Depending on who you listen to, you may or may not feel that direct rotator cuff work is important in order to keep the shoulders of overhead athletes healthy. Coaches like Eric Cressey and Michael Boyle still include direct rotator cuff in their programs with various external rotation exercises.
One the other hand, coaches/physical therapists like Gray Cook would tell you the rotator cuff is a reflex driven muscle group that is built for stability, and therefore strengthening isn’t necessary. They would argue that Turkish Get Ups, various crawling variations, and loaded carries (suitcase, farmers) is ideal for rotator cuff health.
Three extremely well educated, highly thought of coaches and physical therapists with somewhat differing opinions.
I personally tend to agree with Gray Cook in the thought process that direct rotator cuff is unnecessary – strengthening a muscle that is built on time and stabilization just doesn’t make sense to me. As a result we do a ton of carries, a ton of get ups and a ton of crawling variations.
But we also perform a band circuit and do some external rotation exercises just to cover all our bases. My thought process: the direct cuff work takes 2-3 minutes – you are better off safe then sorry and 2-3 minutes is not taking up much time at all. The following video is our typical shoulder band circuit with some direct external rotation.