Q and A: Rotational Core Training.

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Q: Hello- I had a question regarding your post on the slideboard bodysaw exercise. You mentioned one of the jobs of the abs is to resist rotation, if i understood that correctly. Does that mean there is a contraindication of exercises which involve rotation such as the rotary torso machine or any exercise which involves twisting?

A: This is actually a great question, and I hope I can answer it without opening up a can of worms. First, do I believe there’s a contraindication of exercises that involve rotation? Absolutely not. Do I believe there’s a contraindication of exercises that involve rotation using one of those rotary torso machines (as pictured above)? Well, does Octomom have the parenting skills of a shark’s mouth?

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of those rotary torso machines. If you look at the biomechanics of the lumbar spine, it’s not designed for a whole lot of rotation as it is. Roughly 13 degrees TOTAL from L1-L5. Contrarily, when you look at total motion of the thoracic spine (T1-T12), you’re looking at roughly 40 degrees of rotation, give or take a couple of degrees.

So, in essence, it’s not so much I have anything against rotational training. Rather, I have issues when trainees start training rotation from the wrong places! Shirley Sahrmann, Gray Cook, and most recently, Mike Boyle have all played integral roles in bringing the whole concept of joint specific training into fruition.

NOTE: click HERE for a great article written by Boyle on the topic.

Needless to say, with regards to core training and the lumbar spine, we need to train it with stability in mind. Which is why I’m a huge fan of the aforementioned slideboard bodysaw and:

Pallof Presses:

Prone Plate Switches:

Split Stance Cable Lifts/Chops (anti-rotary training):

As well as a plethora of anterior core work:

Conversely, when talking about core training and the thoracic spine, we need to train with mobility in mind. This is where we’ll use rotational chops/lifts/etc, sledgehammer work, as well as rotational med ball variations

Again, it’s not that I am against rotational training. I’m certainly not. I just think most trainees are asking for trouble once they start adding in a bunch of rotation/twisting movements in the wrong places!

More to the point, when I start working with a new athlete/client, they need to prove they can resist rotation before I actually train it. Even then, it’s imperative you teach someone to rotate through the chest, and not the lumbar spine. Put another way, it’s about coaching someone to rotate through the appropriate segments (thoracic spine) and not the wrong ones (lumbar spine).

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