Core or ‘Anti-Rotational’ Exercises – and why you need to include them in your program

Sports or jobs that require bending and twisting demand a lot from our spine and “core”. When muscle fatigue or stiffness sets into our backs, our “core” muscles may not be able to work to their full capacity. When this happens, the ability to perform repetitive sporting tasks like swinging a racquet, club, bat or stick is reduced, it may become painful and eventually result in an injury.

Today we are going to focus on prevention by talking about ‘anti rotation exercises’ and the crucial role they play in building “core” strength/endurance. The goal of incorporating these strengthening exercises into your training program is to not only improve your athletic performance, but also protect your lower back from injury and avoid spending time on the sidelines!

The “Core”

Think about your “core” as being the foundation of your body – and a “strong core” as more than just a “six pack”. Your core is a complex series of muscles (extending far beyond your abs), including everything besides your arms and legs. It is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body. These muscles can act as an isometric or dynamic stabiliser for movement, transfer force from one extremity to another, or initiate movement itself. It links everything together and provides stability, from simple everyday tasks like sitting, bending, jumping to the more advanced athletic skills. However, simply doing a few Sit-Ups or even Planks won’t cut it when developing an athletic core for performance. A good program should make you move and challenge your core in every direction – forward, backward, sideways and even rotationally.

Anti-Rotational Exercises

Sports like hockey, cricket, tennis, and golf often require significant amounts of body rotation. This rotation is primarily generated from the hips and upper body, not the lumbar spine, which contributes minimally to the rotation of the body.

Hockeyroos - Anti-rotational exercises - Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates

Image credit: FIH

‘Anti-Rotational Exercises’ help build up rotational slings of the body by resisting rotational forces and hence stabilise the core, and keep your back strong. With sports not only requiring rotation but also a lot of flexion (bending) – like hockey and tennis – anti-rotation exercises are doubly important!

Venus Williams, Backhand - Anti-rotational exercises - Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates

Image credit: Alternet

4 Basic Anti-Rotational Exercises to Get You Started

Start light with these moves and make sure that you maintain proper form throughout. Improper form could cause you to twist and compensate, leading to the exact thing you are trying to prevent!

Exercise 1: Pallof Press – 4 sets x 8 reps each side

  • Secure a band to a sturdy object at your shoulder level
  • Hold the free end with one hand over the other and step away from the anchor point to put tension on the band
  • Turn perpendicular to the anchor point, stand with feet shoulder width apart in a relaxed stance
  • Extend your arms and press forwards in front of you
  • Resist the band as it will try to twist your body toward it
  • Bring your hands back to your chest and then press again
  • You can also perform this exercise in a lunged stance or kneeling

Pallof Press - Anti-rotational exercises - Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates

Image credit: Men’s Fitness

Exercise 2: Single Leg Deadlift – 3 sets x 10 reps each side

  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand
  • Stand on the opposite leg
  • Bend your hips back and lower your chest until you feel your lower back is about to lose its arch
  • Squeeze your glutes and extend your hips to come up
  • Don’t twist or rotate through your hips

Single Leg Deadlift - Anti-rotational exercises - Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates

Image credit: Oxygen Mag

Exercise 3: Standing Band/Cable Anti-Rotation Chop – 3 sets x 8-10 reps

  • Stand perpendicular to a cable station in an athletic stance, shoulder width apart, your hips back and chest tall
  • Hold a cable rope or resistance band at chest height with a double overhand grip
  • Slowly rotate your arms across your body, hold for 2-3 secs, then return to the starting position
  • Make sure to prevent any motion in your hips and lower back
  • You can also perform this exercise in a lunged stance or kneeling

Standing Band/Cable Anti-Rotation Chop - Anti-rotational exercises - Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates

Image credit: Men’s Fitness

Exercise 4: Half Kneeling Band/Cable Chop – 3 sets x 8-10 reps each side

  • Attach a rope handle to the high pulley of a cable station. Alternatively you could use a resistance band
  • Kneel down perpendicular to the machine
  • Your outside knee should be on the floor and your inside knee should be at a 90-degree angle
  • With both hands use an overhand grip to hold the rope and pull it from above your shoulder, diagonally to below your opposite pocket
  • Rotate your torso as little as possible
  • Slowly let the cable return to the starting position

Half Kneeling Band/Cable Chop - Anti-rotational exercises - Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates

Image credit: Men’s Health

In previous blogs, we have looked in detail at lower back pain, disc injuries and sciatica.

We have also highlighted the statistic that 70 – 90% of people will suffer lower back pain in one point in their lifetime.

Hopefully today’s blog will be a great starting point to help build up your core, helping prevent lower back injuries and boost your athletic performance. For further advice regarding your training program, call Revive Physiotherapy and Pilates for an appointment today.

If you currently have lower back pain, contact your Physiotherapist prior to commencing any exercise program for advice regarding its suitability to your condition. If you experience any pain when doing these exercises, cease them immediately, and seek the advice of your health care professional.