What is the correct way to perform cuban rotation with a single dumbbell?

I am experimenting with cuban rotation as an assistance exercise for olympic lifting and gymnastic arm balances. My current exercise plan is 3x per week olympic lifting plus handstand skill work every other day (not really structured) plus some light yoga in the mornings. I have no shoulder injuries or mobility problems, I want to use this exercise primarily to increase strength.

I have seen cuban rotations performed in a number of ways:

  • Standing, with barbell: the bar goes from the stomach to behind the head in 180 degree angle.

  • With dummbell, elbow unsupported: the same as above, with either 1 or 2 dumbbells, standing or sitting, 180 degrees motion

  • With dumbbell, elbow supported: with 1 dumbbell, the elbow supported on the knee, but only 90 degrees of rotation (lowering the dumbbell from vertical to horizontal, and back)

What are the advantages/disadvantages of each version? Currently I prefer the single dumbbell version, because even an unloaded barbell seems too heavy for this exercise, and I only have a single dumbbell at home.

With a single dumbbell, should I have my elbows supported or not? Should the range of motion be 90 degrees or 180?

The supported version with a ROM of more than 90 degrees feels awkward and sometimes very slightly painful in my shoulder. Should I reduce the weight and try to perform in full range of motion, or is 90 degrees ok in the long term?

1 Answer 1


Please learn the difference between assistance work, accessory work, and rehab work.

Cuban rotation is not a strength exercise, and therefore should not be done in order to improve strength. If you want shoulder strength, stick with strict presses.

I don't remember seeing any Cuban rotations in Mark Rippetoe or Jim Wendler's work.

You should start doing these moves with lightest weight possible, and increase in time making sure you don't feel any awkward sensation.

  • So, in your view, what is it? Assistance, accessory, or rehab?
    – BKE
    Mar 15, 2015 at 13:29
  • 1
    Accessory work is supplementary work, which is defined as follows: "Supplementary work consists of using variations/varying intensities of the competition lifts to address different weak/sticking points and build special work capacity." Assistance work is defined as follows: "assistance work is to bring up lagging muscle groups and retain muscular suppleness". These definitions are done by Chad Wesley Smith, here: facebook.com/JTSstrength/posts/567610093276009
    – Michael C.
    Mar 17, 2015 at 21:39
  • Thanks. I am looking for an answer which can explain how this exercise can be useful for bodyweight gymnastic exercises as well as lifting, and can also explain which described version is superior and why.
    – BKE
    Mar 18, 2015 at 8:59
  • I don't think I can give a thorough answer on this matter specifically. Good luck :) Edit; but I would recommend you to read some gymnastics books (gymnastic bodies); maybe they talk about these moves, about the necessity of them etc.
    – Michael C.
    Mar 18, 2015 at 9:34

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