Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Strong Healthy Shoulders: Cuban Rotation

The limiting factor in the original three-part Cuban press (which is basically an upright row, external rotation, and an overhead press) is the rotation, thus the name "Cuban rotation." It's all about balance. By working the weak link, the entire chain gets stronger. The beauty is that not only will your Cuban press get stronger, but so will other lifts like the bench press and pull-up. By using a barbell, this movement is very specific to the aforementioned exercises. The Cuban rotation can be performed standing, seated, or kneeling, but to respect the Law of Specificity, you should use the same grip you commonly use for your benches and wide grip pull-ups.

With the arms abducted (raised out to the side), the Cuban rotation primarily stresses the infraspinatus, a rotator cuff muscle responsible for external/lateral rotation of the humerus (your upper arm bone). Unless you've been hiding under a rock over the last decade, you should know that the big boys up top, i.e. your pecs and lats, are internal rotators of the humerus. It's very easy to develop a muscular imbalance since most programs heavily favor internal rotation and not external rotation.

The integrity of the shoulder joint subsequently suffers, increasing the likelihood of injury. Furthermore, strength about the shoulder joint is also compromised as a protective measure if the external rotators aren't well developed and can't stabilize a heavy load.

Okay, here we go. To perform the Cuban rotation, start with your upper arms raised out to your sides until they're parallel to the ground and in line with your shoulders. The bar should be positioned directly in front of your lower sternum. Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees and the wrists straight and firm throughout. Rotate the bar toward your forehead but stop just shy of vertical at the top of the movement. This will ensure that you maintain tension on the muscle at all times.

If you hit yourself in the head, then you either went too far (duh!), and/or your elbows were too low (below shoulder level). Keep your chest up and head erect during the entire exercise. As a matter of fact, imitate your favorite Playmate and draw your sternum up as high as possible. According to some experts you're about 10% stronger in this position, although this is a bit of a generalization. On the eccentric (negative) contraction, rotate the bar down as far as you can without lowering your chest or your upper arms.

Don't get too brave with this exercise; take it easy on the weight to begin with and concentrate on your form. A standard 45-pound Olympic bar will be too heavy for most of you and a 15 pound cambered (EZ-Curl) bar will probably be light, so find a weight in between. Don't be deceived, though. This exercise is a lot like the movie Man On The Moon; you start off laughing but end up crying. The Cuban rotation will catch up to you quickly and you'll definitely feel it!

Also, don't go overboard (i.e. Titanic) with the sets, especially at the beginning. Since the external rotators are relatively small muscles, two to three sets of 12 to 15 reps will do just fine to begin with. It's advisable to use light weights and higher reps at this stage to develop the neural pathways. However, research indicates a slightly greater proportion of fast twitch muscle fibers in the infraspinatus; therefore, a medium rep range would be ideal.

Your second go around with this exercise, during a different program, should then concentrate on a slightly lower rep bracket (8 to10 reps) for three to four sets. Use a moderate tempo and take two seconds to complete the positive contraction and two to four seconds for the negative (lowering) with no pause in between. Use short rest intervals: 45 to 60 seconds at the lower intensity/load and 75 to 90 seconds at the higher intensity.

In general, to improve the strength and integrity of the shoulder joint, you should perform external rotations on a regular basis. With that in mind, check out this next exercise that's also quite effective, but will hit you from a totally different angle.

 Strong Healthy Shoulders: Cuban Rotation Strong Healthy Shoulders: Cuban Rotation Strong Healthy Shoulders: Cuban Rotation Strong Healthy Shoulders: Cuban Rotation Strong Healthy Shoulders: Cuban Rotation Strong Healthy Shoulders: Cuban Rotation

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