…

Thanks, man, I appreciate it.

[/quote]

You’re correct about the position that you thought equaled 0 degrees of adduction. Doing the exercises at the other degrees works the externally rotating rotator cuff muscles differently. 0-15 degrees is more teres minor while 90 degrees is more infraspinatus(sp?).

(FYI, the “rotator cuff” itself isn’t a muscle, it a term used to describe four of the muscles that play a significant role in your shoulder joint’s mobility/stability.)

Soft tissue work is the foam roller/tennis ball stuff. Check out the articles “soft tissue work for tough guys” and “feel better for ten bucks”. Don’t neglect this stuff. It makes a HUGE difference. And I don’t think your girlfriend massaging you will do the trick.

The Inside/Out DVD has a bunch of good examples of dynamic stretching for pecs/lats. etc. Also, check out the article “shoulder savers” and “push-ups, face pulls, and shrugs”. (Though you are not going to want to do the shrugs exercises in the last article I mentioned.)

And do lots of push-ups! I really like the close grip, off-of-the-knuckle variation.

Cheers