Torn Rotator Cuff


My goals are Tone & strengthen upper body.

I recently found out that I have torn my rotator cuff and will most likely need arthroscopic surgery.

I'll probably have surgery in about a month.

I know that I should avoid any chest or shoulder-related exercises.

However, I was wondering if there are any exercises I could safely do for my upper body?

If so, should I use machines instead of free weights?

Answered By:

Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS ANswers the Fitness Question

Qualifications of Mike Behnken


It is Very Important you ask your Doctor Before Any Exercise, Period.rotator cuff anatomy injury exercise information


A torn rotator cuff is an annoying and terrible thing to go through. You didn't mention how much pain or which part of your rotator cuff which could involve either of the 4 rotator cuff muscles Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, Subscapularis and/or the Biceps Tendon you tore so it is difficult to have a clear idea of what you can and cannot do.

Before you attempt to perform any exercises make sure you ask your doctor and/or physical therapist

The problem with rotator cuff injuries is the shoulder joint is such a busy joint. Even if you use machines in the gym such as biceps preacher machine curls, you could still aggravate your rotator cuff injury which is not good.

Even cardio such as running is difficult for some people with rotator cuff injuries.

The best advice that anyone can give you, which is most likely what your doctor would say is limit your activities to anything within your envelope of function.

Basically... If it Hurts, Don't Do It

You most definitely want to avoid any overhead motions such as shoulder press.

Machines can actually be worse than free weights in some cases. Since they were designed for a mystery person and the adjustments don't usually fit very well, they can actually put more stress on the joints than free weight exercises which you can move through your most comfortable range of motion.

Any exercises you decide to try out make sure you perform them under complete control.

An excessive eccentric (negative) contraction causes most rotator cuff injuries especially if chronic overuse is occurring as well.

Personally, if I was going in for rotator cuff surgery in a month. I would abstain from all resistance training exercises. Work on flexibility and take up a new physical activity which doesn't involve my shoulders at all such as bicycling.

If you do something like that, after the surgery and the rehab, you will  be refreshed and excited to start weight training again at 100% and make the best gains.

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