Muscle group: The shoulder muscles
Trained muscle: Rotator cuff
Focused muscle: External rotators
External rotation represents an effective exercise for the external rotators of the rotator cuff of the shoulder. We can choose between many different variations using free weights, the cable machine, or just our own body weight.
External rotation in lateral lying position
External rotation in lateral lying position can be exercised on the floor, the bench, or similar. The legs are bent at approximately 90°. The bottom arm supports on the floor. The elbow of the top arm bends at approximately 90° and fixates on the side of the body. Hold the dumbbell in tight grip actively stabilizing your wrist. From that position rotate the top arm upward maximally in a controlled movement. The upper arm remains fixated on the body. Bring the arm back down to complete one repetition.
External rotation – arm supports on bench
For external rotations with the training arm supported on a bench we choose a sitting position close beside the bench on the floor. The upper body slightly leans forward. Grab the dumbbell actively stabilizing your wrist. The elbow rests on the bench at an angle of approximately 90°. The arm yet is still inward rotated (back of the hand points upward). Now rotate the arm externally in a controlled movement (forearm moves up). Bring the arm back down to complete one repetition.
External rotation on the cable machine
External rotation on the cable machine can be practised in standing, sitting, or lying position. Standing and sitting works quite similar. Sideways, you either stand with slightly bend knees or sit on the cable machine. If possible, hold on to the machine, the seat cushion, or similar to stabilize your body. The cable should be adjusted close to the level of the training arm. The elbow is bent at approximately 90° fixating on the side (hip) of the body. Grab the handle tightly and actively stabilize the wrist. In the starting position the back of the hand points to the front. Tense the trunk muscles and begin to rotate externally against the resistance. In the end position the forearm points to the front and the back of the hand outward to the side. Bring the arm back smoothly to complete one repetition.
For external rotations on the cable machine in lying position we lay down in supine position with our bent legs toward the cable. The training arm lies on the floor with the elbow on shoulder level and bent at approximately 90°. The hand points toward the cable machine. Tense your abdominal muscles. The lower back pulls toward the floor. Grab the handle actively stabilizing the wrist. In a controlled movement you perform an external rotation with the upper arm. The elbow remains fixated on the floor on shoulder level. The forearm performs a circular movement until it points backward. Bring the arm back smoothly to complete one repetition.
External rotation with both arms
External rotations can be worked out with both arms simultaneously using dumbbells. Either choose a standing position with shoulder wide stand and slightly bent knees or sit down on a bench. The upper body leans forward a bit keeping the back upright. Lift both arms and bring the elbows in one line with your shoulders. The upper arms are still internally rotated and point down toward the floor. The back of the hands point up. Hold the dumbbells in tight grip actively stabilizing your wrists. Tense your trunk muscles and rotate your upper arms externally. The elbows remain in one line with the shoulders and the forearms perform a circular upward movement. Bring the arms back down to complete one repetition.
External rotation – isometric
External rotations can also be trained isometrically. We stand shoulder wide or in lunge position beside a wall, a pole, a machine at the gym, or any other insurmountable resistance. Raise one arm (training arm) sideways to have the elbow on shoulder level. Bend the elbow at approximately 90°. The forearm points upward. Elbow and forearm lie on the wall. Tense the trunk muscles. The free arm can hold on to the wall, machine, or similar to stabilize the body. Apply maximal externally-rotating pressure with your training arm to the insurmountable resistance. Avoid press breathing (exhalation against closed airways).
External and internal rotation combined
The exercise external rotation can be combined with internal rotations. Here, we laterally lie on the floor or bench, as explained above in “External rotation in lateral lying position”. Now we also work out with the bottom arm, which performs an internal rotation in form of a circular upward movement.
Antagonist: Internal rotators
Stretching: Rotator cuff stretches
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