A Step-by-Step Guide to Rotational Power

Rotation is a useful and extremely valuable movement to grasp and use for power, particularly in rotation sports like golf, tennis, baseball/softball, la crosse, etc.  You can see the transfer of force generating through the body and into the equipment with each swing or hit.  You can also see when force is lost!  That’s where we’re going to take you through a step-by-step approach on how to build your rotational power, creating more force transfer into your sport and increasing your overall strength!

Keep in mind, there are a set of prerequisites that your body should go through to make sure you’re ready for sport or rotational action.  We like to use the Fundamental Movement Screen (FMS) as our baseline screen as well as the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Physical Screen for rotational athletes.  There’s several other screens and assessments you can do, but the big thing you are screened for your appropriate activity.  With that said, we’re going to assume you were cleared for rotational activity as we show you how to build rotational force from the ground up.

The first thing about rotational training is that we need to learn how to resist the movement before we apply the movement.  This is a concept that is often missed in training, however it’s something that should be addressed early on in the training program.  We like to use the ½ Kneel Anti-Rotation Press (also known as the Pallof Press) for core development as well as teaching the body how to resist rotational movement.  Even though we’re only demonstrating one side, make sure to ALWAYS do both sides!

This is one of the best anti-rotational exercises you can do as we’re also creating a ton of hip stability by using the half kneeling position.  It allows us to take the ankle and foot out of the equation and almost single out the hip one at a time, teaching your body how to stabilize correctly.  It’s an incredible exercise that activates the core as it prepares to transfer force through the body in multiple movement patterns.  It’s shown with a resistance band here, but cable systems can work just as well. 

Don’t forget: you can try this out in tall kneeling for another nice addition in your core training.

Like we said before, when we build anti-rotational resistance from the ground up, it gives you an opportunity to find your true core engagement while simultaneously minimizing any common compensations we may see.  However, once your foundation is built, we can then move you up to your feet and have you “find and feel” your core in the same type of exercise.

This is a version we’ve recently built into our core training programs (especially for rotational athletes) and it gives the athlete some more feedback by grabbing the Ultimate Sandbag (USB) and having them “grab the bag and pulling it apart through their fingertips”.  It helps engage the shoulder blades and other upper body stabilizers as it connects the body together through the feedback.  We call it the USB Split Stance Anti-Rotation Press w/Lateral Core Strap.  It’s basically a standing up version of the half kneeling version.

You can also do the bilateral stance version of this by keeping the feet even.  Activate and connect your body by “pushing the floor apart” just a bit.  You’ll feel stability instantly build within your body as you do this. 

Now that we’ve got you standing, we can get you prepped for some rotational movement.  Keep in mind, that we have a set of PRE- and PRO-gressions built into these exercises, which means we may revisit some exercises on the floor from time to time as we build new patterns into your movement, like the ½ Kneeling Anti-Rotation to Rotational Press (Pro Tip: make sure to keep that glass of water balanced on the up knee).

Continuing with the use of the USB, one of our all-time favorite categories of core exercises is pulled from the “reactive core” piggy bank.  We like using your core to have to “react” to the movement, enabling your body and mind to activate slings throughout your movement which produces more stability and force for you.  If it sounds like a win-win, it’s because it is!

Furthermore, the addition of the superband not only provides the reaction we’re looking for, it also provides some core pre-activation through the movement.  We call this exercise the USB Rotational Press Out w/Lateral Core Strap.  Make sure to initiate the exercise with just a bit of resistance coming from your superband, then push off the floor with the leg closest to the anchor and fire the bag away from you with a complete press.

We can add a bit more freedom in the movement, which means more focus on you and your core, by getting rid of the superband.  This is the USB Rotational Press Out. 

Keep the USB pressed out at chest-height without letting it drop as we sometimes see the bag’s line of force dip just a bit once we take away the superband and Core Strap.  You can instantly add more stability required from your body, metabolic effects, and motor control by alternating the USB from side-to-side with the USB Rotational Press Out

Now that we’ve established stability, control, and strength in rotational movement, it is time to unleash some force and build your power! 

Keep in mind that the exercises we just demonstrated may take weeks to master.  We like to have a frequency of 2-3x/week through a 4-6 week progression-based program before we add in new elements.  Don’t jump from exercise to exercise too quickly – OWN IT before you progress!  (More on this when we wrap up.)

This is our baseline rotational power exercise we use for our golfers and rotational athletes.  It’s called the Medicine Ball (MB) Side Rotation Throw.

Rotate into the hips, through the chest, letting the hips power the hands into a “scoop-like” throw.  Make sure not to grab a weight that is too heavy because it usually leads to you getting “handsy” with the exercise (using too much hands and upper body and not enough power from the hips transferring through the movement).  Remember: “Hips power the hands!”

We can work on independent hip stability and power through this exercise utilizing the half kneeling position once again.  This PRE-gression is great for teaching your body how to transfer force through your core on both sides of the body while gaining more control (remember to balance that glass of water on the up knee!).  We call it the MB ½ Kneeling Side Rotation Throw.

There’s plenty of progressions you can add to the Side Rotation Throws.  You can obviously increase weight, but you can also change foot position by adding in a split (asymmetric) stance, a lateral step, elevating the front foot on a box, etc.  One of the other progressions you can add without changing foot position is changing the position of the med ball through a “figure 8” motion.

Adding the figure 8 movement into the throw gives you a chance to feel your body absorbing and transferring force during the pattern.  We call this the MB Figure 8 Side Rotation Throw.

You don’t have to move quickly because we want you to find the “flow” of the movement.  Once you feel your outside hip is loaded during your flow, then fire the ball into the wall by pushing off the floor.  It isn’t absolutely necessary, but you can add a pivoting motion with your feet to this exercise.  It can help you rotate through the movement and make up for any restriction in hip internal and/or external range of motion.  It’s simply called the MB Pivoting Figure 8 Side Rotation Throw.

Now that you’ve seen our step-by-step approach for building rotation power from the ground up, it’s time to put this plan into action!  The first priority is to get someone who can screen your movement to make sure progressing into these exercises is safe and suitable for you at this time. 

Next, start with the first exercise and build up from there, always paying attention to your form and movement.  One of the worst things we can do in the gym is progressing too quickly or adding too much weight too quickly, especially through power movements.  Repetitions and sets can vary a bit, but we like to use 1-3 sets for 8-10 reps each side with the core exercises, 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps for the strength, and 2-4 sets of 4-6 reps for the power exercises.  We recommend you start with your non-dominant side as you go into each set.

Give yourself a few weeks through each exercise before your progress.  We offered some in-between PRE-gressions for you to use along your path as well.  Use them!  They only help build on the next exercise you’re trying to get to.  There’s also plenty of other exercises that we implement into the programming, including more strength and mobility exercises to help maintain the pattern.

Finally, OWN THE MOVEMENT before you progress!  In other words, “Own your progression”.  The movement should almost become natural before you move to the next exercise.  If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

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