Good External Shoulder Rotation Stretches

External rotation is also known as lateral rotation. The muscles that rotate the shoulder include the teres minor, infraspinatus and posterior deltoid. When the opposing muscles that internally rotate the shoulder are tight, they limit the ability of the external rotators to rotate the shoulder outward. Stretching the internal rotators reduces tension to regain range of motion.

Tight rotator cuffs limit shoulder mobility. (Image: twinsterphoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Standing External Rotation Rotator Cuff Stretch

The standing external rotation rotator cuff stretch uses a cable machine or a resistance cable to stretch the shoulder capsule. Although cables exercises generally strengthen the shoulder rather than stretching it, this exercise is an exception. To perform the standing external rotation rotator cuff stretch, hold the cable in your right hand with your arm held out to the side. Stand with your back to the other end of the cable. Then, bend your arm to 90 degrees with the palm facing forward. Step your left foot forward. You should feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder. Next, rotate your arm forward until the palm faces the floor. Step forward to increase the stretch. Switch sides.

Wall External Rotation Stretch

The wall external rotation stretch uses a wall as an object to reach for, but it isn't technically necessary. If you have a wall to use, stand with your back against it. Lift your right arm until your elbow reaches shoulder height. Bend your elbow so that your fingers point toward the ceiling. Then, rotate your arm backward to try to touch the back of your hand to the wall. If you don't have a clear wall, you can do the stretch by imagining that the wall is there. Maintain the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the left side. To increase the difficulty of the stretch, stand slightly away from the wall.

Towel External Rotation Stretch

The towel external rotation stretch lets one arm assist the other in getting a stretch. The towel allows you to perform this stretch without being exceptionally flexible. This stretch is possible without a towel if you are able to reach behind your back and clasp hands. This is unlikely if your shoulders are tight, but when you become more flexible, you can try the stretch without the towel. To begin, hold one end of a towel in your left hand. Lift your hand over your head and bend your elbow so the the towel hangs down along your back. Grab the opposite end of the towel with your right hand against the small of your back. Then, pull your right hand down toward your buttocks. This pulls your left arm down and stretches the left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch sides.

Shoulder External Rotation Inflexibility

Shoulder external rotation inflexibility increases the possibility of shoulder injuries, especially when rotating the shoulders outward. Shoulder external rotation inflexibility negatively affects your ability to perform strengthening exercises, such as rear pull-downs, behind the neck shoulder presses, pec deck flyes and shoulder presses on a lever machine where you sit with your back to the machine. Stretching allows you to resume strengthening exercises to keep the shoulders strong and prevent future injuries.

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