External rotations are exercises in which a limb is rotated outward away from the body. They are also known as lateral rotations, and are common in rehabilitation settings as well as in strength training programs. Several exercises exist that use external rotations to build muscle and improve mobility, but the term is not limited to just exercise. Any motion that extends a limb outward and to the side of the body is technically considered to be an external rotation, but doing external rotations for a specific purpose can be helpful in increasing mobility, flexibility, and muscle strength.
An example of an exercise that uses external rotations is the lying shoulder rotation. To perform this exercise, the exerciser will lie down on his or her side with the knees slightly bent and the head supported by the lower arm. The upper arm will grasp a dumbbell firmly. The weight of the dumbbell depends on the fitness level of the person exercising; a beginner should start with a smaller weight and work up from there. To execute the shoulder rotation, the user will start with the upper arm bent at a ninety degree angle at the elbow, with the elbow planted in the side of the body. The user will then lift the weight upward and away from the body, keeping the elbow planted. This motion will force the shoulder to rotate. The exerciser will then return to the starting position and repeat several times for one set.
Another good external rotation exercise that works the rotator cuff is the sitting knee rotation. The user will sit on a bench with one leg up on the bench, bent at a ninety degree angle. He or she will then plant the elbow into the side of the knee, grasp a dumbbell, and rotate the arm upward. The rotation should again occur at the shoulder. This exercise is particularly useful in rehabilitation settings, in which a patient is recovering from a rotator cuff surgery or similar injury.
External rotations can also be done with cable machines at the gym. After selecting the proper weight, the user will stand perpendicular to the machine with the handle of the cable in the far hand. He or she will then start with the handle positioned at the navel and pull outward away from the body, once again rotating at the shoulder. This exercise also works the rotator cuff and the shoulder muscles.