In every day life, we move forward and backward. We move side to side. We move up and down. We rotate.
We move in EVERY DIRECTION.
Yet all too often our workouts don’t force us to move in all the different planes of motion.
And how functional is it really to train only one plane of motion?
NOT FUNCTIONAL AT ALL!
Our workouts should make us feel and move better, which means we need to move in every plane of motion like we do in every day life.
The three planes of motion that we move in every day are the:
- Sagittal – This plane divides the body into right and left sides. Movements in the sagittal plane are flexion and extension. You can move forward and backward or up and down.
- Frontal – This plane divides the body into front and back sides. Movements in the frontal plane are abduction and adduction. You can move side to side.
- Transverse – This plane divides the body into top and bottom halves. Movements in the transverse plane are rotational, both internal and external rotation.
All too often though the Transverse Plane is neglected in our workouts.
Most of our workouts include Sagittal Plane movements (squats, deadlifts, pull ups and push ups) with a few movements in the Frontal Plane (side lunges, side shuffling, chest or back flyes).
But all too often we neglect ROTATIONAL MOVEMENTS.
Below are a few of our favorite functional rotational exercises demonstrated by wonderful Redefining Strength clients.
10 Rotational Exercises:
1. Sledgehammer Swings – There is just something so fun and empowering about swinging the sledgehammer. Plus it is a great rotational exercise that will help you develop core strength and power.
To do the sledgehammer swing, place one hand low on the sledgehammer handle and one hand right up under the head of the hammer. If your right hand is up by the top of the hammer, then your right foot should be back and your left foot should be staggered forward closer to the tire.
Stand about 2 feet from the tire.
Bring the sledgehammer back and down to the right then circle up and around overhead before slamming the sledgehammer down into the tire. Do not just reach with your back to slam.
Use your legs, pivoting your back foot and bending your knees to drive the sledgehammer down.
As you slam, your right hand should slide down the hammer handle toward your left.
Once you slam the hammer, it will bounce back up. As it bounces back up from the tire, release with your right hand to catch the hammer right below the head.
Make sure to catch the hammer as it comes back up off the tire. If you don’t catch it on the way up, you won’t have as much control to circle the hammer back around.
Then circle back and down to the right before bring the sledgehammer around overhead.
Stay on one side till all reps are complete. As you become more comfortable with the sledgehammer swing, you may want to attempt the figure 8! With the figure 8, you will alternate swings on each side.
2. Woodchoppers – I do two variations of what I call the woodchopper. One is the low to high chop and the other is the high to low chop.
To do the low to high band woodchopper, place a band around a low anchor point.
Grab the handle of the band in both hands and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. You will be sideways to the anchor point, holding the handle. Make sure you’ve stepped away from the anchor point so that there is tension in the band.
Then pivot your feet and bend your knees to reach the handle down outside the knee closest to the anchor point. Your arms should be straight and your chest should be up. Do not round your back to reach lower.
Make sure that you have set up far enough away that there is tension in the band even at this starting point.
Then bring your arms and the band up and across your body as you stand up and pivot the other direction. You should end reaching the other way with your arms reaching up and out at about shoulder height.
Then control the band back down and across as you pivot and bend your knees. Move in a slow and controlled fashion back down. Do not let the band pull you.
Complete all reps to one side before switching.
To do the high to low chop, you would have the band anchored up high and reverse your position. You would start outside your shoulder with tension on the band and then pivot as you bend your knees to bring the band down outside your opposite knee. Once you’ve brought the band outside your knee, you would bring it back across your body and up outside the shoulder.
With both moves, you need to keep tension on the band at all times. And you want to make sure to pivot your feet. When you pivot, you keep your knee in a safe position. Plus the pivot puts your back leg in triple extension, which is an important position to generate more force and power…And one that many people need to work on!
3. Battling Ropes Rainbows – Battling ropes are a great tool to work your body in every plane of motion. You can do alternating waves or stagecoach to work in the sagittal plane. Sidewinders to work in the frontal plane.
Or Rainbows to work in the Transverse Plane.
To do Battling Ropes Rainbows, hold the ropes with the handles pointing up toward the ceiling. Pull the rope out straight then take a step or two in. Keep your hands pretty close together.
Rotate the handles down outside your right hip and pivot your left leg. Then pull the rope up and over toward your left hip. Pivot your right leg as you bring the rope to your left hip. Then arch back up bringing the rope up toward your shoulder than back down to your right hip. Keep pivoting and rotating the rope from hip to hip, arching up toward your shoulders as you bring the rope from one hip to another.
The arch you make from hip to hip gives this move its name – Rainbows.
4. Hanging Knee Circles – Work your abs, lats and grip with this rotational hanging core exercise. For tips on how to do the Hanging Knee Circles, check out these 10 Hanging Core Exercise. This post also has a ton of other variations to help you move in every plane of motion!
5. Med Ball Rotational Throws – Med ball exercises are another great way to move in every plane of motion.
Medicine Ball Rotational Throws are a great rotational exercise that can be done alone against a wall or with a partner.
To do the Rotational Throw, hold the ball in both hands. Stand in a staggered stance with your right foot back. Reach the ball back on your right side toward your right hip.
