Exercises to Avoid With a Supraspinatus Tear

The supraspinatus is one of four muscles that make up a group referred to as the rotator cuff muscles. The primary purpose of these muscles is to prevent the head of the humerus, or upper arm bone, from driving into the shoulder joint as you lift your arm away from your body or overhead. A fall to the shoulder or other athletic injuries can cause a tear to the supraspinatus, resulting in pain and problems lifting your arm outward and upward. Understanding how to rehabilitate the supraspinatus and the proper exercises for it will help you prevent or recover from injury. There are also exercises to avoid when you suffer from a tear to this muscle.

Knowing which exercises to avoid will help you prevent further injury to the supraspinatus.

Rotator Cuff Function

The head of the humerus is twice the size of the shallow socket, which creates a mobile, but unstable joint. The rotator cuff muscles play an intricate roll in stabilizing the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff muscles help to hold down the ball portion of the joint in the deepest, widest area of the socket. Movements that open up the joint and place an undo amount of force on the shoulder put more stress on these small supportive rotator cuff muscles.

Chest Exercises

Chest exercises involve holding some type of resistance in your hands and allowing your arms to open up away from the center of the chest, then returning back to the center of the chest. This movement, due to mechanical leverage, can place large forces on the shoulder joint. When you use a barbell, the wider placement of your hands on the bar creates an increased amount of force on the shoulder. If you bring the bar down higher on your chest, closer to your neck, you are also causing an increased amount of pressure on the shoulder joint. Avoid chest exercises with wide grip and keep the weight toward the center of your chest. You should also consider limiting your range of motion, as the lower that you bring the weight toward the chest, the more likely you are to cause further damage. As with any exercise, do not work within a range of motion that causes pain.


Dips are a common exercise to develop triceps and chest muscles. In the starting position, body weight is supported on a surface with your arms straight at your sides, or behind you. The elbows are then bent slowly, lowering your body weight down in a controlled "dipping" motion. The top, or lockout, position during dips puts vertical stress directly on your shoulder joint where the clavicle and scapula come together. This can increase a separation in this joint, which can further aggravate pain in your shoulder.

Shoulder Exercises

The supraspinatus is active during the range of motion when your arm moves away from your body, outward and upward, between 60 and 120 degrees. This range of motion is commonly performed during shoulder exercises such as lateral raises and overhead press. Upright rows, also known as "chicken wings," are a common shoulder exercise that aggravate exercisers. If you choose to do shoulder exercises, make sure you limit your range to only a range that is comfortable and keep the weight light.

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