Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Build a strong core through anti-rotational exercises

Shoveling the snow is a form of anti-rotational work.

This morning I got up and the place was covered in snow. Trying to leave the house at 5.30am to take my boot camp class was a struggle so I had to cancel. Then I decided to get out the shovel and clear the park for myself and the rest of neighbours.

As I was shoveling and tossing the snow without looking where I was throwing it, I soon realised that I was carrying out a form of anti-rotational work. Before we go into what anti-rotational exercises are, and why they are so good for you we must look at our core. Just because you have an amazing six-pack doesn’t necessarily mean you have a strong core.

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Your core includes much more than just your six-pack muscles. In reality, your core is a girdle of muscle that lies beneath your six-pack and stretches all the way around your lower back, where it connects to your glutes, hips, and obliques.

These muscles are used to support and brace your spine for stability. Therefore, the best core exercises should be designed to prevent unwanted motion of the spine, such as bending and rotating.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with the plank exercise, which we do to prevent our spine from extending or bending backwards. Side planks help us prevent lateral flexion and deadlift exercises help us prevent flexion. So what exercises help us prevent rotation? Do you see where this is going.

Anti-rotational exercises

These are exercises that build stability and strength to prevent rotation. Preventing rotation means that your body is able to resist forces acting upon it that may try to rotate or move it in a way and direction that it can’t move safely.

In this weather if you trip or slide on ice or are simply carrying the uneven Christmas shopping bags that are also awkward then, anti-rotational exercises can make your body strong so that your core can handle the torque without leading to pain, injury or falling.

It’s the same principles when looking at sports. Is your core both strong and stable to take a hit, land on one foot and stay balanced, sit on a bike or swim for a number of hours without collapsing? Anti-rotation exercises also play a huge role in rotational sports like golf.

It’s not the movement of the golf swing, the problem lies in trying to stabilise the areas that shouldn’t be moving. If you are strong and stable in the core, then it will create a more powerful and accurate swing. It will also decrease the risk of injury especially in the lower back.

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While you may think exercises like sit ups and Russian twist are doing wonders for your core you may think again. If these exercise are done in a high rep range with poor technique, then they could cause more harm than good. Our spine is not meant to rotate through that range of motion so we are putting it through a lot of stress.

The Palloff Press

There are a number of anti-rotational exercises from one-arm planks to single arm rows, but for me I love the ‘Palloff Press’.

The Pallof Press is one of the first anti-rotation exercises I teach beginners since it is very simple to execute, but can be quite challenging for all levels. For those wondering, the name is coined from Boston-based physical therapist, John Pallof, credited for developing and popularising this type of exercise.

There are many ways to execute a Palloff Press (like half-kneeling, standing, lying on your back, etc) but one of my favourites is in the tall kneeling position as it forces you to engage your glutes to remain tall.

How to do a Palloff press

Position yourself perpendicular to a cable column (or where you are using a band) and move a couple of feet away to allow for tension on the cable. The cable should be aligned with your mid-section.

With your stomach tight, chest tall, and shoulders back, slowly control the cable away from your body staying in-line with your sternum until your elbows are almost locked out. Pause for two-three seconds and return to start.

Return to start and repeat for 10-12 repetitions. Make sure you focus on remaining tight throughout your core and controlling all motion.
I find people often use too much weight on this exercise, which promotes unwanted movement. Keep the weight moderate and focus on breathing and staying tight through your core. Even if you don’t have a cable machine use a resistance band.

Add this and any other anti-rotational exercises into your workout and see the difference it can make.

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