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Exercises for Supraspinatus Impingement

author image John Tavolacci
Based in New York, John Tavolacci has been a leading exercise physiologist for over 14 years. His resume includes stints in cardiac rehab, sports conditioning, physical therapy and corporate wellness. He is a certified health/fitness instructor and a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Tavolacci also holds a master's degree in exercise physiology from Queens College.
Exercises for Supraspinatus Impingement
Young woman exercising on rowing machine at gym. Photo Credit George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

The supraspinatus is one of the four rotator cuff muscles, which abducts the arm at the shoulder. It also assists in stabilizing the shoulder joint by firmly supporting the head of the humerus against the scapula. Supraspinatus impingement is often associated with supraspinatus tendinitis. The common belief is that impingement of the supraspinatus tendon leads to tendinitis. Supraspinatus tendinitis is identified by an inflammation of the rotator cuff tendon and soft tissue. Exercise can relieve discomfort caused by supraspinatus impingement/tendinitis.


Machine rows strengthen the biceps, rhomboids and trapezius. All these muscles act to stabilize the supraspinatus. Sit with your chest pressed up against the vertical support pad. Your neck and spinal column are completely straight. Bend your knees while keeping your feet on the floor. Each hand grabs its own vertical bar. You begin by pulling the bars toward you. The pulling motion is dictated by bending your elbows and retracting your shoulder blades. A maximum scapular retraction determines a full range of motion. Slowly, allow the bars to go forward by straightening your arms. Cease the forward motion once your elbows are fully extended. Perform repetitions until proper form is sacrificed. Maintain an erect torso throughout the exercise. Prevent excessive shoulder elevation during the pulling phase.

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Shoulder Flexion

Shoulder flexion builds the anterior deltoid or front shoulder. This exercise is executed best with a set of dumbbells. Sitting on a stability ball forces your abdominals to contract. Sit on a ball with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your arms are straight with each hand holding a dumbbell. Raise both dumbbells upward to about shoulder level. The dumbbells are positioned vertical to the floor as they are elevated. This hand grip prevents bone friction around the clavicle. Hold for three seconds before allowing the dumbbells down. Lower the dumbbells until they are both just outside the hips. The key is to keep both arms straight during both movement phases. Prevent neck strain by not bringing the dumbbells above shoulder level.

Internal Rotation

A cable internal rotation is one of the only exercises that isolates the rotator cuff muscles. You carry out an internal rotation, one arm at a time. Stand laterally with your right side closest to the cable column. Your right elbow is bent to create a right angle in your arm. Grab a single handle with your palm facing your mid line. The inside of your elbow is pinned to your right side. Move the handle toward your midline until your hand reaches your navel. The movement is guided by your forearm, wrist and hand. Control the handle away from your midline until your forearm is horizontal to the floor. Balance your strength curve by switching arm positions. Make sure to keep your upper arm and shoulder stationary.

Elliptical Trainer

An elliptical trainer is an aerobic machine that utilizes the upper and lower body. The upper body aspect of an elliptical trainer helps you regain mobility in the shoulder joint. Your left and right arm each move their own vertical bar in an alternating forward-and-backward motion. You are also in a standing position with both legs straight. Your feet are on their own flat pedal links. The sloping roller ramps beneath the pedal links can be adjusted to produce varying movement paths. Your goal is to complete 15 to 20 minutes of continuous activity at a light to moderate pace.

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  • "Physical Therapy of the Shoulder"; Robert Donatelli; 2003
  • "Shoulder Injuries in Sport: Evaluation, Treatment and Rehab"; Jerome V. Ciullo; 1996
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