Quick and Easy Rotator Cuff Exercises (with little to no equipment)

Most of us will complain of shoulder pain at some point in our lives.  Some of these injuries will be caused by repetitive use or overhead work, some due to trauma like a car accident, and others will seem to just suddenly start over time without a logical explanation.

The most common shoulder pathology involves strain, tendonitis, or tearing of one or more of the four rotator cuff muscles.

The following video includes 3 quick and easy rotator cuff exercises often used by the pros in physical therapy sessions and provided as part of a home exercise program.

These fundamental exercises address:

  1. External rotation strength
  2. Scapular Control
  3. Flexibility


The rotator cuff refers to a group of 4 shoulder muscles and their tendons:

  • SupraspinatusMuscles that attach to the scapula
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres Minor
  • Subscapularis

These 4 muscles attach from the shoulder blade (scapula) to the arm bone (humerus).  They help keep the ball stabilized in the socket as well as assist with rotating the shoulder.

It is also worth noting that, the scapula, a bone that all 4 rotator cuff muscles are attached to is also attached to many other muscles leading into the neck, skull, thoracic spine, and ribs.

Because of all these muscles pulling on this bone, it is imperative that when treating the rotator cuff we also pay close attention to the position and functioning of the scapula.

“The scapula is the foundation of the upper extremity, similarly to the pelvis and the lower extremity.”


Symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the shoulder or arm (often rotator cuff pain goes down into the side of the arm, this is called “referred pain”)
  • Difficulty raising the arm away from the body or overhead
  • Difficulty reaching behind your back (example: putting on a bra or reaching into back pocket)
  • Difficulty putting your arm through a sleeve of a shirt or sweater
  • Difficulty finding a comfortable position to sleep (especially sleeping on side)


Common causes of injury to your rotator cuff may include:

  • Trauma
  • Degenerative Changes
  • Repetitive use
  • Overhead work
  • Posture


Generally treatment for a non-surgical rotator cuff issues is focused on:

  • Management of Pain and Inflammation
  • Improving Mobility
    • Manual Therapy
    • Range of Motion Exercises
  • Improving Strength
  • Improving Function
    • Sport or work specific functional exercises/simulation
  • Improving Posture
      • Postural Training – check out this video to learn how to use the “Wall Angel” exercise to improve posture while working on active shoulder range of motion.

Don’t forget to consult with a medical professional to help assess and diagnose your shoulder pain prior to starting a treatment program.

The videos above are a great start for many people with shoulder pain caused by the rotator cuff, but it is only a “start”.  Although surgical intervention is often not required to manage the more typical types of rotator cuff injuries, additional treatment modalities and further exercise progressions will likely be beneficial to achieve full recovery.

Follow this blog and my YouTube channel (myphysiosays) and stay tuned for more helpful information to help you rehab injuries and keep up your physical fitness.