The Most Functional Movement Pattern?
-Josh Henkin, CSCS
I hate internet questions that go something like, “if you were stuck on a deserted island, what exercise would you perform?” I get the idea of people wanting to know where to focus in their training as there is SO MUCH out there nowadays. However, first, if I was stuck on an island the exercise I would practice the MOST would be swimming to hopefully get myself off the island, second, we never have to choose to do ONE exercise, ONE tool, etc. Yet, I do want to address understanding priorities better in our training and that is why I wanted to discuss one of the MOST important and yet misunderstood movement pattern…rotation.
Now, I have a theory a lot of people don’t bother understanding or training rotation because what muscle does rotational training work? What a weird movement pattern that doesn’t give me a “pump” or I can “feel” certain muscles working. Funny enough, these are all HUGE misunderstanding of how important the movement pattern of rotation can be for our many different fitness goals.
Rotation is Key in Developing Power
Power isn’t just for athletes and it isn’t just about doing a HIIT workout or doing something cool. Research has shown power training has many health benefits as well from improving our metabolic health, glucose tolerance, stimulating anabolic hormones, building connective tissue strength/elasticity, and more!
When it comes to developing power in many forms in life, rotation often plays the biggest role of any of the movement patterns we perform. Whether it is kicking, throwing, punching, and many more activities, rotation plays a BIG part. However, most people don’t know how we create rotation which ALL starts from the ground up. Why? Check out this great clip from National Geographic’s old show “Fight Science”…
How do you teach this though? Many people have no concept on how to even start teaching these concepts which can seem like a VERY complicated movement pattern for those that have never done it.
The MOST important part of drills like our Rotational Press Outs, is learning how to use our feet to create rotation through our hips while keeping a relatively stable core. Why is the core being stable so important? As renowned physical therapist Shirley Sahrmann explains, “During most daily activities, the primary role of the abdominal muscles is to provide isometric support and limit the degree of rotation of the trunk… A large percentage of low back problems occur because the abdominal muscles are not maintaining tight control over the rotation between the pelvis and the spine at the L5- S1 level.”
In other words, if we can’t control our core, then we lose power and increase our risk of creating low back issues as well. That is also why during teaching of the movement pattern of rotation we want to teach another important concept.
How to Resist Rotation
The sought after performance coach, Dr. Brandon Marcello has a wonderful definition of stability, “allow wanted movement, while resisting unwanted movement.” This is not only very accurate, but helps us understand there are many levels of stability. When it comes to teaching the movement pattern of rotation, most people can’t control how much wanted movement to create and how to resist unwanted movement. That is where the idea of teaching how to resist rotation comes into play.
It is not that we NEVER EVER can have any rotation of our spine, but overall, our spine doesn’t have a great deal of rotation (especially our lumbar spine that has only about 12 degrees). The truth is that performing resisted rotational exercises are to teach how to, as Dr. Marcello said, allow wanted movement and resist unwanted movement. There are many ways to teach these concepts and here are a few big keys.
Diagonal patterns are a key part in teaching how to resist rotation as well. Highly respected strength coach, Mike Boyle offers the following explanation…
"We can probably trace the roots of rotary training probably to Maggie Knott and Dorothy Voss, physical therapists who expanded on neurophysiologist Dr. Herman Kabat’s diagonal patterns of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) from the 1950s. Although we now recognize PNF more as a neuromuscular stretching technique, the idea was originally far more extensive. Knott and Voss advocated diagonal patterns of exercise to involve both sagittal plane prime movers and the muscles responsible for transverse and frontal plane motion.
Physical therapists began to realize these diagonal patterns of extension and rotation were a vital part of movement and started to use them to provide a more real-world aspect to rehab. Specialists in rehab began to understand movement is multi-planar, and the highest form of rehab involved diagonal patterns of flexion and extension combined with rotation.
Thomas Myers in Anatomy Trains discusses what he calls the spiral and functional lines of the body, while Janda made us aware of the integrated workings of the musculature across the critical junction from the glutes to the opposite-side lat. This area, known as the thoracolumbar fascia, along with the hip joints, allows us to move force from the ground to the extremities.”
What are some keys though in doing lift/chops better? Check them out…
Douglas Sheppard of J & D Fitness does a great breakdown of a foundational movement pattern for teaching resisted rotation.
Coaches Cory Cripe and Megan Berner of Fitness Lying Down show how dynamic we can take this movement pattern in our training.
Understanding the Goal
There are SOOOO many progressions of rotational training that often never get discussed (we break many of them down in our L.I.F.T. Rotational Module HERE) but that leaves GIANT holes in people’s training. Next week will discuss how rotational training even enhances our thoracic and hip mobility which leads to greater performance in other movement patterns. So, if I told you there was a movement pattern that trained A LOT of muscles all at once, made you more powerful, and helped increase your mobility at the same time would be interested? That is what rotational training can do for you!
Josh is an international presenter and strength coach who has taught in over 13 countries worldwide and consulted with some of the top fitness and performance programs in the world. You can check out his DVRT online fitness educational certifications/courses HERE and get 20% off with code “pb20”