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ASAP Podcast with Beacon Orthopedics Surgeon & Shoulder Specialist Robert Rolf M.D.

Robert Rolf M.D. is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio and a graduate of La Salle High School. He attended the University of Notre Dame where he received a BS in Chemical Engineering. This served as the foundation for furthering his studies into medicine and eventually, a specialty in the shoulder following his advanced research conducted at The Boston Shoulder Institute at Harvard under the guidance and fellowships with world reknowned shoulder surgeons. Nowadays, Dr.Rolf is the Co-Director of the Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine sports medicine fellowship program. He’s also a guest for our ASAP Podcast on the shoulder joint and rotator cuff.

The shoulder joint is definitely one of the more intricate joints of the human body. It’s an amazing structure, to say the least. And, it’s capable of some extraordinary athletic performance.  USA gymnast, Simone Biles is not going to have extreme success performing a Yurchenko double pike without a the shoulder joint working to perfection. Quarterback Aaron Rogers would not be able to launch a football 70 yards with pinpoint accuracy with a seriously injured shoulder.  Dr. Rolf, a distinctly skilled surgeon was able to share some of his time and expertise with ASAP~Athletic Stength And Power Podcasts in a discussion about the shoulder, and more specifically the rotator cuff, while making the intricasies of a very complicated joint quite easy to understand.


What is the rotator cuff?
The rotator cuff is a term used for a complicated area of the shoulder joint, comprised of tendons and relatively small musculature. The rotator cuff allows us to extend our arms up over our heads, rotate our shoulders, and throw a ball or object.
The main muscles that make up the rotator cuff are:

  • the Supraspinatus
  • the Infraspinatus
  • the Teres Major
  • the Subscapularis

Other important muscles in this region that need to be considered are the latissimus dorsi, the deltoids, the pectoralis muscles and the biceps and triceps. All of the aforementioned muscles play a key role in the function of the shoulder.

The shoulder, the rotator cuff and the muscles of the back are all interrelated with the large shoulder bone blades, or scapula, as well as the clavicle, humerus and acromion process.  Interestingly, as Dr. Rolf discusses in our ASAP Podcast, there are seventeen muscles that attach to the scapula. Seventeen muscles! In addition, he explained that those smallish rotator cuff muscles are “two to four pound muscles”, meaning that two to four pound dumbells along with the exercise bands at The Bill Jacobs Power Company, are all that’s required to stimulate growth or repair to the area. The heavier weights used in bench pressing, vertical presses, cleans and rows are not effective in targeting the rotator cuff.

Athletes, especially those who are required to do a lot of throwing need to pay special attention to this area of the body. Career ending injuries or painful, nagging type injuries have been the demise of many athletes…both professional and amateur. Things can go wrong in this area….including, the aging process- where the shoulder slowly degrades over time, overuse injuries that lead to tendonitis, tears, impingement and sprains. Other injuries are due to muscle imbalances and also hard or heavy impact to the region.

A specialized program needs to be used to prevent injuries to the rotator cuff. This includes proper strengthening exercise and a regular flexibility program.

STRENGTH TRAINING for the Rotator Cuff
The following exercises should be included in a comprehensive program for the rotator cuff.

  • Side lateral raises
  • Side deltoid flys with a cable machine
  • Front Deltoid Raises with a dumbell
  • Rear deltoid flys (machine or dumbells)
  • Dumbell Shoulder press on a inclined bench
  • Lying “L” Flys
  • Standing “L” Flys
  • Lying Flys (arms straight out)
  • Normal Grip Bench Press (avoid the wide grip technique!)


  • Straight Armed Pectoralis Stretch
  • Overhead Pole Stretch
  • External Rotation Stretch
  • Partner Deltoid Stretch

Schedule with Dr. Rolf online 24/7 by clicking here.