The following exercises were explained
to me when I first contracted shoulder tendonitis in 1992 during my
college years on the Caltech Swim Team. They've proved useful time and
Note: Consult a
personal trainer or physician if you have unbearable shoulder pain. I
am neither a licensed trainer nor a physician, and cannot be held
liable for any harm these may cause due to misuse, overexertion, or
ignorance of pain.
Additional Note: Not
all forms of shoulder pain come from the same source. Tendonitis is
best described as a mildly irritating burning sensation deep within
the heart of the shoulder that comes on gradually through continuous
use. If you feel a stabbing pain, or pain associated with particular
arm locations, motions, or exertions, it is likely that you have a
more serious injury and should see a physician. Seek treatment early
before you have to give up surfing altogether.
These exercises work best if performed as
a warm-up to surfing or swimming. Do them regularly and you should
begin to lose most forms of shoulder tendonitis.
The point of these exercises is to
strengthen and warm up the muscles and tendons that work internal
and external rotation of the rotator cuff. Before doing any
exercise and especially before swimming, be sure to stretch!
Both forms of rotation are about the
same axis, but in opposite directions. To visualize the axis of
rotation, stand with your arms at your side. The line running from the
tips of your fingers through the shoulder socket, parallel to the long
axis of your body, is the axis of rotation. Viewing your shoulder from
directly overhead, internal rotation is counter-clockwise (into the
body) and external rotation is clockwise (away from the body).
The exercises are done with the upper
arm kept against the side of the body, arm bent at the elbow and
pointing straight away from your front side. Think of drawing a
six-gun in the American Old West. Using this position as the rest
position, internal rotation is done keeping the upper arm firmly
against the side of your body, bringing your hand across until it just
touches your abdomen. External rotation is done from the rest position
outward to an angle of about 45 degrees, depending on how flexible you
When beginning the exercises, use a
rubber resistance band or tygon tubing. Do 3 sets of 20 reps for
internal rotation & the same for external rotation, for both arms.
When the resistance band becomes too
easy, you can upgrade to small ankle weights or bean bags. Start
around 1/4 lb of weight. Perform the exercise while lying on your side
so that gravity can provide the proper resistance. You'll have to flip
over when switching from external to internal rotation.
The rotator cuff muscles are not
commonly exercised in everyday activity, so be very careful not to
strain them. If you feel pain, back off. Pain