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Strengthen Your Serve And Overheads By Taking Care of Your Rotator Cuff

rotator cuff exercises

Injury Prevention

Strengthen Your Serve And Overheads By Taking Care of Your Rotator Cuff

In tennis, every point begins with a serve, so it’s important for us players to take good care of our rotator cuffs, and thanks to Senior Content Editor of POPSUGAR, Suzi May, we can do just that!

Having dislocated my shoulder multiple times in my 20s, I am quite familiar with the delicate group of muscles known as the rotator cuff since these are the muscles that help keep the joint intact. Made up of four muscles, the rotator cuff stabilizes the shoulder, which is a really mobile and complex ball-and-socket joint. When working out, chances are low you think about these muscles since they don’t really bulk up or add definition to your shoulders. Ahhh, but you should! They can be prone to overuse injuries, especially if you have tight pecs, which can compromise the shoulder joint, or do a lot of activities that involve overhead movements with force, like tennis, swimming, and weightlifting. Here are a few moves you can do at home to keep your rotator cuff supple and strong.

Rotator Cuff Stretch

rotator cuff exercises
Image Source: POP SUGAR Photography / Rima Brindamour


This sassy position stretches the rotator cuff. If you play tennis regularly, this is an important stretch to add to your fitness routine because a tight muscle can’t properly do its job.

  • Standing tall with your core engaged, place the outside of your left wrist at your waist. Your palm will be up, and your fingers will be pointed backward.
  • Take hold of your left elbow with your right hand and gently pull your left elbow forward.
  • Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat once more on each side.

Scarecrow With Back Lunge

rotator cuff exercises
mage Source: POP SUGAR Studios


Holding a lunge tones the leg, while the scarecrow motion works the rotator cuff. Since these muscles are not large, working them with no to low weights is safer for the joint. This is a great
exercise to use as a shoulder warm up before doing planks, push-ups, and overhead presses.

  • Step your left leg back into a deep lunge, making 90-degree angles with both knees.
  • Raise your arms out to the side until your upper arms are parallel to the ground. Bend your elbows to 90 degrees, making a loose fist with your hands.
  • Hold the lunge as you rotate your upper arms forward to bring your fists to the floor; then rotate the upper arm backward to bring the fists up. Do not lower or raise your upper arms; keep them parallel to the floor. This completes one rep.
  • Do 15 reps, then lunge with your right leg back for 15 more reps to complete a set. Aim to do two sets.

Bent-Over Row

rotator cuff exercises
Image Source: POP SUGAR Photography


This exercise is great for working the upper back and opening the chest, two things that will help maintain the health of your shoulder joint and rotator cuff.

  • With a pair of dumbbells and your feet hip-width distance apart, bend at the waist. Keep your back parallel to the floor with a neutral spine, not rounded.
  • With a slight bend in your knees, hold your arms and the dumbbells extended out in front of you.
  • Engage your abs and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you bring the weights to your torso. Be sure to keep your elbows in and pointed upward.
  • Slowly lower the weights back to the starting position to complete one rep.
  • Do two to three sets of 12 reps.

Reverse Fly

rotator cuff exercises

Image Source: POP SUGAR Photography


Since tight pecs can compromise the shoulder joint, the reverse fly helps balance your upper body by strengthening your back. To protect your shoulder joints, use lighter weights than you do for a reverse row.

  • Holding a dumbbell in each hand, stand with knees slightly bent. Keeping your back flat, bend forward at the hip joint. Rotate your palms up to open the shoulder joint.
  • Exhale and lift both arms to the side, maintaining a slight bend in the elbows and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Then with control, lower the dumbbells back to your starting position.
  • Do two to three sets of 12 reps.

9 Feel Good Stretches You Can Do in Bed

Fitness, health and wellness experts from POPSUGAR are here to bring you tennis-specific fitness tutorials, workouts, and other health and fitness related posts that will help you move faster on the courts and hit with more power!

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