Revel in Rotation
Rotational Training: The true approach to functional training
Why we implement rotation into our programming
A huge portion of my program design is dedicated to some form of rotational training. As soon as my clients are able to control their bodies in sagittal and frontal planes and then do the same with resistance, I begin to incorporate different forms of rotational exercises. As they progress, these exercises become more and more complex and spiral in nature. But why?
These exercises look almost like gimmicks, like there is no true functionality. When you consider the amount of weight that can be lifted with squats and deadlifts, what's the point in twisting around the floor with a light weight like a drunk ballet dancer?
The truth is that as humans we owe a lot, if not all of our upright two legged posture, to rotation. No other vertebrate is capable of the complex movements which humans possess. To be able to twist around a vertical axis while rotating the head independently is a unique attribute that allows us to do all of the amazing things that we can. Even the act of walking, which we take for granted, is grounded in the ability to rotate.
This all comes from the make up of the human body, which works in spirals all the way from the feet to the head. The trunk is the most obvious place to view these spirals, with two very distinct ‘fascial slings’ crossing the midline. To the back you have the Posterior Oblique Sling, which amongst others connects the Glutes to the Lats on the opposite side of the midline through what is known as the Thoracolumbar fascia. On the front there is the Anterior Oblique Sling which links the External Oblique to the opposite Internal Obliques and down into the Adductor muscles. These are patterns that you will hear me say in class in all the time.
The picture displays how these spirals or slings are organized:
However, as we age and specialize in sports or daily life, the body gets used to certain positions. For example, a soccer player favoring the side they stabilize on, an office worker developing a rounded back or a hairdresser having an overly elevated scapula on their cutting hand. We develop tons of these asymmetries throughout our lives. By incorporating full body rotational exercises following the paths of these spiral lines, we can look to regain left and right global rotation. Ultimately, by improving the symmetry of the trunk the pelvis can be stabilized more efficiently, which produces better timing and unity through our cross core patterns and a better walking and running gait.
As our gait becomes more efficient, the wear and tear on the stabilizing muscles is drastically reduced, which in turn reduces injury that might occur from those asymmetries.
Reducing injury is huge, but another big advantage in improving symmetrical trunk rotation is the power outputs. As mentioned above, the spirals are created by diagonal fascial lines or slings. The fascia is made up a elastic material that stores energy very similarly to that of a rubber band. This is especially true of the posterior oblique sling. When the unity and timing of the integrated muscles have been trained correctly you will notice a huge development of strength and power when pulling and pushing.
So you have the why, now to give you the how.
We categorize our rotational training into 3 levels. Within each level there are both rotational and anti-rotational exercises.
Level 1 is about learning to rotate the trunk independently of the pelvis. For a lot of these drills we put clients in half or full kneeling positions so that we can really draw attention to the movement of the pelvis.
Level 2 sees clients move to their feet and generally involves rotating through more than one joint. At this point it becomes much harder to feel the pelvis and the moving or staggered stance of the client's footwork becomes very challenging to their stability.
Level 3 is also mainly done on the feet, but the difference is that movements are continuous in nature -- there is no end point. So the clients must have excellent internal timing and sequencing ratios between all of the joints involved. The exercises used are very complex, but provide for extremely beneficial core training.
In the next part to this blog we will go over some of these exercises.