Anti Rotation...the basics!

In all it's many machinations, the fitness industry is increasingly moving towards exercise modalities that require the production of greater forces at higher rates and in ranges of motion that previously have not been seen outside of the sporting domain.  

The introduction of strongman type lifts, the use of non-conforming and awkward objects, and the inclusion of speed work (sprints) to not only day-to-day sessions but also to entire constructs such as obstacle racing i.e. Tough Mudder, Spartan etc., extreme circuit training i.e. Crossfit, Gym Jones etc., and any number of other multidisciplinary boot camps and competitions has introduced a new spectrum of physical requirement to the previously machine locked fitness industry.

A shift of the magnitude described, requires not only acquisition of new skills to complete the tasks presented, but also a change in thinking in order to ensure that the participants are prepared for what they will be asked to complete. As increasingly random tasks are thrown at participants it is critical that they are capable of falling back on an extensive movement vocabulary that provides a foundation for the application of force under demanding circumstances.

One of the most critical elements of movement rarely discussed in the fitness industry is one whose aim is ironically not to move. ANTI ROTATION is the concept of stabilizing the thorax on the pelvis in a neutral orientation while an asymmetrical load is applied. Clearly the nature of asymmetrical loading is that it will cause the body to be thrown off balance, and therein lies the objectiveto resist the mechanical inclination to lose an essentially vertically orientated posture.

From an anatomical perspective, ANTI ROTATION exercises (depending on complexity of exercise selection) generally call to action all the controlling structures around the shoulder, shoulder girdle, lumbo-pelvic region, hip, knee and ankle. Even at the most basic level, ANTI ROTATION exercises develop an integral coordination capacity between stabilizing mechanisms that are essentially stacked upon one another e.g. lateral lumbo-pelvic control + lumbar spine lateral control...what I refer to as The Lateral Stability Chain.


The Lateral Stability Chain - Anti Rotation exercise selection plays a critical part in sequencing this anatomical group.  These structures, their sequencing and ultimately their reactive capacity play critical roles in prevention and rehabilitation of injuries such as ACL ruptures and groin dysfunction.

Where to start

The first thing to acquaint yourself with is the nature of the rotation and how to use it to achieve your desired objective.

While grouped under the term ANTI ROTATION, there are principally three types of lumbar movement that we are endeavoring to resist: horizontal rotation, lateral flexion & flexion/extension. In principal of these movements involve unwanted rotation around a single pivot point, which in general is the lumbar spine, hence the generic term anti-rotation”.  A broader concept is the contribution of lateral hip stability to the prevention of these movements.  This concept will be expanded in future articles.

Horizontal Anti Rotation exercises require a load that is applied across gravity, which dictates that implements such as bands and cables are the tools of choice. When using cables and bands the load only originates from one place across the body and by its nature is therefore asymmetrical. Pallof press and derivatives are a great example.

Lateral Flexion Anti Rotation exercises can be loaded in two ways.

    • A load that is applied in conjunction with gravity and is typically asymmetrically i.e. in one hand. This exercise thread lends itself to kettlebells, power clubs, and sandbags. Unilateral exercises such as lunge and step-ups are excellent to incorporate an Anti lateral Flexion component (pictured). Also works with a squat stance, however the stabilizing load is then removed from the hip.
          • A horizontal load that is applied above the head (causing a lateral flexion stimulus). Bands and cables are the preferred choice of load e.g. vertical Pallof Press (pictured).

                       Gotta love the backyard gym!

                      Flexion / Extension Anti Rotation (obviously not Rotation in the strictest anatomical sense of the word...but it still refers to the prevention of rotation around a point, in this lumbar flexion/extension) exercises are engaged with loads across gravity and applied above the head, again the dominion of bands and cables. Preventing Flexion requires a load from the front, while preventing extension will require a load from behind. These can be applied in the Pallof setup noted above.

                      In all cases, the complexity of the exercise may be increased independently of load by using the following progressions in stance


                      Single Leg Kneeling


                      Split Stance

                      Step Up or Lunge

                      Selection of exercise thread should be based on the individual needs of your athlete.

                      The entire ANTI ROTATION exercise thread is based on control not load. Sure we can always make things harder with load, but the critical component here is CONTROL. If the individual cant maintain the required posture, the load, no matter how trivial is too much. Getting exercises like this right is what gives the athlete the capacity to complete more advanced dynamic exercises further down the track.  This links strongly to injury prevention and rehabilitation noted above.

                      One often under coached element of stability is critical to the effective application of ANTI ROTATION exercises. Breathing is central to high intensity activities, and as exercise protocols become harder respiration rates go through the roof. It is of the utmost importance that when developing stabilizing capacity in exercise threads such as ANTI ROTATION that you do not coach participants or athletes to brace. Breathing must remain smooth and consistent.

                      Remember the aim of the ANTI ROTATION thread is to stabilize against an asymmetrical load applied in an increasingly dynamic environment. The athlete must be taught to stabilize independently of breathing rate. If the athlete can only stabilize using a bracing strategy, then the moment dynamic load progresses under fatigue they will be exposed to an increasing risk. Please recognize that this a distinctly different strategy to that employed in the lifting of maximal loads in compound lifts. This strategy is aimed solely at increasing the dynamic functional capacity of the athlete! This is one of the core lessons the new wave of the fitness industry can learn from sport.


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