Monday, June 09, 2008

To Train Rotation, Resist Rotation

Common wisdom in the modern gym goes, that to train for sports that include an element of rotation like golf, you must perform rotational strength elements. This is just a fancy way of saying that performing seated cable torso twists is a useful exercise to build rotational power.

This is wrong.

Nearly every sport that has significant trunk rotation as a movement element develops that rotation from the hips downward. That is, significant rotation occurs starting at the ground. The implication of this is that in order to effectively transfer the twisting/rotary forces from the hips to the trunk, the muscles of the torso have to be able to effectively RESIST the rotation happening below. Otherwise, the hips would clearly turn and the shoulders would not.

Rotational strength then, comes from being able to apply a solid isometric force at the trunk that effectively captures the potential energy from the rotating hips below. The quality of this isometric force equates to the quality and effectiveness of the transmission between wheels and engine.

We have found that the best way to develop rotational prowess is to actually have our athletes resist active rotation as in the single arm dumbell swing above. Universally training to resist rotation instead of actually performing rotational training develops better integrated, more powerful athletes. (IE. you don't have to perform cable wood chops to hit the tennis ball harder) And this applies to side rotation too. Pull ups and overhead squats appear to magically dissipate bike sway during climbing for example.

There is merit in developing torso rotational speed. Throwing a light four pound medicine ball for speed can help develop twisting quickness and futher develop that twisting motor pathway. Just be sure to keep it light and fast.

And don't confuse integrated trunk power with swinging a very heavy bat, or seated cable twists.

Twist on!

Coach Roto-Star


FilthyBrit said...

This is a fascinating insight. It seems this would be really important for developing stronger strikes in fighting.

Just to be clear, on a one-arm dumbbell swing, the rotation you're resisting is the tendency for your shoulders to turn sideways as the weight pulls you forward (i.e., you're trying to keep your shoulders square)?


Anonymous said...

You are correct Michael. You know what else is awesome is Sledgehammer swings. I became a dominate force in my drunken softball league when these became a part of tabata training. I was booming lobbed softballs into the heavens

Nick said...

Who is this?

Anyway, I also wanted to say that this was an awesome post. As a former competitive rotational athlete (golf) who now just plays for fun, I can definitely understand the application.

My golf coach always stressed midline strength, which was something I always lacked. Plus all of the rotational power of a sport like golf (if played at a higher level) comes from the hips moving from a square (setup) to a closed (backswing) to an open (follow through/impact). Yes there are other facts such as wrist speed and arm strength, however people who use those muscles to swing the club tend to be incredibly inconsistent.

Either way thanks for the human physics lesson Kstar.

Dutch said...

I think you are the smartest man alive. Not because you know a rediculous amount of information, but because you can convey it in a way that regular folk can understand. I had this talk with a buch of non crossfit trainers last week and it made me want to gouge my eyes out...

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with the words "resist" and "isometric" in describing this biomechanic function.

Muscles are reacting to the ground reaction generated momentum forces with mostly eccentric control. This muscle reaction is much more complicated than an "isometric resistance". Isometric implies no change in muscle length and that simply is not the case during the entire time sequence of the movement.


Kelly Starrett said...

I agree. Resist is not the best term to describe the complex "potential eccentric" to concentric loading that goes on in a movement like this.

But, I would add that I was speaking primarily of the single arm dumbell swing. At some point, eccentric forces are sufficent to stop further torso rotation while the hip continues to flex/extend.

Clearly you are on to the point that there is a large component of more complex movement stabilization going on than say a "classic" isometric contraction. But, I would say this.
1) We write this blog for a ton of people that clearly don't have your level of understanding. I too have had too many semesters of biomech.
2) The quality of the athlete's ability to decrease stretch shortening cycles is ultimately the measure of their improvement.
Amoritzation? Something like that.
3) Using a concept like resist may oversimplfy the the idea and maybe we could have used harness, or remain neutral.
4)Intra-muscular shear torque/tendon loading/soft tissue stretch still counts as Isometric if no muscle lengthening or shortening occurs.
There may be long moments of net zero muscular movement within a complex motor task during moments where other prime movers are generating force.

Thanks so much for your keen eye.
We need more of your kind of critcal thinking in our community.


Anonymous said...

When you write this, "Rotational strength then, comes from being able to apply a solid isometric force at the trunk that effectively captures the potential energy from the rotating hips below", you haven't gotten it quite right.

While rotational strength comes from the release of potential energy into kinetic energy stored in musculature surrounding the hip joints, especially the gluteus maximus and gluteus medias, also significant potential energy gets stored in both the ipsilateral rotator oblique, the contralateral rotator oblique as well as the contralateral lattimus dorsi. When standing, quads come into play as well.

Once again, yet another CrossFit nutter has bandied about incomplete knowledge with pseudo-science to justify CrossFit mythology.

Anytime that you would like to cite peer-reviewed academic journals whose contributors have employed the scientific method which back your "Rotational strength ... comes from ... isometric force at the trunk that ... captures ... potential energy from the rotating hips ..." have at it.

Be sure to state the journal, year of publication, writer, writer's credentials and page containing the relevant supporting material.

Please back up this false belief too, "Universally training to resist rotation instead of actually performing rotational training develops better integrated, more powerful athletes."

Rotation is the bedrock of athletic movements. Try running without your upper body rotating back and forth. I dare you.

Jason said...

Great post! Stated another way, rotational force can only be as strong as it is stable. I love it!