Activation of the rotator cuff in generating isometric shoulder rotation torque

Yue Nan Jenp, Gerard A. Malanga, Eric S. Growney, Kai Nan An

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


This study compared and quantified electromyographic muscle activation of the rotator cuff with the isometric torque generated by performing shoulder rotation in various positions. Twenty healthy volunteers were tested in 29 shoulder positions. Using a Cybex II dynamometer synchronously with electromyography, surface electrodes were placed over the pectoralis major muscle and three parts of the deltoid muscle. Intramuscular wire electrodes were inserted into the four rotator cuff muscles. We found that the greatest external rotation isometric force is generated in the frontal and scapular planes in the neutral or full internal rotation positions. The sagittal, dependent, and the scapular plane with 45° of elevation in rotational positions of either full or half external rotation generated the greatest torques for internal rotation isometric force. The rotator cuff muscles generated greatest electromyographic activity in neutral to midrotational positions. The scapular plane with 90° of shoulder elevation in neutral rotation best isolated the subscapularis muscle. The infraspinatus-teres minor muscles were isolated in the sagittal plane with 90° of shoulder elevation in a half externally rotated position. We were unable to isolate the supraspinatus muscle in any of these tested positions. These positions are recommended for manual muscle testing and for strengthening these muscles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-485
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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