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The Most Important Strength Exercises You Aren’t Doing!

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to be a part of the Perform Better conference, this time in Southern California. These programs are so great to meet up with other terrific coaches and being in LA, it was awesome to have our DVRT family come out in full force to help me out! Presenting always allows me to open people’s minds to what they may be missing and get so many “ah-ha” moments. Especially when it comes to different strength exercises, I think I definitely got a lot of people seeing better solutions.

kettlebell training

One of the ideas that I think was really important was that of rotation. Outside of locomotion, I believe that strength exercises that fall under the movement pattern of rotation are the most misunderstood. Heck, some people don’t even put any form of rotational training as part of their strength exercises as they miss the true 7 movement patterns.

sandbag training

I know I post this a lot, but every time I present, I feel like it is new for people. Plus, we get new people over here all the time and I want to make sure that we are understanding our strength exercises are more than just “hey here are 101 X you can do!” Being more thoughtful opens up not just even more drills than you can ever imagine, but better solutions more importantly.

The 7 patterns you see here are key to creating better programs. While we could make arguments maybe for more, we can’t justify taking away any of them. Instead of programming around cool new strength exercises, this allows us to see that all that matters is what people need in regards to these patterns. Taking rotation as an example I think will open big doors!

Why Rotational Strength Exercises?

I think what people want to know is “why care so much about rotational training?” Besides the simple fact that our body is designed for rotation (ever see how people create power in throwing, punching, kicking, and just about every athletic action?) to optimize power, we use it to make our body more efficient. Meaning learning how to use strength exercises that teach both how to RESIST and CREATE rotation are important because we work in opposites.

Sharing images like the below,  of what I am talking about really made people at the Perform Better conference and at the Equinox gym I presented at, appreciate what we are talking about with rotation.

The “spiral line” which comes from Thomas Meyers “Anatomy Trains”, really represents these cross patterns our body uses. Hopefully you see how everything comes from the feet up! So, when people ask me “what muscle do those strength exercises work?”, the answer is A LOT! Meaning, most people don’t think that their left foot can influence their right shoulder, or that a more stable core allows for more mobile hips, that the glutes are driven by the lower leg/foot, and so on. Isn’t it cool that we could make you function better while also training A LOT of different muscles at once? I think so!

DVRT Master, Cory Cripe shows how this concept comes to life in a demo we love to use to bring science into more practical understanding. 

The question then becomes how do we teach these concepts as progressions. Many people really misunderstand rotation as I showed this slide this weekend…

strength exercises

Now, I’m not criticizing people here, but want to help clarify concepts. In the picture on the far left you see the person has something wrapped around their torso. If you look carefully, you can see the rear foot isn’t really rotating. Intent is most important and when we put something like that strap around people’s bodies they tend to want to use the trunk to rotate which is a mistake as renown physical therapist, Shirley Sahrmann explains..”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. “

That means we want force to come from the ground up while keeping the torso rather still. This is challenging at first because that means our lower body is mobile and our upper body is trying to be stable. In most familiar gym exercises, such concepts are never even thought about! I break it down in the video below…

In the second picture, people often call this “resisting rotation”. Now, it is true, resisting rotation is really key, which is why large muscles like your lats and obliques are shaped like a fan. That means they produce and resist force at the same time. However, if you look carefully and think about what is happening, the individual is actually isometrically trying to CREATE rotation. That is VERY different, as to hold the stick against the wall he has to be pushing into the stick rather than trying to resisting force.

Resisting rotation can be seen in foundational strength exercises like our DVRT dead bugs below…

Drills like our bird dog progression and plank drags…

To more dynamic drills like Robin Paget shows here…

Then we get to the HIGHEST level of strength exercises that teach how to resist rotation in our MAX drills (multiple axis). This requires our lumbar area and below to be stable, while our thoracic spine is mobile. Why the Ultimate Sandbag is so important here is how we teach HOW to accomplish such a really advanced level of strength and movement. Later this week we continue to break down rotational training and how we build greater success. When you see all the thought that goes into building such great movement and strength exercises you realize why it is a big part of our DVRT education. We want to train the body as it was designed to function!