Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pile Driven for your rotator cuff practices

I notice things that people do fairly often, and I like to think that I'm a patient person. For instance when I absolutely want to form tackle someone into next week, I almost always refrain and walk away. B/c I realize not everyone is the same, we all have our own worthless opinions and the only reasons they're worthless is b/c we can't do a thing to change the other person's. But when I see a professional doing stupid stuff w/ their athletes or clients in the gym it really bothers me. So, after pile driving this individual, I came up w/ the top 3 things people do in regards to incorrectly training the rotator cuff.

#3 Doing multiple short sets for the rotator cuff.

The rotator cuff is a small muscle that’s main job is to keep the shoulder in place and absorb force/decelerate the arm. It does not need to be over loaded repeatedly w/ rest times. It needs to function, function long enough (endurance) and be strong enough to absorb force, keep the shoulder in position, and decelerate the arm.

I participated in a program once (it was college, we had no choice and didn’t know any better) where one day/wk we had 3 different rotator cuff exercises for 3 sets of 20 reps each. That means the entire football team sat there and did rotator cuff work for 10-15 minutes one day/wk. This is extremely excessive, and had an incredibly low ROI (return on investment).

Programming rotator cuff work is completely dependent on the athlete, time of year, sport, ect. But it’s a safe bet that 1 set of 20 reps one or two days/wk at the end of a workout, w/ a side lying external rotation exercise like this would be safe and beneficial for almost any athlete and the general population.


I also think it's much better to have something between the arm and torso, especially if using bands/pulleys in a standing position. I couldn't find the study but placing something simple like a towel between the arm and torso for external rotator cuff work increased EMG activity by close to 30%. Which makes sense, you use better technique that way w/ your arm closed off and pivoting at the shoulder like you should.

#2 You don’t need to progressively overload your rotator cuff like you do your squat, bench, or deadlift. It doesn’t work that way.

I’ve seen guys using over 20lbs for external rotation exercises. Your rotator cuff is a very strong muscle but that doesn’t mean that it is going to be able to move massive amounts of weight. It is not a fast twitch muscle like your glutes or hamstrings. It is a very small muscle and not meant for that. For most exercises anything over 5lbs or a very light band and you are wasting your time.

#1 thing that annoys me in regards to people training the rotator cuff

People using the empty can test as an actual exercise. The point of the test is to gauge problems of the rotator cuff. You are literally exacerbating the impingement to get a better look at how the shoulder is functioning.


The empty can test is not a go to exercise for the rotator cuff. Most people’s shoulders are just gonna get pissy doing an empty can test too many times, let alone adding resistance.

We've known this for a long time. The empty can is also not going to let us significantly pinpoint the area we want to work. According to Boettcher, Ginn, Cathers the empty can is going to recruit much more of the deltoid, which leaves the rotator cuff w/ a subpar role in moving the arm. We want to significantly recruit the external rotators of the rotator cuff. Although rear delt recruitment is not a bad thing, in this case we want to get in deep w/ the cuff. And we don't want to piss it off, and inflame the impingement.



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