Then, throwing it underhanded, toss it to your partner or against the wall. As you throw, bring your back foot forward. Then catch the ball as you step into a staggered stance on the other side and bring the ball back to your left hip.
Keep alternating sides as you throw. You can jump from side to side or step from staggered stance to staggered stance.
6. Rotational Swings – Both the Rotational Swings and the Rotational Lunges below can be done with a variety of equipment.
One of my favorite ways to do the Rotational Swing is with a slosh pipe because it is an awkward, uneven weight.
Check out these 10 Slosh Pipe Moves for instructions on how to do the Rotational Swing (as well as instructions on the Slosh Pipe Rotational Lunge below!).
7. Rotational Lunges – The rotational lunge is a great transverse and sagittal plane movement.
And for this movement, we like to use the sandbag.
To do the Sandbag Rotational Lunge, grab the sandbag by two handles so that your palms are facing each other. Standing nice and tall, you are going to step back with one foot.
As you step back, bend the front knee to sink into the lunge. Do not worry about bending the back knee. Rotate the sandbag outside the front knee, hinging forward just slightly. Do not round forward.
Then bring the back leg in and stand up nice and tall, stomping the back foot into the ground as you stand up. As you stand up, also swing the sandbag back to the front.
Then quickly lunge back on the other leg, letting the sandbag swing outside the front knee.
Advanced exercisers will want to use the momentum of their lunge to propel the sandbag from side to side quickly. They will want to swing it and rotate with it as they lunge.
Beginners will want to “place” the sandbag outside the leg instead of using the momentum and swinging the bag to the outside. By placing the bag instead of swinging, they will have better balance and more control.
8. Rotational Deadlift to Press – This move is one of my favorite full body landmine moves.
To do the Rotational Deadlift to Press, stand at the end of the barbell facing the end of the barbell not the landmine.
Grab below the end of the barbell with an overhead grip and almost at the end of the barbell with an underhand grip.
Stand facing the barbell with your feet about hip-width and shoulder-width apart.
Hinge over, bending your knees and sinking your butt while keeping your chest up. Make sure your heels stay on the ground as you sink your butt.
Your arms should be straight, holding the bar on the ground. They should be right inside your legs and your shins should be right at the bar.
Then quickly stand up and as you do, rotate toward the landmine and press the bar across and overhead. Your back foot, the foot closest to the end of the barbell, should pivot as you rotate and press across.
Then bring the bar back down and sink back into a deadlift. Do not just lean over to bring the barbell back down to the ground. Sink your butt back down to drop the bar back down.
Move slowly back down then explosively to bring the weight back up and across. Use your legs to power your press up and across. Complete all reps on one side before switching.
9. The Slam Bagz Punch – If you have any pent up stress or anger, you may really want to try the Slam Bagz Punch.
It is a great rotational move using Slam Bagz and a Banana Bag.
To do the Slam Bagz Punch, hold the Slam Bag on each end. Stand about a foot from the Banana bag with one foot staggered slightly in front (if you are a righty, you may want your left foot forward).
Bring the bag up to about chest height with your arms bent. Rotate to the right, drawing the bag back. Then “punch” or press the bag forward and toward the bag, using your core to rotate the bag in to hit the banana bag.
After you hit, swing the back to your left and rotate again to hit the banana bag.
10. Russian Twists – A basic ab exercise everyone should know that can be done with a variety of equipment to challenge your core.
To do the basic Russian Twist, balance on your butt with your knees bent and feet off the ground. Hinge back a little with your upper body, maintaining a nice tall posture. Put your hands together. Rotate your upper body and arms from side to side, reaching your hands down to the ground by each hip. Keep your feet off the ground the entire time and move as quickly as possible.
Two of my favorite tools to use with Russian Twists are med balls and slosh pipes. If you use a med ball, you can even turn the Russian Twists into a partner exercise!
Turkish Get Ups – This move is one of my favorite exercises because it forces you to work in EVERY plane of motion. Here is a breakdown of the Turkish Get Up!
All 10 (or well 11) of these Rotational Exercises not only work your body in the Transverse Plane so that you move better in every day life, but they are also super core intensive. And a strong core is key to helping you achieve your health and fitness goals no matter what they are!
What are your favorite Rotational Exercises?
I am not an expert or anything but I believe not all of these rotational exercises , as pictured, are not good to do.
The Russian twist, for example, might feel good but it really doesn’t seem good for the lower back.
Another example : Horizontal movement is great but form is important and throwing sonething would be best done utilizing forward movement of the body rather than twisting of the waist as the main movement.
Hi Laura. Actually all of these moves are key to do to protect your lower back and learn to power and decelerate rotation. So often we are twisting and turning while in place, when moving backward or even laterally. In life you aren’t always moving forward when you twist. Sometimes you are lunging or squatting. Sometimes you are sitting on the ground and rotating to pick something up to your side. The reason to even include moves like the Russian twist are to learn how to decelerate and control your core to protect your lower back so you don’t end up twisting further than you should. Never bad to ask if you don’t understand why or when to use something 🙂
I LOVE THIS ARTICLE!!!
You are the best, Cori. Keep up the good work!
I will definitely try landmine option!
Awesome! Have fun!
Nice explanation of the planes of movement. These exercises are underutilised, especially for sports training which typically involves lots of twisting