External Rotation Exercise

About The External Rotation Exercise

The purpose of the external rotation exercise is to strengthen the external shoulder rotators within the rotator cuff (infraspinatus & teres minor). Muscle imbalances frequently lead to injuries and considering that the shoulders are extra susceptible to injury due to their anatomical makeup, it is important to identify and correct these imbalances. In most cases, the frontal rotators are tight and overdeveloped and the rear rotators (infraspinatus & teres minor) are underdeveloped and weak. Performing the external rotation exercise will strengthen the rear rotators, which is one of the steps in the preventative process against these imbalances. However, it should be noted that these exercises must be strategically placed within a properly tailored program to avoid over-training. These rotation movements should always follow, and never be executed prior to a shoulder, chest or back workout.

External Rotation Video

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How To Do External Rotations

  1. Attach a single grip handle onto a pulley positioned at a low 45 degree angle in relation to your shoulder.
  2. While facing the pulley, grasp the handle using an overhand grip. Draw your arm up until your elbow is in horizontal alignment with your shoulder.
  3. Exhale and externally rotate shoulder until your knuckles are facing the ceiling and your wrist is in alignment with your elbow.
  4. Inhale and at a controlled speed, lower back to starting position.
  5. Repeat until the desired number of repetitions are completed.

Note: The pulley-method, which was just described, is the most effective way to target the rear rotators due to the constant tension that is placed upon the targeted muscles throughout the entire movement.


The external rotation exercise can also be performed by using dumbbells while in a standing position. Unfortunately, once gravity takes over, there is little tension on the targeted muscles near the top of the movement.

Resistance tubing will deliver maximum tension at the top of the movement but as the hand is lowered, the tension gradually decreases. This is a good choice when equipment availability is a factor.

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