I program quite a lot of rotational core movements into my athlete’s training, and below I’ll tell you why. If you’re reading this and I already train you, we can share a knowing wink in the gym when its core work time.
The vast majority of core training is either based on flexion or bracing along the frontal plane. Some examples of flexion exercises include regular ol’ sit ups, crunches, and so on. Bracing exercises are planks, side planks or essentially any exercise that involves you bracing your mid section to avoid a force from moving it backwards or forwards along the sagital plane. Both of these types of movements are great and will contribute to your general core strength.
However, rotation training along what’s called the horizontal plane has a couple of unique plusses. Firstly, rotational strength is often used to improve performance in striking sports such as golf, baseball, or here in Ireland, Hurling. Think also about the rotation of the core required to perform powerful kicks and punches in MMA, Muay Thai, or Boxing. The midsection plays a significant part in generating force in these movements. In other words, having a strong core might make you kick or punch harder. I don’t know a striker who doesn’t want to do a little bit more of that.
Rotation exercises can also assist in helping you not to rotate. For example, during grappling, an opponent may seek to pass your guard by throwing your legs to the side as with the Toreanda pass or similar. Having good rotational core strength could help you repulse a guard pass like this. Also when clinching, there is a lot of strength and rotation required, particularly when attempting hip or shoulder throws. Secondly, training with rotation through the core is going to help your mobility. Rotating through the thoracic spine can help your general mobility and health, but can also help to prevent injury by freeing up the spine and associated tissue. This means that when your body is forced into a rotational movement by manipulation or impact, other less mobile areas such as the lumbar spine won’t be forced into a movement they can’t handle. In addition, resisting unwanted rotation is important for the same reason.
We can break down exercises like this into two broad categories; Rotational and anti-rotational. Rotational exercises such as the medicine ball throw are great builders of strength with the addition of movement through the spine, whereas Anti-rotational movements such as the Palov Press are helpful in building up resistance to unwanted rotation. Adding a few of these exercises into your programme to replace or supplement your regular stomach work is a great idea. Remember that variety is an often neglected part of training, and while the big lifts remain pretty constant, playing around with your supplemental training can make training a little more fun. Rotate and enjoy.