Exercise Progression for the Rotational Core

Any fitness enthusiast would agree that the trunk muscles are important for posture and performance.  However, there is a large discrepancy on what exercises work the best for training the core.  Functional analysis of the core starts with stabilization.  This explains why posture is such an important topic.  Without stabilization, posture and form will suffer when dynamic movements are added.  The same muscles that stabilize the spine are also responsible for movement patterns including flexion, extension and rotation. 

This article will focus on rotational trunk exercises.  Trunk rotation is essential for sports like golfing, baseball, and anything that involves overhand throwing movements.  Below is a progression of exercises that can be used to train the muscles responsible for trunk rotation. Be sure to check out the video link for a demonstration of this progression.

Pallof press – this is an anti-rotation exercises that causes the trunk to resist movement.  While it looks like a chest press because the arms are extended, the direction of the resistance band or cable force the contralateral trunk muscles to contract to keep the spine stabilized.  The further the arms are extended, the more torque is placed on the trunk.  It is essential to maintain slow and controlled repetitions throughout the exercise.   

Palloff press with lateral shuffle-  With the arms fully extended, shuffle away from the anchor point to increase resistance.  This adds a more dynamic component to the Pallof press by shuffling back and forth in a slow and controlled manner.   

Woodchoppers- this is a dynamic rotation exercise that simulates chopping wood.  The key is to let the core initiate the movement with the arms and upper body stabilized.  The kneeling position helps take the hips out of the rotation motion, which helps isolate the trunk muscles.    


 -Alex Edwards, CEP, CSCS

  Exercise Physiologist


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Moretti, A. (2011). The Pallof press. Men's Fitness, 27(2), 30.

Read, P. J., & Lloyd, R. S. (2014). Strength and conditioning considerations for golf. Strength & Conditioning Journal (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins), 36(5), 24.