post Best Rotational Exercises (Secret To Rock Solid Core)

Best Rotational Exercises (Secret To Rock Solid Core)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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No matter what kind of upper body strengthening exercises you have on your workout plan, you’ll always need to have a strong and athletic core to be able to push yourself further.

As an expert in fitness and training, I believe that incorporating core-strengthening exercises into your routine can help you achieve your fitness goals and maximize your performance. And one thing that will make a huge difference is rotational exercises.
These are not your typical core exercises, and you have to make sure that you are careful with your form in any kind of rotational movement to avoid back injuries.

That's why we teamed up with a physiotherapist to help us come up with an ideal rotational training plan.

Quick Summary

  • The woodchopper and landmine press are some of the best upper-body workouts that will gradually improve your range of motion and strength.
  • Rotational movements are an ideal way to introduce natural core movements and rotational patterns that you also use in other exercises.
  • According to Physiopedia, core rotation exercises activate your hip flexors, essential for leg lifting and posture support.
  • From my experience, incorporating rotational movements into workouts can significantly improve functional fitness and body dynamics.

Best Rotational Power Exercises

Woman performing rotational exercises indoors

Let me introduce you to eight unique rotational movements that will transform your core musculature.

Woodchopper

This is one of my favorites and possibly the most intense rotational power exercise, as well:

  • The starting position is to stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Grab hold of a medicine ball and hold it over your left shoulder while leaning more on your left leg.
  • Slowly lower the ball down and across your torso, rotate your body, and tilt it forward so that you can bring the ball down to your right shin.
  • Then lift it back up to the starting point and repeat until failure.
  • Once you’re done with the left side, it’s time to switch to the right, to work on both planes of motion.

Landmine Rotation

Performing landmine rotation inside the gym

Here is another one of the simpler rotational exercises that you can do at the gym: 

  • Set up a barbell with the landmine attachment and try this exercise without weight plates first.
  • Lift up the end of the bar with both hands and hold it about a foot in front of your chin.
  • Keep your feet planted on the ground and start a torso rotation to the left while lowering the bar down in the same direction.
  • Pull the bar back up to the center and rotate your body to the right.
  • Make sure you keep your spine neutral and focus on engaging your core muscles.

Related: Best Landmine Exercises For Strength Building

Dumbbell Rotational Punches

This is another great way to build up rotational power, and this time you’ll want a pair of dumbbells: 

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand at about chest height and close to your body.
  • Take a slightly wider stance than hip-width apart with your feet and knees slightly bent.
  • To build strength and stability, start core training by twisting your body all the way to the left and punching your right arm out.
  • Twist to the right and punch with the left dumbbell and push the left hip forward.
  • Repeat these movements until failure.

Sledgehammer Slams

Using a sledgehammer to slam a tire

Sledgehammer slams are a fun way to focus on the transverse plane and introduce completely natural lateral flexion, as shown in Physiopedia [1].

Yes, you’ll need a sledgehammer and, ideally, an old tire:

  • Get into the starting position with your left foot forward and closer to the tire.
  • Bring the sledgehammer up over your right shoulder and hold it with both hands near the bottom.
  • Now, slam it as hard as possible onto the tire while rotating your body and keeping your arms straight.
  • Repeat as many times as possible and notice the smile on your face.

Landmine Press With Rotation

This variation of the landmine press will introduce motion across the frontal plane and build up a lot more core strength:

  • Set up a barbell with the landmine attachment and just a lightweight load.
  • Stand next to the end of the barbell with your left foot closest to the bar and it up with your right hand.
  • Lean onto your right leg and then push the bar up while simultaneously rotating your upper and lower body.
  • Return to the starting point and repeat the movement as many times as possible before switching to the other side.

Rotational Medicine Ball Throw

Woman holding on a medicine ball

This exercise boosts natural rotational power and enhances range of motion. Unlike non-rotational workouts, it challenges the body to manage dynamic forces, providing a more holistic workout.

In my fitness trainer, clients who incorporate rotational movements often see a marked improvement in their overall strength and agility.

  • Stand perpendicular to a wall starting about three feet away and with your right shoulder pointing toward it.
  • Hold the medicine ball hip high and to the left of your body.
  • Lean onto your left leg and then twist your upper and lower body towards the ball.
  • Bring the ball around at speed and slam it into the wall.
  • Then catch it and return to the starting point in a smooth motion and repeat as many times as possible.

Russian Twists

Russian twists are another one of the rotational strength exercises that is excellent for achieving great core strength with six-pack abs: 

  • Start by sitting on a yoga mat with your knees at a right angle and tilt back slightly.
  • Hold your hands in front of your chest and lift your feet off the ground.
  • Find your balance and then twist your body to the left and bring your hands next to your left hip.
  • Then twist to the right and bring your hands next to your right hip.
  • To add more strain, try holding a weight or small medicine ball in your hands.

