Are Rotator Cuff Exercises Necessary?

Over the past decade or so more and more people have been talking about incorporating rotator cuff exercises into all training routines. The exercises are usually done with pink dumbbells since the muscles that are being trained are fairly weak and cannot handle a lot of stress, especially in isolation. However, is that pink dumbbell manifest really necessary?

U.S. strength coach Bill Starr performs the overhead press

U.S. strength coach Bill Starr performs the overhead press

There are over 600 muscles in the body and doing isolation exercises for each of them would require one to spend a lot of sweet time with pink dumbbells in hand.

The truth is that you don’t need to do exercises for your rotator cuff, if the rest of your program is somewhat balanced.


Like we’ve already said one of the best exercises you can do for your shoulders is actually the overhead press with a barbell or a pair of dumbbells. That exercise works all of the rotator cuff muscles in isometric fashion.

To tell the through that’s how those muscles are supposed to work – as stabilizers. There is no doubt that if you have healthy shoulders, you can keep them that way by only doing overhead presses.

Before bench pressing became popular people were mostly doing overhead work and rotator cuff injuries were almost unheard of. Do you think that’s by coincidence or maybe, just maybe, the bench press is a shitty exercise when it comes to shoulder health?

Unless you are rehabilitating an injury and you want to add some mobility exercises to your shoulder regimen, there’s no need to fool around with the pink dumbbells. You can also do some of it as a warm-up but don’t expect similar exercises to turn your shoulders into bullet proof canons.

What do you think has more impact on the end result – a heavy overhead press or external/internal rotations with pink dumbbells or a can of the most spread poison around Coca-Cola?

Another really good exercise for the rotator cuff is the good old push-up which allows the scapula to move freely unlike the bench press and as a result it involves more stabilizers and promotes shoulder health.

Finally, don’t forget the good old rule that the more pushing you do, the more pulling you need to counter balance it. The strongest portion of the shoulder is the front deltoid and it’s  the primary mover in many pushing exercises.

As result the posterior deltoid is weak and you need to some pulling exercises in order to avoid muscle imbalances. If you want to put more emphasis on the rear delts during your pulling sessions use a wider grip.

The overhead press when done correctly works all three heads of the shoulder but the front deltoid is still working the hardest.

To summarize: Exercises for the rotator cuff could be used as rehabilitation, warm-up and mobility drills but you should not rely on similar movements to develop super strong shoulder girdle. It’s not going to happen and the better exercises to do would be the overhead press with free weights as well as a lot of pulling to make sure your rear delts are strong.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *