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How to Do a Shoulder External Rotation

This Is the Exercise Your Workout Is Missing (but You Really Need) For Strong Shoulders

It's easy to get caught up at the gym only focusing on exercises that give you the most bang for your buck, such as compound exercises — multijoint movements, like a squat, that work groups of large muscles. Not only will they target more muscle groups, they're great for days when you're short on time and if you're trying to burn more fat and calories. You should definitely incorporate compound exercises into your workouts, but you've also got to counterbalance those movements with accessory work.

What exactly is accessory work? Every trainer will give you a different definition, but essentially it's doing exercises that tune up your body and ensure that all the little muscles are taken care of in order to train at an intense level. One accessory move that I was neglecting for a while, but have begun to implement into my workout routine, is the shoulder external rotation. It's no clapping push-up or pull-up, but it will help prevent shoulder injury by strengthening the muscles of your rotator cuffs: the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.

This move may seem boring, but it's important to strengthen those muscles in order to do upper-body exercises that require lots of intensity and load. I like to do this move toward the end of my workouts. For example, I'd do a triset consisting of dumbbell walking lunges, a plank with alternating rows, and a set of the shoulder external rotations to finish off. If your goal is to get stronger and stay injury-free, definitely add this move into your routine.

How to Do a Shoulder External Rotation

  • Start seated on a bench with a 2.5- to five-pound dumbbell or plate in your right hand. The weight does not need to be heavy for this exercise.
  • Bend your right leg, placing your right foot on top of the bench. Your left foot should be on the ground.
  • Bend your right elbow so that it makes a 90-degree angle at the joint and place it on your VMO, aka the inner muscle of your right knee. Be sure to keep your elbow in this position the entire time. Make sure to sit up straight.
  • With control, begin to raise your forearm until it's parallel with your shoulder. This is an external rotation. With control, lower back down to your starting position.
  • Complete one set of 10 reps on each arm.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett
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