A Guide to Rotator Cuff Rehabilitation

I screwed up my shoulder shooting my bow last year and am doing a regimen of exercises so that I'll be able to bowhunt this fall. Most of the exercises are humiliating, especially if you're accustomed to doing the sort of strengthening movements commonly associated with the word man. Fortunately, I'm not unaccustomed to humiliation, and I'm a highly motivated patient.

My physical therapist tells me these exercises strengthen the large muscles of the scapula, as well as the small muscles that stabilize the large muscles. I’m down with that. I’m just hoping that I won’t find out that my real problem is with the even smaller muscles that stabilize the small muscles.

Anyway, since I’m sure everyone is dying to know what I’ve been up, here are some of the exercises.

• The wounded chicken/bust enhancer. Grab a (very slightly) weighted bar with your hands close together, knuckles out. Keeping the bar parallel to the ground, slowly raise it to your chin while keeping your elbows above your wrists. Lower. Repeat 30 times. It looks like one of two things: a wounded chicken trying to strengthen its wings or a woman hell-bent on increasing the size of her bust.

• The Mai Tai wave. Lie on your left side (if right-handed), pillow supporting your head, right elbow bent 90 degrees and held tight against your side. Using a light dumbbell or none at all, lift your right hand by rotating your shoulder. This is the motion that a fat man lying by a pool would employ if he wanted, with the least possible exertion, to signal his waiter to bring another drink. Repeat 30 times. You may be surprised at how small your range of motion is. I was. And I’m still waiting for my damn drink.

• The death by turbojet. Stand with your arms at your sides, thumbs facing forward. Keeping your shoulder blades "set" (I still don't know what this means) and elbows straight, slowly raise your arms forward and up, then slowly lower. This makes you look like a particularly dim one of those guys who guides airliners to the gate (marshaller is the industry term). Repeat 30 times or until the captain of the taxiing plane tires of the game and runs you over. At which point your hunting career—and your time above ground—will be over.

Photo by GeorgeStepanek