Awaken Your Rotator Cuff Muscles

6 Exercises for a More Stable Side Plank

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AWAKEN YOUR ROTATOR CUFF MUSCLES

The rotator cuff muscles carry a great deal of responsibility. When healthy and strong, they help to keep the head of the humerus inside of the glenoid fossa, the cavity of the joint. Because it’s a ball and socket joint, the shoulder joint can be quite vulnerable, so awareness of its positioning in postures that require stability is essential. On the mat, there are many opportunities to bear weight on the shoulders, which can prove challenging if we don’t know how to stabilize in postures that require this type of support. Moreover, if we neglect to maintain activation where necessary, we miss opportunities to build strength.  

A posture like Vashistasana, Side Plank, requires a vast amount of stability and strength. In today’s video, Matt demonstrates 6 essential exercises that help strengthen our rotator cuff muscles for maximum stability.

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    ROTATOR CUFF: GET IN TOUCH WITH THE ANATOMY

    There are 5 muscles in the rotator cuff group: the subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres major, and teres minor. These are the muscles of internal and external rotation and of abduction.

    The subscapularis and teres major are responsible for internal rotation, while the teres minor and infraspinatus are both external rotators. The last muscle, supraspinatus, contributes to the abduction of the arms.

    When all of these muscles are co-activated, they suction and secure the head of the humerus into the shoulder socket. In the full class, Matt explains that these muscles are often stretched during our asana practice. For yoga practitioners, it’s therefore vital to create opportunities to strengthen these muscles for overall function, health, and longevity. This can be integrated into our practice on the mat, particularly if we understand the anatomy involved in performing a given exercise to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.

    WATCH THE VIDEO

    AWAKEN YOUR ROTATOR CUFF MUSCLES: 6 EXERCISES FOR A MORE STABLE SIDE PLANK

    6 EXERCISES FOR STRENGTH

    Strengthen with a Strap

    1. Matt demonstrates ways to strengthen the infraspinatus and teres minor by pulling the strap apart into external rotation of the humerus, along with some retraction of the shoulder blades.  
    2. Adding extra rotation and resistance will uplevel the activation.

    Towel Rotations

    1. In Tabletop position, drawing circles with a towel under one hand will immediately activate the rotator cuff muscles due to the weight-bearing nature of the exercise.
    2. Here, understanding the difference between rotation at the radioulnar joint and the upper arm bone is key in connecting to the rotator cuff.

    Block Raises

    1. Supraspinatus goes to work while holding yoga blocks and abducting your arms in slight internal rotation.
    2. Pushing the blocks back behind us while hugging in will again help activate the infraspinatus and teres major and minor.

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    STABILIZE YOUR SIDE PLANK

    There are articulations and joint alignments that are essential in creating healthy stability in Side Plank. In this variation, Matt demonstrates Extended Side Plank, utilizing a wall as a prop. The wall creates feedback that helps us better negotiate where and how to align the wrist and shoulder and to determine the distance between the standing hand and the feet.

    In order to create stability in this posture, it’s imperative to retract the shoulder blade and externally rotate the humerus, which activates the infraspinatus and teres minor. Moving our hips (and thus more weight) towards the wall takes the shoulder away from directly stacking over the wrist, which helps to reduce the load on the shoulder joint. Once the foundation is set, expanding into the rest of the posture becomes more accessible.

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    AWARENESS AND FOCUS FOR STRENGTH

    If resistance bands or weights are unavailable, strengthening of the rotator cuff muscles can still take place with a variety of yoga props.

    The exercises Matt demonstrates might appear to be simple in nature, but my goodness will they be a challenge! When executed with accuracy, they exhaust the muscles, which breaks them down in order for them to renew with increased strength.  

    It’s the well-placed effort (Abhyasa) that will inform our experience and translate into larger movements and postures like (Extended) Side Plank. Yes, it’s possible to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles with a variety of different tools and exercises, but when we apply technique and focus, our true potential unfolds.  

    Register for Matt’s upcoming Shoulder Reset workshop to learn and refine techniques to create strong, healthy shoulders.

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    Article by Trish Curling

    Videos Extracted From: Anatomy In Motion

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