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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Tag: rotator cuff exercise

There are several things that contribute to shoulder impingement and rotator cuff pain.  Perhaps one of the biggest issues that impacts overhead athletes, Crossfit enthusiasts and the avid weight lifter is limited shoulder mobility.  Poor flexibility in the pecs, lats, posterior shoulder as well as limited thoracic spine extension and rotation all contribute to suboptimal movement.

Poor mobility can place the scapula in biomechanically flawed positions, increase glenohumeral internal rotation and restrict shoulder movement at end range creating compensatory movement and pain.  The video below is a snippet from my upcoming webinar on rotator cuff dysfunction and nonoperative treatment.

This webinar will be great for strength coaches, exercise enthusiasts, Crossfit athletes/coaches, athletic trainers and physical therapists. If you want to attend the webinar or catch the on-demand version, simply visit  In addition, you may find my DVD on rotator cuff training very helpful in overcoming shoulder pain and staying pain free in the gym.


Click here to see a brief video overview of the DVD or visit my site at for more info.  Use the code Holiday15 at checkout from today until December 25 to save $10 off the retail price.

Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy your time with family and friends!

Research along with years of observation has taught me that the brain is inherently looking for the most efficient way (aka least effort) to execute movement in life.  In addition, it HATES pain just like you and I so it does everything possible to avoid it including ordering the body to perform dysfunctional movement patterns.

After a painful episode, the brain often needs reminded that the body can go back to the proper movement patterns once the pain is gone.  However, it often holds that painful memory and may by default lean toward a faulty movement pattern.  This protective mode then ends up perpetuating a faulty movement pattern that is no longer necessary nor efficient.  Over time, dysfunctional movement patterns can create further stress or harm to other segments in the kinetic chain.

So, I am always seeking ways to stimulate the body to work properly and exercises that facilitate proper neuromuscular patterning are instrumental in my rehab and training.  I wanted to share two exercises that I like to utilize in my rehab and training for the shoulder.  In particular, I like to employ closed chain activity to stimulate the serratus anterior as well as the other scapular stabilizers.

Below are two exercises I wrote about in my “Functionally Fit” column for PFP magazine.  The first exercise shows quadruped rocking.  Shirley Sahrmann mentions this in her work, Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes.  I began using it after reading her book, and I agree that it works very well for scapular dysfunction.  Below is the start and finish position for the quadruped version as well as my own advanced tripod version of the exercise.

For a complete explanation of the exercise and its application, click here to read the column.

As a follow-up to this exercise, I included an unstable progression I like to employ using the BOSU trainer.  I call this the unstable tripod scapular clock.  It can be done on the knees or up on the toes.  I have included a quick video on this below. Again, I like this exercise for scapular work as well as core stability training.

Click here to read my PFP column on this exercise for the full description, application and regressions. The real beauty of this last exercise is the “big bang for your buck” attributes since it hits shoulder, core and hip stability all at once for those able to work at that level.  I hope it works as well for you as it has for me!

Ever feel the tightness or ache deep in the shoulder during or after a series of bench press sets?  I must admit I LOVED doing bench press all through college and in my early twenties.  Guys love the chest pump and of course nothing impresses a girl more than broad shoulders, a big chest and beefy arms, right?

Then as I began gaining years of experience as a therapist and started my personal training career, I began to realize a common scenario in men lifting weights regularly.  They had horrible posture, weak posterior chain strength and sore shoulders.  The common thread was this:

  • Bench press and loads of chest exercises 2-3x/week and maybe some occasional back exercises thrown in once per week. 

This repetitive bench pressing, dips and flies created a HUGE imbalance.  Keep in mind for every chest exercise you do, you should balance it with a back exercise.  Some believe the ratio of back to chest exercises should be 3:2, while others suggest 2:1.  Suffice it to say I just believe we need less pressing and flies and more back exercises in general.

The poor weak rotator cuff stands up tall in the teens, twenties and early thirties, but it eventually starts to break down over time.  Aside from modifying range of motion, load and changing arm angles (all things I preach), you must work hard to reverse the effects of gravity by doing more upper/lower back training to prevent the caveman syndrome.

Your long term shoulder health depends on it.  I have rehabbed hundreds of shoulders going through rotator cuff and labral repair that are no doubt in some way related to lifting abuse.  Take my word for it when I tell you backing off the load, volume and frequency of bench pressing will add years of life to your shoulders and prevent you from living on anti-inflammatory medication to make it through the day.  I am not anti-bench per se, but I do believe once per week is more than enough for most of us.

Today, I have included a link to a recent column I wrote for PFP Magazine on one such posterior chain exercise to work the upper back and cuff.  Click here to read the column.

In addition, I added a video of the exercise below.  This is easy to do and will immediately improve shoulder health.  Consider adding it to your gym routine at least 2x/week on upper body days.

In closing today, I want to wish all of my friends, family, subscribers and followers a Happy Holiday Season!

I have literally helped over 10,000 people rid themselves of shoulder problems in just the past 3 years with my Ultimate Rotator Cuff Training Guide. What has been the secret of my success? To be honest, it comes down to understanding how to systematically couple and progress specific exercises at definitive time intervals to deliver a positive rehab outcome.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, I have found it is not. In the next few blog posts, I will share some critical shoulder exercises to incorporate into your program if you have weakness or pain related to poor rotator cuff and scapular muscle strength.

The first exercise today is seated dumbbell horizontal external rotation. It is imperative to keep the arm slightly forward of the plane fo the body (scapular plane is ideal) and move at a predictable pace through a pain free range of motion. Do not push back through pain as this only perpetuates inflammation.

This particular exercise is effective for increasing strength in the posterior cuff muscles and also for athletes participating in overhead sports such as volleyball, baseball, swimming, and golf to name a few. Do 2 sets fo 10-15 repetitions with a light weight. Tomorrow, I will reveal a more advanced progression of this exercise.