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Pilates Exercises To Improve External Rotation of the Shoulder

External shoulder rotation is when the humerus rotates away from the center of the body. This skill is key to great posture and keeping your shoulders healthy.

Exercises that externally rotate the shoulder strengthen the infraspinatus, teres minor (two of the rotator cuff muscles), as well as your posterior deltoid. A strong rotator cuff keeps the humerus in the optimal position for lifting the arms overhead with strength without tension. 

If you want to lift heavy weights or just reach for something off the top shelf without compression and strain in the shoulder, add exercises that improve external rotation into your program.

Pilates offers a lot of exercises that can help. Here are a few to get you started: 


  • Leg Pull / Upward Table
  • Scarecrow
  • Side-lying external rotation with elbow at waist


Trapeze Table
  • Supine Scapular Series: Overhead with elbows pointing up
  • Seated Pull Down


  • Kneeling Arms Side: external rotation and reach


  • Side Balance
  • Seated Triceps Press


  • Snow Angels (improves core control by strengthening abdominals)


Foam Roller
  • Snow Angels (no weight or 1 lb hand weight)


To learn each of these exercises and to see even more exercises that improve external rotation of the shoulder, check out the Programming & Sequencing chapter of the Pilates Encyclopedia. You'll get videos and detailed instructions for each exercise!

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