Protect Your Shoulders With This Rotator Cuff Activation Dryland Exercise for Swimmers

Commentary by Dr. G. John Mullen

SANTA CLARA – In past posts, I’ve discussed the overemphasis of strengthening the rotator cuff muscles. Personally, I feel many clubs/swimmers misuse injury prevention of the shoulders by fatiguing the rotator cuff muscles before practice, increasing their risk of injury. First, the swimming world needs to accept one of the main roles of the rotator cuff muscles is to stabilize the humerus (upper arm) into the glenoid (shoulder). Therefore, if these stability muscles are overworked before workout with 3×10 band external rotations, do you think the rotator cuff muscles will stabilize the upper arm and protect the shoulder? Another way to think about it, if you were entering a tight rope walking contest, would you fatigue your legs before hand?

Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles should be done after practice or with activation, not fatiguing exercises before workout.

Here is a great exercise for activating the infraspinatus, the posterior rotator cuff muscle.


The rotator cuff muscles are the most commonly injured area in swimmers. The common injuries are a result of overuse, yet many swim programs continually overuse these muscles, exacerbating fatigue and injury risk. Try this rotator cuff activation exercise before workout, minimizing fatigue, while preparing the shoulder for a demanding workout.


Sit on your feet and place you head on the ground (3-point position). Bend your elbows 90 degrees and place your elbows next to your side. While keeping your elbows at your sides, perform an “I don’t know” motion, moving solely from the shoulder (glenohumeral joint). 

Keep in mind, this is not a complete shoulder prevention program, simply an activation exercise which should complement a complete program. However, if performed correctly, you’ll feel your posterior rotator cuff muscles engage more during this simple exercise than your countless band external rotations!

If looking for a complete shoulder prevention program let the COR Swimmer’s Shoulder System E-book and video database guide you. This system starts with a comprehensive e-book that guides you through Mullen’s four-phase system. This book details everything about the shoulder, why swimmers are at risk for shoulder pain, to which training frequency option you should choose to exactly how you can make effective program modifications if you don’t have specific equipment at your disposal. 

The video database gives you video access to more than 40 exercise videos, so you’ll never have to worry about how to execute a correct movement again! It’ll be like G. John Mullen is there with you, teaching you how to perform the entire program in person! This great resource for coaches and swimmers is valued at $370, but is yours for only $59.99

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