Rotator-Cuff Muscle-Recruitment Strategies During Shoulder Rehabilitation Exercises

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation

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Kathleen A. Swanik
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Kellie Huxel Bliven
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Charles Buz Swanik
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There are contradictory data on optimal muscle-activation strategies for restoring shoulder stability. Further investigation of neuromuscular-control strategies for glenohumeral-joint stability will guide clinicians in decisions regarding appropriate rehabilitation exercises.


To determine whether subscapularis, infraspinatus, and teres minor (anteroposterior force couple) muscle activation differ between 4 shoulder exercises and describe coactivation ratios and individual muscle-recruitment characteristics of rotator-cuff muscles throughout each shoulder exercise.






healthy, physically active men, age 20.55 ± 2.0 y.


4 rehabilitation exercises: pitchback, PNF D2 pattern with tubing, push-up plus, and slide board.

Main Outcomes Measures:

Mean coactivation level, coactivation-ratio patterns, and level (area) of muscle-activation patterns of the subscapularis, infraspinatus, and teres minor throughout each exercise.


Coactivation levels varied throughout each exercise. Subscapularis activity was consistently higher than that of the infraspinatus and teres minor combined at the start of each exercise and in end ranges of motion. Individual muscle-recruitment levels in the subscapularis were also different between exercises.


Results provide descriptive data for determining normative coactivation-ratio values for muscle recruitment for the functional exercises studied. Differences in subscapularis activation suggest a reliance to resist anteriorly directed forces.

K. Swanik is with the Athletic Training Program, Neumann University, Aston, PA. Huxel Bliven is with Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, A.T. Still University, Mesa, AZ. C. Swanik is with the Dept of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, University of Delaware, Newark, DE.

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