What's a rotator cuff? If you're like most people who didn't really pay much attention to your anatomy lessons in high school, you'd probably think that a rotator cuff is nothing more than a handcuff that turns round and round. A rotator cuff, however, is not a thing -- but a body part.

Your rotator cuff is actually four relatively small muscles- the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis- that are indispensable in shoulder movements and in ensuring the stability of the shoulder joint. In doing so, the rotator cuff muscles ease pressure off the shoulder area, resulting improved function and athletic performance.

The rotator cuff muscles are so small that one to five pound dumbbells will suffice for strengthening it. Here are three rotator cuff exercises you might want to follow:

1. External Rotator on Knee: Begin this exercise by sitting on a bench with one foot propped on the seat. Rest your elbow on one knee but keep the upper arm parallel to the floor. With your hand in the air, slowly rotate your upper arm in an arc toward the midline of your body, all the time keeping it at a right angle to the elbow until your forearm is just above parallel to the floor. Exhale and put the arm back to vertical position again in an arc, repeat for 12-15 repetitions and then perform on the other arm. In the event that you have a weaker arm than the other, finish the exercise with your weak arm first. Repeat only the same number of reps on the strong arm. With this you can balance the work done for each arm and you prevent overworking your weaker arm.

2. Standing Rotator. For this exercise, start by placing your right arm halfway between the front and side of your body. As you do this keep your thumbs down. Raise your right arm until almost level with your left at a 45 degree angle. (Hint: This is like emptying a can.) You mustn't lift if you feel pain. Gradually lower your arm and repeat exercise until it gets tired. Do the same with your other arm.

3. Side-Lying External Rotator: in this exercise you lie on your side (this exercise is best done on the floor or a wide bench) using a towel or blanket propped underneath your elbow in order to position it away from your hip and allow you to keep your arm at a right angle. While keeping your elbows are at 90 degrees position slowly raised your hand up toward the ceiling. Keep a constant tension on the rotators rather than shifting the rotators to larger deltoid muscles. Gradually lower your weight back down toward your abdomen and repeat the entire procedure. If you can see that you body shifts back or or makes momentary pauses or rests at the top of the movement, adjust the weight at a more comfortable level where 12-15 repetitions can be completed under constant tension. Do 1-3 sets for each arm.

Last but not least, read this TRX exercises review and this post about a TRX coupon.

Author's Bio: 

Fitness training expert, sports nutrition nut, and happily married father of two.