Hanging Knee Circles

Hanging on a pull up bar doing knee circles

If you have a pull-up bar or some other frame you can hang from, then this is another great way to add rotational exercises: 

  • Get your hands into a wide grip setup and pull your knees up to just above your hips.
  • Twist your hips to bring your knees as far over to the left as you can.
  • Hold that position for a second, and then bring your knees all the way over to the right while bringing them as high up as possible in front of you at the halfway point.
  • Hold on the other side and then repeat the movement from side to side for as long as you can.

Rotational Lunges

And the final one of our rotational exercises involves a variation of a simple lunge exercise: 

  • Start off standing upright with a dumbbell or a sandbag in your hands in front of you.
  • Step the right foot back, bend your knees to a right angle, and twist your body along with the sandbag to your right.
  • Push back up and then do the same to the left side and repeat as many times as possible to build up the rotational forces.
  • Along with a strong core, this exercise will also target your legs.

A balanced diet with protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs is crucial alongside these exercises. It supports muscle recovery and energy levels, boosting the impact of rotational workouts.

In my coaching experience, clients who pair these exercises with such a diet often achieve better results.

Benefits Of Internal And External Rotation

Woman doing internal and external rotation

The main benefits of building internal and external rotational strength are improved support for all types of sudden and high-intensity movements, improved posture, and the low-impact nature that these exercises can provide.

Improved Anti-Rotational Power For Sports

Enhanced core stability significantly supports the spine, crucial in sports and weight training where spinal pressure is high.

This rotational strength, in turn, fosters anti-rotational resilience, preventing harmful twisting during intense activities.

Maintaining posture during exercises like deadlifts or squats is vital to avoid injury, a fact supported by research in the National Library of Medicine [2].

In my coaching practice, I've seen how this approach effectively reduces injury risks for athletes.

“Rotational training can improve sports performance, improve the transfer of power from the lower to the upper body, and improve core stability in explosive movements like weightlifting and sprinting.”

- Shane McLean, Certified Personal Trainer

Better Sitting And Standing Posture

Doing rotational exercises while sitting

These exercises not only fortify your transverse plane, enhancing upper body mobility at the hip joints but also offer psychological perks like heightened focus and mental agility, leading to better mental health and stress relief, as sports psychology studies show.

Such strengthening aids in sustaining neutral spine alignment and proper posture, crucial for prolonged sitting in daily life or work.

Additionally, this foundational strength is beneficial for exercises involving hip flexion.

In my coaching experience, clients who focus on these areas report improved posture and reduced discomfort during daily activities.

Low Impact Exercises

When it comes to doing exercises that involve rotating the body and twisting the spine, you can’t afford to do anything high-impact.

This is particularly important along the sagittal plane. The sagittal plane divides the body into the left and right sides.

And if your body is not in good alignment along this plane for anything from weight training to running and playing a wide range of sports, then you could end up doing a lot of damage.

Muscles Worked

Abdominal and side muscles work

To better understand what muscles these rotational strength exercises will target, I got my physiotherapist to provide some insights into human anatomy.

Abs

Many believe ab exercises solely sculpt a six-pack, but these muscles, extending from the pelvis to below the rib cage, are more than aesthetic.

Rotational movements target them uniquely, mimicking everyday motions, as noted by the Cleveland Clinic [3].

More than just for looks, these exercises are key in injury prevention and rehabilitation. They strengthen the core and surrounding muscles, boosting stability and lowering back injury risks, a fact backed by extensive physical therapy research.

In my practice, clients have experienced significant improvements in both core strength and injury resilience through rotational training.

Obliques

These are generally tougher to target with crunches, to reduce belly fat, and a rotational movement is ideal to fully engage them.

These muscles are part of your abdominal muscle group and are the ones that run along the sides of your torso.

They can be the icing on the cake for a ripped core.

Hip Flexors

Woman showing hip flexors improvement

Core rotation exercises also activate your hip flexors, essential for leg lifting and posture support, as outlined in Physiopedia [4].

Strengthening these muscles prevents overcompensation by others, reducing various aches and pains.

From my coaching experience, clients who focus on hip flexor engagement report fewer discomforts and improved posture.

Related Articles:

Erector Spinae

These are the long muscles that run alongside your spine, starting at your shoulders and going all the way down to your lumbar region.

These are critical muscles to support the transverse plane to control the straightness of your spine and maintain a neutral posture during heavy lifting and high-impact rotational sports.

FAQs

Are Rotational Exercises Good?

Yes, rotational exercises are good. They are a key part of building solid foundational core strength that can help with everything from good posture at a desk to helping you lift heavier loads at the gym.

How Can I Improve My Body Rotation?

You can improve your body rotation with a combination of stretching and building rotational strength. Rotational exercises focus on your core muscles by introducing a twisting motion across your core.


References:

  1. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Cardinal_Planes_and_Axes_of_Movement
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7417116
  3. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21755-abdominal-muscles
  4. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Hip_Flexors
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