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Rotational Training for Baseball and Golf

Here at Made 2 Move, we treat a lot of tennis, golf, and baseball athletes. Whether you're on the golf course in Summerville or the baseball diamond in Ladson, most people could benefit by adding elements of rotational training into their routine!

Rotational training- obviously important for athletes like golfers and baseball players, but should non-rotational sport athletes incorporate rotation into their training as well? Let’s find out.

Rotational movement is important because of its obvious translation into sports but also its translation into many activities of daily life. We rarely move in one singular plane; almost every movement involves rotation in some fashion.

Even the most basic of movements: walking, has a rotational component. Walking?! How is that rotational? While barely noticeable, the torso and pelvis rotate as we walk in order to maintain our center of mass and propel us forward. As our right foot takes a step forward, our left shoulder rotates toward our pelvis, creating that natural, fluid walking motion. Thus, doing rotational exercises in the gym is crucial in order to mimic the multiplanar movements of human life. Rotational movements can help build core strength and stability, as well as maintain mobility through the body.

Almost every sport involves rotation of some sort: swinging the golf club, kicking a heavy bag, or throwing a baseball, softball, or javelin. Additionally, rotation is required for some of the simplest movements we do throughout our day, from walking to buckling a seatbelt to moving groceries from the cart to the car. At Made2Move Summerville, we have the best PTs and all the equipment necessary for building rotational exercise into your training. So what are some of the ways our Summerville PTs build rotational exercises into our patient’s training?

Is rotating just twisting my core?

Many people think that doing russian twists or bicycles is sufficient as rotational training. While these movements are great and are rotational in nature, they don’t encompass the body’s full rotational capacity.

When learning rotational movements, it’s important to note that rotation starts with the feet and transfers to the hips. It is key to incorporate hip rotation and not just the lumbar spine. This is because “the lumbar spine has some rotation (approximately 4-14 degrees), it has nothing like the hips possess (35-45 degrees of internal rotation and 40-60 degrees of external rotation)” (Henkin 2019).

Set for Set, an unconventional gym equipment company, notes in a recent blog, “Rotational core exercises are the best for developing power in your core and hips. Understand that the goal is not torso rotation but rather powerful hip rotation. The goal is to learn to better utilize hip internal and external rotation to transfer power from the ground.” Thus, for the most effective rotational training, be sure to incorporate your hips through exercises like med ball throws or cable twists.

How do I incorporate rotational movements into my training program?

Coach Josh Henkin talks about the best way to program rotational training when he says: “We should look to create drills that first pattern rotation, then build strength in rotation, and then we can progress to power development.”

When coaching his athletes, Henkins emphasizes a 3 step progression when learning new movements. 1- Develop the movement patterns, 2- build strength through that movement pattern, and finally 3- build power in the movement. This progression optimizes athleticism while reducing risk of injury. An example of this progression for rotational training could be:

  1. Pattern- Kneeling cable chops

  2. Strength- Split stance cable chops

  3. Power- Rotational ball slams (slam on ground or into wall)

Some equipment we have at our Summerville location that we like to use for rotational training is:

  • Medicine balls (into walls, onto ground, laterally, to a partner, etc.)

  • Cable machine or bands

  • Landmine

To increase the challenge of a rotational movement, do them in a split stance or adjust the height(if using the cable machine) for more of a challenge. For example, you can set up the cable machine at waist level and pull from waist to opposite shoulder. To make this more challenging, you can get in a split stance position and move the cable to ankle level. From here pull the cable to the opposite shoulder.

There are many ways to incorporate rotational training into your current training program. They can be used during a warmup, as an accessory movement to a main lift, or as the primary movement of the session.

Like anything in the gym, the type and intensity of rotational exercises chosen will depend on your training goals. For example, golfers may place a greater emphasis on lower back rotational endurance whereas baseball players may focus on generating the most power through a single throw. A recent study examined rotational endurance in golfers and researchers found that “trunk rotation endurance in golfers with low back pain might be more important than strength alone in the prevention and treatment of low back pain” (Lindsay et. al 2006). This study shows us not only the role rotational training plays in minimizing injury but also the importance of individualizing rotational training as it pertains to the demands of the sport.

Looking to build some rotational exercises into your training program? Here at Made2Move Summerville, we do thorough evaluations to figure out what movements would provide the most benefit in healing your injury and getting you to the next level in your sport or workout. There is rarely a rehab or exercise program we build that doesn’t involve some sort of rotational movement pattern. Email or call 843-640-5244 to set up an initial evaluation. Our therapists are waiting for you inside of Sacred Pine Crossfit here in Summerville!


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