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5 Exercises That May Cause Rotator Cuff Injury

8th Jan 2024 | 0 comments

The rotator cuff, a critical component of the shoulder, plays a pivotal role in various arm movements. However, certain exercises, if not executed correctly, can put undue strain on this area, leading to potential injuries. We’ll be looking at five such exercises, outlining the proper techniques to minimise the risk of injury. We’ll also look at treatment options available in Singapore for a torn rotator cuff.

Overhead Press

The overhead press is a fundamental exercise for developing shoulder strength. However, it’s also a common culprit in rotator cuff injuries. The risk lies in the elevation and external rotation of the arm, which can place excessive stress on the rotator cuff tendons.

How to Do It Correctly

To perform the overhead press safely, you should start with a weight that you can comfortably lift for 8-10 repetitions. Even if you are an experienced lifter, you should make sure that you do your first set with a lighter weight to get into form and warm up. 

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the barbell at shoulder width. Engage your core and glutes for stability. As you press the weight overhead, maintain a slight bend in your elbows at the top to avoid hyperextension. Lower the weight back to shoulder height in a controlled manner to complete the rep.

Bench Press

The bench press is great for strengthening the upper body, and focuses largely on the pectoral muscles. However, it requires putting a significant amount of strain on the rotator cuffs. When it comes to bench presses, any weight overload or incorrect form can lead to a rotator cuff injury, which is why the correct form and progressive training are important.

How to Do It Correctly

When bench pressing, it’s crucial to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and your back flat against the bench. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width. Lower the bar to your mid-chest, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body. This elbow position will reduce the strain on the rotator cuff. Press the bar up without locking your elbows, then come down in a controlled motion.

Lateral Raises

Lateral raises are excellent for isolating the deltoid muscles but can be harmful to the rotator cuff when performed improperly. 

How to Do It Correctly

To execute lateral raises safely, use light weights. The deltoid can only take that much weight, so it does more harm than good if you use a heavy weight for this exercise.

Stand straight with a slight bend in your knees, holding the weights at your sides. Raise your arms to the side, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows. Lift the weights to shoulder height, no higher, to avoid excessive tension on the rotator cuff. Lower the weights in a controlled motion.

Upright Rows

Often considered one of the best exercises for the shoulder and the back, upright rows require consistently perfect form to avoid impinging the rotator cuff, particularly if they’re performed with a narrow grip.

How to Do It Correctly

To minimise the risk, use a wider grip – ideally, your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the barbell in front of you. Lift the barbell straight up, leading with your elbows, and keep the bar close to your body. Stop the lift at chest level to avoid pinching the shoulder tendons. Lower the barbell slowly to the starting position.

Behind-the-Neck Presses or Pull Downs

Exercises like behind-the-neck presses or pull downs force the shoulder into an unnatural position, increasing the risk of rotator cuff injuries. Both form and control are key to preventing any damage to the rotator cuff.

How to Do It Correctly

For a safer alternative, perform these exercises in front of your head. In the case of pull downs, grip the bar wider than shoulder-width, and pull the bar down to your upper chest. Keep your back straight and avoid leaning back excessively. For presses, press the weight up from the front of your shoulders, and lower it back down to collarbone level.

The Importance of Proper Form

The significance of proper form in these exercises cannot be overstated. Incorrect form not only increases the risk of rotator cuff injuries but can also lead to other musculoskeletal issues. It’s also important to not be overambitious. Always start with a weight that allows you to maintain correct form throughout your sets. If you’re unsure about your technique, consult a professional. They can provide tailored advice and help you develop a safe and effective workout routine.

Rotator cuff injury treatment 

If you suspect you have a rotator cuff injury, it’s important to take appropriate steps to ensure proper healing and avoid further damage. 

The first and most crucial step is to give your shoulder a rest. Avoid activities that cause pain or discomfort in the affected area. This includes temporarily stopping or modifying exercises that put stress on the shoulder.

You should also consider applying cold packs to the injured area to help reduce inflammation and pain. Do this for about 15-20 minutes every few hours during the initial days following the injury.

If you need to relieve the pain further, over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help manage pain. However, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any medication, especially if you have other health conditions or are taking other medications.

Sometimes, these methods don’t work. That’s when a specialist doctor might suggest taking a closer look at the injury. You might need to undergo a few more diagnostic procedures like scans before a final diagnosis. If you’re a suitable candidate, the doctor might recommend surgery.


Open and Arthroscopic repair are the 2 common techniques used to repair a rotator cuff tear.

During open repair, a surgical incision is made and a large muscle (the deltoid) is gently moved out of the way to do the surgery. Open repair is done for large or more complex tears. 

During arthroscopy, the arthroscope is inserted through a small incision. At the centre, most of the cuff tears are repaired using arthroscopic means.​

Torn rotator cuff treatment in Singapore

Rotator cuff injury can be debilitating and affect your ability to keep in shape and feel good about yourself. We understand how important it is for patients to get back to doing what they love. 

That’s why at Spire Orthopaedic Centre,  we are committed to providing accurate diagnosis and high-quality treatment. If you need help with your rotator cuff injury, contact us now.