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The Magic four: Descriptions & Exercises of the Rotator Cuff

1. Infraspinatus - "out & away motion" The infraspinatus muscle is attached to the back of the shoulder blade on one end and to the back of the upper arm bone on the other. It assists with horizontal abduction and lateral rotation of the upper arm within the shoulder socket. Exercising the infraspinatus regularly can help the muscle function effectively and may prevent certain shoulder injuries.(credit: description from

  • The "out" motion: Keeping your elbow bend lateral rotate your arm away from the body with or without a flex band - should rotate 90 degrees.
  • The "away" motion: keep your elbow bent and place your hand on your belly. Now abduct your your arms away slightly as if you are elbowing someone next to you.
  • You might feel a spasm on the back of the shoulder blade (in a good way)

Infraspanatus & Subscapularis are antagonists. This means as you strengthen one you can stretch the other.

2. Subscapularis

  • Medial Rotation of the arm
  • Same arm position as lateral rotation but pull arm in toward body;
  • Should rotate 70 Degrees medial
  • Internal Rotation to begin and External Rotation at End (with band): Infraspinatus & Subscapularis

3. Teres Minor - Small but Mighty. the teres minor is located on the back of each of your shoulder blades. It is a small muscle that connects the lower portion of each shoulder blade to the top of each upper arm bone. During exercises that cause rotation of the shoulder, the teres minor does not work alone. The infraspinatus, supraspinatus and subscapularis work as a group to improve your shoulder strength and range of motion. (credit: description from

  • Keeping your elbow bend lateral rotate your arm away from the body with or without a flex band - should rotate 90 degrees.

4. Supraspinatus - The subscapularis is one of the four rotator-cuff muscles that act on your shoulder, facilitating inward rotation of the humerus bone within the shoulder socket. The muscle crosses in front of your shoulder joint, attaching to the scapula bone in your upper back on the inside and to the front of the humerus on the outside. Strengthening the subscapularis involves performing resistance exercises that activate the muscle on a regular basis as part of a well-designed program. (credit: description from

  • Arms straight down by your sides, begin without resistance
  • Arms out to the side of your body, with your thumbs rotated down towards the floor
  • Slowly lift your arms out to the side , no higher than the shoulder. keep shoulder blade down the back.
  • Push-ups are also a wonderful way to focus on the subscapularis!

Abduction starting position


Abduction end position

  • you can also do this movement with a straight arms, thumb down.

Lateral Rotation starting position


Lateral Rotation end position

  • you can also do these exercises without resistance and laying on your side

Anatomy of the Rotator Cuff

VASIFY your shoulders

by Paul Van Alstine

After 20 Years of Teaching Pilates and 25 years of Rolfing, I’ve worked with thousand of people with pain, tension, and stressful shoulder and neck issues. My goal for the last 20 years has been to get people out of pain, into life, and looking for better way to get people looking and feeling their best.

Do you feel like your shoulders round forward all the time? Or do you feel like your shoulders are pulled up into your ears by the end of every workday? Even worse, have you had a rotator cuff injury, or do you have chronic neck and shoulder tension? Have you had a good whiplash or neck injury?

If this sounds like you, I’ve been there. So have a lot of our instructors and clients. For me, it was several injuries that worked together to create chronic pain, tension, and postural issues that kept me out of “the game” for years. In fact, I switched careers because I was in so much pain that I could barely work. I spent years doing yoga, acupuncture, herbs aromatherapy, Reiki, etc. I tried strengthening, stretching, massage, etc.. I thought I was literally going crazy because the symptoms were so variable and it was hard to know what activity or other factor was creating my pain on any given day.

In the end, I found a couple of methods that worked really well. They weren’t immediate but I was so desperate for a solution that I would do anything that felt like it would give me a bit of lasting change. In the end, I went to Rolfing school because it was the only thing that helped me get my pain under control. I then searched through about 100 forms of exercise because my Rolfing clients wanted a type of exercise to reinforce the changes that they got from Rolfing. I studied Pilates at Stott in Canada before developing the Pilates based VASIE Pilates program that we teach at Studio One Pilates.

At 57, my shoulder and neck pain most days is zero. I still have a torn rotator cuff, and several problematic discs, and ligament issues in my neck and rotator cuffs. The techniques, and more importantly the ideas of how to systematically and predictably change bodies for the better that underlie the ways are what we teach through VASIE Pilates. We’ve helped thousands of clients at this point rehab their bodies from injuries, accidents, and pre and post surgery. One of the most gratifying things is that not only do clients get out of pain with consistent attendance, they literally stop the aging process from a postural standpoint.

Before studying Rolfing and Pilates, I saw the world as strength, flexibility, endurance, and conditioning. All of these are important. For many people, these avenues tend to become dead ends with injury or age. Many people try harder and harder to get back what they once had. Often, the old techniques don’t work for the new condition or issue. Often, what is needed is a new and different way to get the body back in line.

After years of working with literally thousands of bodies, joint balance, core strength, and myofascial tone are what tend to keep a body looking, feeling, and moving younger and longer. With attention to overall body balance, individual joint alignment, core function and strength, a person can do regular conditioning far longer and better.

Stronger Supported Shoulders, Neck and Rotator Cuff

Using a VASIE Pilates approach shoulders and necks are improved from the feet up. This is covered in our classes starting with the fun fatigue free feet class. The emphasis here is on creating myofascial tone and joint balance in the feet so the the core muscles work. you will learn this in group classes and can drill down into much more depth in the Master Classes. To start fixing your shoulders and necks; come to class and...

  • make sure you have good tone in your feet and legs
  • make sure your low ab tone is good and that you have low ab priority
  • make sure you have mid and upper ab coordination in movement
  • develop good flexion & extension in your mid back that support
  • develop good flexion & extension in your upper back
  • strengthen tone and balance the Macro stabilizers of the shoulder
  • tone the muscles of the rotator cuff
  • Tone the main muscles that support a long neck
  • keep repeating this cycle because you will keep improving in body awareness and coordination. This is one of the major benefits of this approach…

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Master-classes are the heart of your learning and education at Studio One. They provide the opportunity to really slow down and learn a profoundly new way of changing your body through exercise. Every master class is carefully designed to help you get several “ah-ha” moments.


VASIE Movement University is a series of weekend intensive classes that go through the entire VASIE Pilates repertoire. It is created with the goal of sharing the deep knowledge that Studio One instructors & Rolfers® know and have with every client. We believe that the skills you learn and transformations you make here at Studio One Pilates are for life.

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