Improving lateral pillar and rotator cuff strength is always a priority when training or rehabbing athletes. Muscle imbalances and poor muscular endurance may predispose a person to an overuse injury in the shoulder. This exercise will address lateral chain stability and posterior cuff strength.

Execution: Begin in a side plank position with the left elbow beneath the left shoulder and the legs straight in line with the body (feet stacked on top of one another). Place a small rolled towel between the upper arm and the rib cage. This will enhance rotator cuff activation.

Flex the elbow to 90 degrees and while holding a lighter dumbbell move the arm into external rotation. Pause at the end of shoulder range, and then slowly lower back down to the start position. The movement should be deliberate and controlled. Avoid trunk rotation and emphasize a slower fluid movement throughout.

Clients often perform this exercise too fast and allow momentum to assist or allow excessive upper torso motion. It may be necessary to provide verbal and tactile cues to ensure proper form. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions on each side. Alternate sides between each set.


1. Decrease the weight or repetitions

2. Bend the knees to 90 degrees to reduce the body’s lever arm


1. Increase the weight and/or hold time

2. Increase the number of repetitions

Application: This exercise is is an excellent way to advance a traditional side plank exercise to incorporate in some additional rotator cuff strengthening. Overhead athletes (tennis, baseball, swimming, volleyball, etc.) will benefit from posterior cuff and core training. This exercise allows for both. Emphasis should always be placed on maintaining alignment. Do not progress the load too quickly, and regress or halt the exercise when form begins to fail.