Side Lying Dumbbell External Rotation


Side Lying Dumbbell External Rotation

This exercise strengthens muscles that cause the arm to rotate outward – the infraspinatus and teres minor. Also, it promotes scapular movement and stability and reduces the risk of shoulder injuries. In this article you will learn how to perform side lying dumbbell external rotation in order to develop stronger rotator cuff muscles.

Exercise Instructions

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Lie sideways on a flat bench or on the floor. Straighten your upper arm (upside arm) so that it is parallel to and resting on your upper body. Bend your top elbow 90 degrees and rest it on the towel so upper arm is parallel to your torso and your forearm hangs down in front of your abs (your forearm is perpendicular to your body). Your other hand should be on top of the bench and folded so that you can rest your head on it or it can remain on the floor.

Side Lying Dumbbell External Rotation

Side Lying Dumbbell External Rotation

MOVEMENT (ACTION): While keeping your arm bent and your elbow at your side, slowly pull the dumbbell up toward the ceiling until your forearm is roughly perpendicular to the floor. Without pausing, slowly return to the starting position. Perform all prescribed reps on one side, then on the other. This counts as one set.

Side Lying Dumbbell External Rotation Key Points & Tips

  • First lie on your right side with a rolled-up towel under your right armpit or under your right elbow.
  • In starting position your working arm should be in “L” position, bent 90 degrees at the elbow.
  • Do not use momentum and keep motion in the rest of the body to a minimum.
  • Move the dumbbell in an outward arc away from the body (out and back; as if it were a gate swinging open, with your upper arm acting as a hinge) until your forearm is roughly perpendicular to your abdomen/floor.
  • Keep the same angle in your elbow and wrist during the movement, and don’t move your shoulder or torso back to get a greater range of motion.
  • Do not use a lot of weight on this exercise. Focus on achieving maximum shoulder rotation.
  • The external rotation will occur as you pull the weight straight up and away from the bench. As the weight is pulled with your arm still (pivoting at the elbow), you place stress on the external rotators as the shoulder turns. Since you are using a light weight, the exercise builds those small muscles internal to your shoulder.


  • Lying Dumbbell External Rotation. Lie across a flat exercise bench resting on your upper back, keeping your elbow in contact with the bench.
  • Dumbbell Incline Shoulder External Rotation. Lie on your left/right side on an incline bench.

Replacement Exercises

Muscles Used in Side Lying Dumbbell External Rotation

Main muscles: infraspinatus, teres minor
Secondary muscles: deltoid (rear)
Antagonists: subscapularis, latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major

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