Side Out, Rotate! - Muscle & Performance

Side Out, Rotate!

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You don’t live in a two-dimensional world, so why is your training so linear? In real life and in sports, your body twists, turns and rotates with just about every action you perform. 

“Building strong rotators is the foundation for all sports, even bowling,” says Shawn Finnegan, MPT, owner of Core Energy Fitness (coreenergyfit ness.com) in Tarzana, California. “Take a close look next time you’re watching your favorite sport on TV — you will see every variation of rotation out there, such as pivoting, twisting and spinning.” 

The rotators in your midsection include all the muscles of your core: your abs (obliques, transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis) back, glutes and hips. Each time you swing a bat, do a pirouette or paddle a surfboard, you’re using your rotators to generate power and stabilize your body. Training in rotation consistently will make you a better player in any sport you do, and as a bonus, it will give you a tight, trim waistline. “Strengthening your core is key to building the body you want,” Finnegan says. “If you build it, your physique will come.”

Here are Finnegan’s top picks for great rotational moves. Incorporate one or more of them into your abdominal workouts, or do them all together as their own workout one to two days per week. Use a moderate weight and shoot for two to three sets of 15 to 20 reps per side.

And not to worry. These moves will not make your waist thicker, as many women might fear. “Training your core in rotation will not add any tangible size or thickness to your waist,” Finnegan asserts. “The muscles in your core are hardgainers, meaning they don’t grow much, even with heavy loads.”

Try these moves for four to six weeks, then hit the field, pool or mountains. It’s a safe bet you’ll feel stronger, faster and more agile than ever.

STANDING CABLE ROTATION

Attach a D-handle or pulldown rope to an adjustable cable machine and set it at shoulder height. Stand sideways to the machine and hold the handle or rope with both hands, arms straight. With your hips square, twist your upper body all the way toward the machine to begin. Keeping your arms straight, hips square and knees slightly bent, move your upper body as one unit and twist away from the weight stack, pulling the handle around in front of your body in a large arc. Pause a moment at the opposite side, then slowly return to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching. 

Finnegan’s Tip: “To make this move more difficult, change your stance — wide, narrow, lunging. The more off-balance you are, the more of a challenge it becomes.”

TIC-TAC-TOE

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a medicine ball at chest height with straight arms. Keeping your arms straight, draw large and small X’s and O’s in front of you at chest height. 

Finnegan’s Tip: “Vary the speed of the ball as well as the pattern. For instance, do spirals inward and outward or sign your name in the air.”

SEATED STABILITY-BALL TRUNK ROTATION

Sit upright on a stability ball and clasp your hands together. Hold them in front of you at chest height, arms straight. Moving your torso and arms as one unit, turn as far to the right side as you can while keeping your hips square. Return to the start and continue, alternating sides. 

Finnegan’s Tip: “To make this move more challenging, sit back at a 45-degree angle while rotating side to side, or hold a medicine ball or dumbbell to add resistance as you work.”