Physical therapy doctor Domenic Fraboni shares his tips for improving your athleticism through rotation.
Think you’re an athlete? Looking for ways to level up your weekend round of golf or shock your tennis partner?
Today, I’m going to share the one tip every athlete, Olympian or weekend warrior can use to improve the way they move, feel and play sports.
I get it. Athletes are obsessed with the big “tests of athleticism” like the 40-yard dash, shuttle run, L-drill, or power clean. How about putting up those big numbers on the bench press and underneath the squat rack? As someone who squatted #600, cleaned #385 and benched #315, I learned real quick that these numbers don’t equate to optimal movement in your sport or in life! There are a couple major problems with jumping right to these tests as a measure of athleticism. Let me run it down for you.
All these tests are really some of the highest level, end-stage movements athletes should do once they have already built from the foundation.
A good deal of these movements don’t represent sport-specific movements.
Many of these tests, specifically the lifts, fail to test our body’s rotational ability. We work in three planes front to back (sagittal), side to side (frontal) and rotational (transverse). Now, let’s dive into why this rotation is so important.
Can you name a few rotational sports? You may initially think about golf, tennis, baseball or even kickboxing. If you thought of these, yes you’d be correct. However, as a Doctor of Physical Therapy, I consider ALL sports rotational sports. We are rotational beings. Every step, lunge, shuffle or jump includes rotational properties. As I mentioned, we operate within three planes and rotation is one of those. If we have major imbalance or deficiencies in rotation side to side, this can cause major issues in all of our other movements. This means we need to integrate rotational training consciously into our exercises in order to ensure full body awareness and control as an athlete.
Golf, tennis, baseball… these sports only highlight the rotational component. The issue is, we are primarily rotating only to one side. Not only that, but we are repeatedly and consistently doing it as fast and as powerfully as we can to that side. This is why we need to start with the basics.
Here are four simple steps to break it down:
We need to assess and unlock the rotation to both sides so we can have full passive range of motion side to side.
Do the Open Book exercise. Lie on your side with your knees bent at a 45 degree angle. Extend both arms in front of you. Raise your top hand toward the ceiling and open it all the way to the other side of your body until it reaches the floor.
Try doing this 5-10 times to each side. Then assess. Was it easier to one side? Did you feel significantly restricted on another? Based on the results, now you know which side you may need to put more mobility attention into. Do this daily.
The next step is to make sure that you have the ability to control your body throughout this range of motion.
One of the best ways to start exploring this is with your basic Pallof Press. I love doing this in all sorts of different positions. Start in kneeling position with the outside knee up and then mix it up. Kneel high on both knees. Get into a standing lunge. How well can you control that core stability even as you mix up that base of support.
Now we connect the dots. This is where we start moving through that entire range we built up in step one, while always controlling with the stability we’ve trained in step two.
As an athlete, this is one of the most important steps. The more you train this in a controlled environment, the more that your body will be ready to execute when you are on the court, field, or links.
This is finally where all the hard work from steps 1-3 pay off. The exercises start to look more sport specific. If you are a tennis athlete, the activities should start to include side to side movement. Change up the environment. Use an unstable surface. Do the exercise on one leg. Change something up to help simulate the unpredictable environment of your sport.
Okay... I know that was a lot. I also know that we put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into our sport and movement. This process is just the beginning of a lifelong process of continuing to hone in on your own movement. Work from the foundation up. Train that body to react in a controlled environment and with unpredictable elements. Most of all, work BOTH sides within ALL exercises and continue to learn more about how to optimize your movement.
I can guarantee that this process will help you learn to move better AND feel better in your body. The last thing is looking good, which is why I rock Willy California. Moving and looking good no matter where I’m at!