Continuing on from part 1, we're now going to focus on the steps to develop correct rotational sequencing and power.
Jason Glass puts it perfectly when he says, "You have to earn the right to rotate".
Dynmaic rotational movements are highly coordinated and technical movements, and they require great deals of strength, stability, mobility, and coordination.
You would never take a new athlete and throw them in the squat rack with 2x their body weight.
Instead you'd progress them and groove the squat pattern until they show proper mechanics, strength, mobility, and stability.
Just as so, an athlete needs to exhibit proper stability and mobility before they can move on to dynamic rotational movements.
If you do not have the proper stabilization and strength in a static position, than performing dynamic rotational movements will just lead to dysfunction, improper sequencing, and increased risk of injury.
The same goes for adequate mobility. Rotational movements require a great deal of mobility especially in the thoracic spine, internal/external hip rotators, and ankles.
Just like having limited stability can create issues; a lack of mobility will not allow the athlete to reach their maximum power, sequencing, and again will increased risk of injury.
So to earn the right to rotate, it is important that we as coaches make sure we evaluate our athletes to ensure they possess adequate levels of stability and mobility.
MobilityWhen testing and evaluating mobility, it is important to make sure there are no major limitations or differences between sides of the body. The athlete should exhibit adequate levels of ROM in the major joints, and through total body movements.
If there is a lack of mobility or ROM in a certain joint or side of the body, you know you must plan to attack that area with proper mobility drills.
Thoracic Spine - Athletes need to have adequate rotation and extension in the thoracic spine. When looking at ROM, the T-spine should be able to get 30 degrees or more of rotation, and the athlete should be able to get proper extension from the T-spine without stealing it from the lumbar spine.
Make sure to use mobility movements that keep the lumbar spine fixed, so selecting an exercise that "locks" the lumbar spine down ensures it will not be involved with thoracic spine movements.
Hips - The hips are a very mobile joint, so you must evaluate it in many different movements and angles. Flexion (120+ degress), extension (15+ degrees), adduction, and abduction are important, but even more important for rotational athletes is internal and external rotation.
With rotation occuring in the transverse plane, internal and external mobility and strength become very important. Here is an article on hip internal rotation, and here is one on glute medius mobility (largely external rotation).
As an athlete loads during rotational movements, the rear hip goes through internal rotation and front hip external rotation. As the athlete starts to un-coil the rear hip now goes through powerful external rotation and the front hip absorbs into internal rotation. If there are extreme limitations or restrictions into either of these movements you will see compensation patterns arise, spinal rotation instead of hip rotation, and loss of power.
Also, just as in overhead throwing, if the tissues surrounding the hip aren't kept healthy and happy, they can get beat up from these movements. So, if we have a rotational athlete, ensuring we are getting adequate time spent on soft-tissue and mobility of the internal and external rotators is extremely important.
Ankles- The ankles are just like the hips, a very mobile joint. The ankles require a great deal of dorsiflexion, plantarflexion, inversion, and eversion.
Kneel next to a wall, with one foot 4 inches away from ithe wall. Keeping the heel on the ground, press the knee towards the wall. If the athlete cannot touch the wall, the athlete lacks dorsiflexion (A large percentage of people lack dorsiflexion). They are probably compensating linear movements because of this lack of dorsiflexion and are not getting proper foot and ankle function.
The athlete should also have atleast 20 degrees of inversion and 5 degrees of eversion. As we will go into later, many rotational movements (and most movements overall) require movement around the ankle joint to help transfer force or transfer rotatation to allow better positions.
Many great improvements are seen when athletes take off their shoes. I'm not recommending going straight in to a barefoot badass, I'm hinting at do warm-ups and select exercises barefoot to help improve the function on you feet and ankles.
The athlete also needs to show proper stability and strength in not only the transverse plane, but also the frontal and sagittal planes. Here are some exercises athletes need to show proper stability before they should progress to higher velocities or resistance of rotational movements.
Bird-Dog - This is actually a test from the FMS, called rotary stability (see rotary = rotation! You need this). You are looking to see if the athlete can maintain correct posture and stability while performing this exercise.
If they consistantly wobble, sway, or lose position, then they need work on improving their bodies stability. This opposite arm-leg movement stresses the fascia lines of our body in a very rotational way. Test both sides, and note any differences.
Push-Up w/ Arm Reach - Like the Bird-Dog, except now the athlete has smaller areas of contact with the ground, thus stressing more need for stability.
From side or behind views we should not see a major shift in body position. They athlete should look the same as they do in the starting position. Again test both sides and note any differences.
Inverted Bridge w/ Arm Reach - The previous two tests assessed anterior stability and the anterior muscle slings. The Inverted Bridge w/ Arm Reach will test posterior stability and the posterior muscle sling.
Set up a bar or rings about 4.5 to 5 feet in the air. Grab the bar and assume a lifted bridge position, so that your stomach is flat like a table. Make sure the athletes takes a shoulder width apart grip, and sets their body, core tight - glutes squeezed - shoulders pulled back, for the movement.
Remove one hand from the bar, and reach towards the opposite shoulder, just as you did in the push-up. The athlete should be able to maintain position without major shifts or swings. Test both sides and note any differences.
Glute March - The Glute March will also test the posterior components of the body, with more emphasis through the glutes. We need this stability and strength throught our glutes because the glutes are the engine that fuel our powerful hip movements.
The athlete starts in a glute bridge position, the athlete then "marches" in place, alternating between lifting legs. This will show any weaknesses throughout the glutes and lumbopelvic-hip complex. Notice any differences between sides as usual.
Cable Chops and Lifts - Finally we move to Cable/Band Chops and Lifts. This is a great way to move from static stabilization to more of a dynamic stabilization. The core and hip stability are challenged to transfer the weight thoughout this movement. Use both tall kneeling and half kneeling variations to challenge unilateral stability and strength.
Stay tall throughout this whole movement; think about not becoming "shorter". Also keep your hips and pelvis square, and let your shoulders and arms move the weight throughout the range of motion. Keeping your torso square allows the force to be transfered through your core and hips onto your arms.
Like we touched on at the beginning, athletes need to master these stabilization and mobility exercises before we throw them into dynamics and loaded rotational movements.
If they do not possess these qualitites before starting dynamic rotational movements, then we are setting them up to added dysfunction on improper movement patterns, injury, lessend performance, and oh did I mention injury!
It never pays to rush into exercises because they are cool and fun. Take the proper progression and steps to set your athletes up for the long run.
Part 3 will dive into adding speed to rotation, really the meat and potatoes of what we think of when improving rotational abilities.
Until then Go Get 'Em!