Ah the internet. Trust me, it has definite pros, but man, the cons can sometimes make it a bit overwhelming. Especially in the world of fitness where information is given out like candy. Let’s call it how it is, not all information being provided is good information. In fact, when people throw out theory as fact, they confuse people and we end up with professionals that are more confused than ever. No better example than with some of the confusion surrounding core exercises focusing on anti-rotation.
To be honest, I never thought such a topic would be one that would be debated. However, leave it to the internet to create a discussion if anti-rotational training is valid. In order to fully understand we should look at both sides of the spectrum.
So, why would one ever use anti-rotational training? After all, most people just want to feel their abs when they train their core. The reality is that if we want good looking abs, core exercises are not the key, low body fat levels are more so. That leaves us to wondering if core exercises really mean anything?
The easiest way to explain the role of the core is to be a communication system of the lower body to upper body and vice versa. If we don’t have good communication we can’t use either the legs or arms to their full potential. If we look at walking (the foundational movement pattern we have discussed many times) or arms and legs work in opposites to create motion. This makes us more stable, faster, more efficient, and move better overall.
If our core can’t resist unwanted movement, not only can the extremities not perform to their potential, but we start building dysfunction and stress the common three areas of knees, low backs, and shoulders.
Looking at our core, it is a cylinder more than anything that is designed to allow movement, but help us resist unwanted movement that causes issues in our body.
You don’t have to take my word for it, renown physical therapist Shirley Sahrmann has stated, “During most daily activities, the primary role of the abdominal muscles is to provide isometric support and limit the degree of rotation of the trunk… A large percentage of low back problems occur because the abdominal muscles are not maintaining tight control over the rotation between the pelvis and the spine at the L5- S1 level.”
Famed physical therapist Gray Cook, has a similar philosophy and why drills like lifts/chops are a big part of his FMS system. According to Cook, the concept of rotary training involves stabilizing against a rotational force rather than simply rotating.
In DVRT we use the concepts of connection and tension to make lifts/chops even better by “pulling apart” the Ultimate Sandbag in versions like these.
Finally we have world renown expert, Dr. Stuart McGill on the function of the core, “…now we can answer the question – what is the core. Proximal stiffness occurs between the ball and socket joints – ie. the hips and shoulders. It involves all of the muscles in the torso. They function primarily to stop motion. They should be trained this way. The core also involves the muscles that cross the ball and socket joints that have distal connections – psoas, the gluteals, latissimus, pecs, etc.”
Hopefully this all makes sense why teaching people how to resist motion is essential in layering to more complex patterns like rotation. Most people totally misunderstand rotation and don’t realize that it comes from the feet and hips, NOT the low back. If we don’t pattern anti-rotation first, then teaching people rotation is EXTREMELY difficult!
What you probably are finding is that discussions about core exercises is often more complicated than we may first believe. That even when we are talking about the core we are discussing the full body and how our core exercises function with the whole body!
I get we live in the age of sound bites and it is easy to want to rally around ideas like, “we rotate in life don’t we want to do just that?” The problem comes with not understanding what goes into these motions, who they are right for and not as well. How do we build them and what do our exercises teach the body and person about the movement.
Functional fitness forces us to be more responsible about the knowledge of the body, but that extra effort pays off ten fold when it comes to the benefits we are repaid with!
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