I already have a basic strength and conditioning program, and I play combat sports. So let's assume that the fundamentals of squatting, deadlifting, chinning, pressing, running, and sport-specific conditioning are dealt with.

I'm convinced now that rotational strength is a fundamental component of strength, particularly for sport. So what exercise should I add to my routine to handle rotational strength?

Considerations: I need to ease into it, but I want to train heavy. I don't have a lot of room in my programming, so it has to pack a good bang for the buck.

Candidates currently include, but should certainly not be limited to:

  • Russian twists (says Ross Enamait)
  • Cross chops (says West Coast S&C)
  • Overhead squats, lunge-and-twists, Saxon side bends, and a bunch of other light-weight stuff (says Mike Rutherford in CrossFit Journal (PDF))
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    Medicine ball toss and diagonals target the rotational strenth of the trunk. They give you functional movement patterns and speeds. – BackInShapeBuddy Apr 28 '12 at 21:22
  • Agree with BackInShapeBuddy. Medicine ball tosses in general build functional strength IMO most effectively. I would do a lot of sitting MB russian twist throws (feet in the air) for distance, bar twists, land mines w/ barbell, walking lunge twists w/ plate, walking twists w/ plate. I have found those to be the most beneficial for rotational strength & power (do this for 4-5 months then test out your golf drive!) – DribblzAroundU82 Jun 20 '12 at 20:50
  • @Andreas First person to write that up as an answer gets the bounty. – Dave Liepmann Jun 20 '12 at 20:52
  • @DaveLiepmann do you mean a full explanation of the exercises or just a repost? – DribblzAroundU82 Jun 20 '12 at 21:00
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    @Andreas I don't see a need to delete it...leave it there and edit it later to expand upon your points. – Dave Liepmann Jun 20 '12 at 21:43

So I decided to come back and write a little more on rotational strength and power; specifically from a throwers background.

To really develop serious trunk and rotational power we would dedicate ourselves once a week to rotational specific (sport specific) movements in the weight room which not only helped increase trunk flexibility but also really got some strength behind the movement. Additionally we would typically throw medicine balls 3-4 times a week with a heavy emphasis of overhead, underhand and side to side throws with balls varying from 3kg to 7.27kg (shot weight). After a few months/years of doing this I must say all this rotational power increase my overall power output in the clean, snatch, squat. Why? Most likely because it increased my "core" strength to a solid foundation to utilize all muscles in congruence with one another. Lower body with upper body.

The MB exercises I used which helped me the most with general power and rotational power where:

  • Underhand, Overhead tosses for distance
  • Russian Twists throws w/ varied MBs. Feet are up in the air balancing the body, a partner throws you the ball, do a full twist and throw the ball back to the partner (or wall)
  • Single Arm rotational throws for distance
  • Single Arm throws for height

  • For weight room specific exercises I did some of the following:
  • Discus twists with barbell on back, increase weight and stretch each week
  • Land Mines: tons of these!
  • Walking Lunge Twists with 20kg plate for distance; full rotation
  • Walking Twists with 20kg plate for distance; full rotation

  • Lots of reps, weight and discipline eventually lead to a huge base for generating rotational power. See if you like some of these exercises and try to incorporate some into your training. If you really have the intention of increasing rotational power work the flexibility portion (extremely important!) and add weight to that movement (you can do overspeed and overload rotational movements: think of doing a golf drive with an unweighted club and with a 4kg club for e.g. for ovespeed and weighted). One more thing which I did mention; rotational flexibility is big, real big.

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    • Nice answer and glad you mentioned rotational flexibility! – BackInShapeBuddy Jun 25 '12 at 0:46
    • @BackInShapeBuddy thanks buddy! Increase that torque flexibility to get more distance on your golf drive! (just one of many sports it helps) ;-) – DribblzAroundU82 Jun 25 '12 at 0:49
    • The Land Mines look really good! – VPeric Jun 25 '12 at 11:45

    Given your involvement in 'combat sports', I would recommend an exercise that gives you the explosive power/rotational power needed to deliver devastation - the sledgehammer enter image description here.

    Here's links to RossTraining articles about it: http://rosstraining.com/blog/2007/02/20/good-old-sledgehammer/ http://rosstraining.com/blog/2008/04/02/sledgehammer-training-part-ii-new-article/

    I just started myself and can already feel the difference. When I look for a new exercise, I look for application, low cost, easy ramp up - and you have it all here. It cost $35 for the 12lb sledge hammers, used an old tire laying around and took a few swings each day until I got use to the feel.

    It's an old basic exercise (sledge hammer or ax work) used by many boxers, doesn't take a lot of time to complete (try getting to 100 swings - 50 each side...) and provides the explosive power you need for combat sport delivery.

    Recommendation #2 - Heavy Bag - nothing teaches you how to punch like punching and the heavy bag provides the resistance needed to build form and provides quick feedback. You get the rotational workout you want long with cardio.

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    I've been advised to supplement my Turkish get-ups, waiter's walks, and suitcase carries with bent-over dumbbell rows. I will also be increasing the proportion of kettlebell overhead squats in my squat routine.

    Turkish get-ups are considered by Gray Cook (prolific and well-respected strength/conditioning/mobility coach, proponent of the Functional Movement Screen) to be the foundation of trunk stability. Eric Cressey, a major exponent of the necessity for trunk cross-strength, puts them among the top rank of exercises for that purpose.

    Bent-over dumbbell rows are great because they have a short range of motion and can therefore be loaded very heavy and done for low reps. They require (and develop) a great deal of strength locking the trunk against rotation.

    • These are all unilateral exercises, which require cross-trunk stability.
    • They also incorporate both pulls (rows, suitcase carries) and pushes (get-ups, waiter's walks).
    • This combination of exercises also covers both the horizontal plane (rows, bottom part of the get-ups) and the vertical plane (everything else). This plus the pushes and pulls covers all the cardinal movements (though not corner-to-corner movements).

    By combining the Turkish get-ups and the waiter's walks into one set (stand up, walk around, get back down on the floor, repeat), I save a lot of time. I get another boost in efficiency by using pre-existing pull-up time for bent-over dumbbell rows, and similarly using pre-existing squat time for kettlebell overhead squats.

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