Exercises for Post Op Rotator Cuff Repair

Want to know the 9 best exercises for the early stages of post op rotator cuff repair. A Systematic Review from 2017, looked at EMG activity of over 45 different exercises and narrowed it down to these 9 with the least amount of rotator cuff EMG activity. Hint: not all pendulums are the same, and pulleys were not on the list.


A Systematic Review of Electromyography Studies in Normal Shoulders to Inform Postoperative Rehabilitation Following Rotator Cuff Repair Journal of Orthopaedic; Sports Physical Therapy 2017 47:12, 931-944 

  • Identified passive and active assisted ROM exercises, using EMG, that would be most appropriate in the early/acute states following RC repair, to limit retear rates. Authors were looking for exercises that had <15% MVIC

  • Retear rates are dependent on size of the tear; tissue quality; the location, type, and chronicity of the tear; previous and/or concomitant surgery; and individual patient factors such as smoking, body mass, and physical activity.

  • A total of 43 different exercises were evaluated, with 9 meeting the cut off criteria of <15% MVIC.

  • Most active assistive exercises using  a bar or a pulley to elevate the operated limb tended to generate over 15% MVIC, suggesting that their use early in rehabilitation may be inappropriate.

  • For Supraspinatus: ER bar assisted (supine or standing) or wall assisted; supine press up (opp arm assist) , washcloth press up (hands close together); towel slides (flexion and scaption); pendulums (small); prone scapular retractions; scapular protraction on a swiss ball

  • For Infraspinatus: forward bow, towel slides (flexion and scaption), scapular protraction on a swiss ball, supine self assisted; prone scapular retraction, washcloth press up (hands close together), pendulums (small), supine bar assisted ER (supine or standing).