Making The Case For Rotational Exercises
I’ve been working in chiropractic offices in one capacity or another since 2003 and over those years I’ve picked up a number of tips from doctors on how to keep a patient from re-injuring their low back. Well, at least give them a better shot at it. The tip I’ve heard the most is do not bend and twist. However, when asked most patients say they hurt their low back with a bending and twisting movement or lift. With so many injuries happening with these movements perhaps it would be more beneficial to strengthen our bodies in the transverse plane (rotation) rather than attempting to avoid these movements or lifts all together.
Most exercise routines happen in the sagittal (forward and backward) and frontal planes (side to side) of movement. Deadlifts, squats, lunges, bench press, shoulder press and planks are some of the most popular foundational exercises yet they have no rotation. Think about some of your daily movements like gardening, grabbing your suitcase from a conveyer belt, lifting your groceries to the car, etc. All these activities combine some level of rotation, but most people don’t train for them. Furthermore the only time I see clients even interested in rotational strength is to advance their golf or tennis game.
I believe rotational exercises should be a part of everyone’s exercise routine and could help prevent a person from injuring and/or re-injuring their lower back. Here are some basic examples of rotational exercises:
Banded Rotations: Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and keep a tight core. With your arms extended rotate from the outside hip away from where the band is fixed. You can pivot on your back foot, but I prefer to keep my feet still and focus on my obliques. When you return to the start position make sure the band still has tension. If not move away slightly so there’s a constant tension throughout the exercise.
Wood Choppers: In this example I’m using a medicine ball. There are a number of variations of this exercise, but what I like to do is rotate to one side holding the ball a little lower than my hip and loading that leg. Then with a tight core I rotate while lifting the medicine ball until I finish above the opposite shoulder.
Please keep in mind these movements, as with all new exercises, should not be attempted without supervision of a certified personal trainer, exercise physiologist or physical therapist.
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