Rethinking Rotation

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Is rotation dangerous? 


Are exercises like the one shown below an injury hazard? 


Barbell Hanging Rotations – YouTube 


Let me ask you something, do you play golf? Or tennis? Pickleball? Softball? Basketball? Hockey? Baseball? Football? 


Do you do yard work? Or garden? Carry things? Shovel? 


If so, your body is going to rotate. It happens. It is one of the 3 primary planes of movement that we must have proficiency in. 


When we look at our core structurally, we will see that 87.5% of the musculature is directed horizontally or diagonally (as opposed to vertically) (1). This would tell us that the human body, specifically the core, is built in a manner to allow for rotation. 


Now, in no way am I prescribing that exercise shown above. It is extremely advanced and would need to be correct given your context. However, if you look at that and call it dangerous, check out the video of tiger woods swinging a golf club below, and let’s ask the question, using the same logic, is this dangerous?


Tiger Woods Slow Mo Driver Swing | TaylorMade Golf – YouTube


Our body’s are built to move and explore. As part of that, they are built to rotate (and also resist rotation – but that’s a topic for another day), and unless we train it, utilize it and perfect it, we will lose that ability. Further, if we wish to complete athletic movements that challenge us in a rotational manner, like golf, we need to expose our body’s to those movement patterns prior to completing them in the more stressful manner of sport. 


What actually is rotation? 


When looking at the joint level, we see that certain bodily segments were created to drive rotation: the hips, spine and shoulders primarily. Smaller joints like the wrists and ankles also create rotation, but do so in a more isolated manner. Being able to obtain adequate levels of rotation at the individual joint level is a prerequisite before we can look more holistically. For example, lacking lead hip internal rotation in the golf swing has been shown to increase the amount of torque (and subsequent injury risk) placed on the lower back (2,3,4). Let’s solve the mobility issue locally, by increasing our lead hip internal rotation, and then we can translate that into our holistic movement. 


Looking through a holistic lens, we build bodily rotation by connecting our various joint rotations. Re-watch that video of Tiger and notice a few things: 

1.) His hips create rotation via internal and external rotation

2.) His upper body creates rotation via thoracic spine rotation, building hip and shoulder separation

3.) His shoulders create rotation via retraction, elevation and external rotation


All of these items combine to create Tiger’s elite levels of holistic rotation, and guess what? Your movement system does the same thing (maybe to a slightly less degree).


All rotational movement is loaded in a similar manner (whether its golfing, playing softball, raking leaves, shoveling snow…). Knowing this, let’s continue to expose our body’s to rotation so that they are equipped to handle it, and thrive with it.


Would a boxer ever not train a punching movement? 


Would a football kicker ever not practice kicking? 


Then why should a human being not train for rotation?


Rotation may be the missing key that unlocks your movement in a newfound way. 




Here’s 5 exercises you can do with bands that will help boost your rotation in a low impact, low risk manner: 

  1. High plank band pull-a-part rotations 
  2. ½ Kneeling band pull-a-part rotations
  3. In-line banded wood chops 
  4. Banded reverse lunge with rotation 
  5. Banded mountain climbers – knee to opposite elbow.


Let’s go low!


About Carter Schmitz

Carter Schmitz

I graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 2019 with a business degree and a minor in exercise science. While there, I played football (as long as we consider being a kicker, playing football) and found two of the deepest passions in life - learning and human performance. Since then, I have become a certified strength coach, TPI Specialist and have had the opportunity to train hundreds of athletes ranging from the middle school to the professional level.

I believe in building humans first, athletes second.

I believe that everybody has extraordinarily high amounts of value to offer.

I believe that the pursuit of improvement will lead to growth, no matter the outcomes.

With my writing, I strive to break down and apply complex ideas in order to boost understanding, draw comparisons from seemingly separated and opposing topics, and empower growth in my readers. Knowledge and understanding are power, and they create the foundation of improvement. Moving forward, I plan on continuing to seek the betterment of my athletes, myself and my community, empowering growth along the way.

Be sure to check out my Instagram and YouTube channel for more content:
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  1. Santana, J.C. 2000. Functional Training: Breaking the Bonds of Traditionalism (Companion Guide). Boca Raton, FL: Optimum Performance Systems.
  2. Nic Saraceni, Kevin Kemp-Smith, Peter O’Sullivan, and Amity Campbell (2018). The Relationship Between Lead Hip Rotation and Low Back Pain in Golfers– A Pilot Investigation. International Journal of Golf Science, 2017, 6, 130 -141
  3. Vad VB, Bhat AL, Basrai D, Gebeh A, Aspergren DD, Andrews JR. Low back pain in professional golfers: the role of associated hip and low back range-of-motion deficits. Am J Sports Med. 2004;32(2):494-497. doi:10.1177/0363546503261729
  4. Murray, E., Birley, E., Twycross-Lewis, R., & Morrissey, D. (2009). The relationship between hip rotation range of movement and low back pain prevalence in amateur golfers: an observational study. Physical Therapy in Sport, 10(4), 131-135.