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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Rotational Movement Exercises for Building Strength

Rotational Movement Exercises for Building Strength

Reading Time: 5 minutes 22 seconds


DATE: 2021-02-24

Foundational movement patterns such as the squat, lunge, hinge, push, and pull are great, but they do not include rotation. Rotation is sometimes viewed as a dangerous movement pattern. This is not the case if the exercises are performed with proper technique. Technique and weight determine how your body responds to exercise.

When you combine bad form with heavy weight to any movement, you are more likely to get injured. However, if you improve rotational strength, you significantly decrease the chance of injury.

Rotation of the body alone is a key component to improving fitness level and athletic performance. Unfortunately, it cannot be trained at the same time another other movement pattern is taking place. But it can be added on top of another exercise.

Rotational movements start with thoracic spine rotation and core power. The abdominal muscles make up the midline of the body and are responsible for all movement. They stabilize the body and transfer power from the upper body to the lower body and vice versa. Let's look into what rotational strength is and how to improve it.

What is Rotational Strength?

Strength is the foundation for increasing power. Strength is the ability to produce force against resistance. While power is applying that force in the fastest possible time.

They are two different components that will be used interchangeably when discussing rotational strength. This is because without strength you cannot improve power output. This is important in all sports and for any client who wants to achieve maximal results.

All movement takes place in one of the three planes. It is important to understand all of these so you can train more efficiently.

  1. Sagittal plane - Movement from the front of the body to the back such as a lunge

  2. Frontal plane - Movement side to side such as a lateral lunge or overhead press

  3. Transverse plane - Rotational movement such as medicine ball throws or 180-degree squat jump turns

To get the most out of your training, you must consider all three movement planes. Rotational strength training takes place in the transverse plane. Sports like baseball, hockey, lacrosse, tennis, and golf all require rotational force and power.

They not only require rotational movement but a stable core as well. Force needs to be generated and transferred through the hip extension to perform well. Improving rotational movement requires working out in the transverse plane.

Transverse Plane Exercises

Imagine a horizontal line separating the body into superior and inferior parts. In other words, cutting the body in half horizontally at the waistline. By dividing the body into upper and lower parts it helps you visualize twisting movements that are executed in the transverse plane.

With this, imagine another line running down the center of the body from the top of your head down. This line serves as an axis for the head and spine to rotate on. Spinal rotation and twisting left to right is movement that occurs in the transverse plane.

Shoulder and hip movements also take place in the transverse plane. Take for instance your arms being held up and out at 90 degrees to the body. Now move them toward or away from the middle of your body. This motion takes place in the transverse plane.

There are many benefits to working in this plane, such as core stability, strength, balance, and coordination. Incorporate the following rotational exercises into your training program for optimal strength training gains.


This exercise is usually performed with cables. It increases strength throughout the core region but mainly targets the transversus abdominis and obliques. It mimics rotational movements in sports like swinging a bat or even a golf swing.

To perform this movement, start by standing with one shoulder directly in line with the cable attachment. Grab the handle with both hands. The shoulder side facing the cable should be the same hand that grips directly on the handle. The other hand overlaps on top of that hand for support.

Begin the movement by gaining tension on the cable. Step far enough away from the pulley to have resistance. Rotate the body away from the weight, keeping the arms completely straight. The arms remain at chest level. Return to the starting position. Move slowly and keep the core engaged. Stabilize the body and control the weight by activating the core, not the arms. Practice using heavy weights for 6-8 repetitions on each side.

Med Ball Rotational Throws

Med ball throws are a great rotational exercise for building strength in the core, hips, and back. Stand sideways approximately three feet from a wall. Twist the hips and torso to throw the medicine ball against the wall. Release, catch, and repeat.

Use heavier weights for 6-8 reps on each side to increase strength. Be sure to release the ball and avoid getting in the habit of throwing with the arms. Let the power and strength develop through the hips.

Rotational Deadlift to Press

To improve strength, you need to constantly load the body. The landmine rotational deadlift to press is a great way to keep demand on the muscles while rotating. The deadlift alone is a huge component of strength training.

This landmine exercise targets both the lower and upper body. Set up a landmine barbell and stand parallel to the end of the bar where the weight sits. If you are lifting and pressing with the left arm, the right shoulder should be facing where the barbell inserts into the rack.

Start in a deadlift position and grip the end part of the barbell on top where the weights rest. Deadlift the bar up and rotate straight into an overhead press. Be sure to turn the back foot forward and end facing the weight. In this case, the back left foot would rotate forward.

Russian Twist

This popular core workout is often performed with excess arm movement. To properly execute a Russian twist for strength, go heavy and focus on rotating the torso. Avoid moving the arms too much and trying to touch the ground with the weight.

Use any type of weight including a dumbbell, kettlebell, or medicine ball. Start in a seated position on the ground and hold the weight in front of your chest. Lift your legs off the ground and twist the upper body side to side as far as you can without extending your arms too far. Complete for 10 repetitions each side with heavy weight to improve strength.

Why Being Strong in Rotational Movements Benefits You

Rotational training translates not only to all sports but everyday life activities. Training rotation allows your body to execute movements during the day with strength and power. This support helps you avoid serious injuries.

Rotational exercises work through the hips and trunk. Better functional strength in the trunk muscles will improve torso rotation. This will lead to efficient movement in everything your client does during training.

The core is responsible for all movement and without it, your body does not have a base of support or stability. Here are some other methods to incorporate in your core training.

Review the following list of benefits with your clients so they understand the importance of including rotational exercises.

  • Improve hip mobility

  • Better lower back health

  • Increase performance

  • Improve core strength

  • Reduce risk of injury

  • Improve other lifts

  • Increase speed and acceleration

You can implement rotational exercises into your client's training program in different ways. Adding rotation to the list of your foundational movement patterns is one of the easiest ways. You can also consider integrating rotational exercises at the beginning of a workout during a mobility routine. Or even at the end of the workout. Figure out what works best for your client and help them hit that next level of fitness!

Start your personal training career today by pursuing the ISSA's Self-Guided Personal Trainer Program. Upon completion, expect more opportunities to make a living and gain ample knowledge to impact people's lives.

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