Rotation can be seen in all dynamic sporting movements (kicking, throwing, tennis swings, etc.,) and is a common character trait of any explosive athlete. However, before athletes can rotate explosively with maximum power and minimal risk of injury, they must learn to anti-rotate.
Anti-rotation is simply the state of maintaining a neutral spine posture while under rotational stress or load. Imagine lifting a heavy suitcase into the over head bin of an airplane; this task involves rotational loads that if not dispersed properly through the body, lead to tremendous stress on the low back potentially cause injury. Exposing the body to rotational loads in a controlled gym environment is a great way to train adaptations that improve performance, durability and functional outcomes for everyday life and sports. This article will discuss: the importance of spine stability and introduce you to an anti-rotation exercise that many S & C coaches have had great success with.
Many trainers mistake core strength as the ability to perform a high volume of sit-ups, knee ups or Russian twists with a focus on flexing and rotating through the spine. However, core strength has to do more with spine stability than flexing and rotating strength. Consider the typical athlete that can only push half their weight standing as they can on a bench press; the limiting factor is his or her ability to stabilize the spine. Much of the rotational power in athletics is generated from the hips; “by stiffening the torso, power generated at the hips is transmitted more effectively by the core.” (McGill 2010.) The old adage “we are only as strong as our weakest link” is fitting and describes the importance of not just the ability to flex and rotate through the spine, but to stabilize through the spine.
The famous spine researcher and core performance coach, Dr. Stuart McGill, recommends performing a torsional buttressing task for late stage core performance programming. Torsional buttressing can be described as stabilizing the spine in a neutral position while introducing twisting or “torsional” loads. The Rip Stack has been used by coaches in the NFL, NBA, and UFC to enhance core strength and a healthy posture. This exercise simply involves standing sideways to the anchor and extending the bar away from the torso. In order for the athlete to maintain position he or she must brace by co-contracting all the core muscles. In this image, the athlete is being cued to lengthen through the spine to ensure proper posture.
I recommend holding the Rip Stack position for 10 seconds of work and 3 seconds of rest and repeating 3 consecutive cycles on each side. More advanced users can perform this cycle for 3-5 sets. The Rip Stack can fit into any core strength workout, corrective program or warm-up for power or strength lifting. Try incorporating the Rip Stack or other similar torsional buttressing tasks into your programming and notice the improvement in strength, posture and function of your clients.
McGill, Stuart (2010) Core Training: Evidence translating to better performance and injury prevention. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 32 (3) 33-46