Rotation is one of the most important motions that humans have in their repertoire of locomotion. After stabilisation of the neck, chest and pelvis is achieved at the age of 4-5 months, a baby develops the ability to rotate from supine to prone and back and then progress to four-point, quadrapedal and then verticalisation before the monumental task of gait is achieved. So if rotation is one of the first components of movement and locomotion that we establish, it would also appear to be one of the first movements that we tend to lose as we develop dysfunctional or habitual movement.
Why does this happen? Or A question that I am often posed by my clients. How did I get to be like this? I would offer the following scenarios:
- Too much exercise- focus on sagittal plane or backwards and forwards motion.
- Too little exercise – stuck at a desk-sofa, inability to breathe, lack of movement.
For the committed exerciser a lack of rotation or the lack of reprogramming of rotation is often key. The neck and thoracic spine were built for rotation. Squats, deadlifts, pull ups, benching, Olympic lifting and other exercises do little to improve rotation. Even if a good trainer implements some great rotational exercisers such as wood-chops, cable push or pulls with rotation, med-ball tosses and the like, the action of creating an optimal rotation pattern is hard to achieve without some form of neuro-biomechanical re-programming. In short:
MORE DOES NOT MEAN BETTER
Understanding how good rotation (and frontal plane or side to side mechanics) looks like and how to reprogram it, should be considered by those wanting to improve mechanics or to move away from sources out of pain but of course a lack of rotation is not the only cause of pain and or altered mechanics. Regional interdependence is a concept that suggests that poor movement and pain in one area may be the product of another seemingly unrelated area.
So what’s good?
As always depending on your slant opinions can vary. I tend to use mechanical analysis such as SFMA (Selective Functional Movement Analysis), combined with some other biomechanical considerations such as, DNS, gait and to change the clients patterns I use techniques such as Neuro Kinetic Therapy and Proprioceptive Deep Tendon Release or PDTR for efficient results.
Here’s a quick way to analyse rotation.
The standing position observes a ground up view of rotation. In short it helps to breakdown issues related to mobility or stability. What you are looking for is approximately 45-50 degrees of rotation at the hip and pelvis and 90 degrees of rotation of the upper body. It should be compared with the other side
Completing the test seated with the feet on the ground allows for an assessment of rotation of the upper body minus involvement of the lower body to determine interactions. In short an approximate rotation of 50 degrees either side is ideal. Unilateral differences should be compared as part of the treatment strategy.
Is it a mobility or stability issue? An old vid blog can you up to date on this concept.
The rolling pattern is a great leveller for the athlete and non athlete alike. The concept is to assess the ability to roll using only upper body or lower body, analysing segmental movement and in most cases many people cannot adequately roll.
In fact the compensation strategies can reveal much about how an individuals brain has elected to move with compensatory mechanisms. Correcting these can be achieved with NKT and PDTR in the space of a few minutes in some cases.
Rolling patterns represent one of the first forms of locomotion in the neonate and initial rolling patterns starts at the age of 4-5 months.
Rolling assessment allows for the identification of muscles/structures that may contribute to poor rotation in gait, day - day and sporting activities.
Comparing upper to lower body and prone to supine can determine deficits that can be rectified in both pain and optimisation of movement.
- Upper body prone to supine left to right
- Upper body supine to prone left to right
- Lower body prone to supine left to right
- Lower body supine to prone left to right
When we lose efficient rotation in everyday activities such as walking and running, structures that may not be able to rotate efficiently may be forced into compensatory movement. For instance, the lumbar spine which has minimal degrees of rotation when compared to the thoracic spine can often be the source of pain
Integrating rotation into your exercise and injury prevention routine should be as important as your warm up itself. If you feel that you can’t rotate that well then get in contact with someone who can assess and change your rotation.
You can find out more in my breathing pattern and core workshop coming up soon called The Foundational Five about how to change core function.
- Cook, G. et al. Selective Functional Movement Assessment. Course Manual
- Kobesova, A., Kolar, P., Developmental kinesiology: Three levels of motor control in the assessment and treatment of the motor system, Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies (2013),
- Weinstock, D. Neuro Kinetic Therapy.
- Cook, G. Gill, L. Hoogenbam, Voight M. Using Rolling to Develop Neuromuscular Control and Coordination of the Core and Extremities of Athletes. N Am J Sports Phys Ther. May 2009; 4(2): 70–82.