Look behind you. Your head, neck, shoulders, spine, hips, knees, lower legs, ankles and feet ALL have to move. Movement Pattern 3: Rotation, can be limited in so many different places. Not only that, you are moving in a new plane of motion – you aren’t just moving forward or backward like the previous movement patterns. The term rotation was chosen carefully…it is NOT twisting.
We have a ton of ability to make a positive change here. This is a plane of movement we all want, but most everyone lacks (at least somewhere along the kinetic chain). I often hear patients say they just feel tight. When trying to move like the picture to the left, we think the trunk or spine has to do most of the work and can experience a little pain trying to push this…more like twisting. Like always, we need to take this standing movement and break it down. This first step with this is easy – just sit down. Use a dowel rod or some sort of stick to give you an idea of how far your shoulders (and thus your tunk) moves. This simple assessesment takes your ankles, knees and hips out of the picture. If this feels limited, tight or one side moves further than the other, you can implement one or both of the trunk rotation images below. Remember, do NOT move into pain. These exercises are used to address tightness and mobility limitations. They are unweighted ways to somewhat isolate your spine/trunk and not worry about the motion at the hips and pelvis.
This image is from a hands and knees position and has you trying to move your elbow until it is pointed up to the ceiling, then trying to take your elbow to the opposite armpit. You are moving thoracically and cervically (mid back and neck) in this manner; however, you also move the lumbar spine (lower back) vertrbrae as well…rotation is just not their primary role. Attempt to move through the greatest range in each direction with focus on diaphragmatic breathing – NEVER hold your breath or try to push hard into these ranges or you will always be blocked. Diaphragmatic breathing is how we naturally, inherently breathe. Watch an infant breathe. They move their bellies, not their chests. We pathologically learn to use our chest and accessory muscles to breathe and, unfortunately, shut off our diaphragms. There are a couple of very basic exercises to help someone assess and hopefully re-learn appropriate diaphragmatic breathing. One is just lying on your back and making sure your belly rises and falls, not your chest. The other is called “Crocodile Breathing.” Thank you to Carson Boddicker for good footage of these (as well as his other contributions to human movement). I plan to address breathing patterns and how important breathing properly is in everyday ativities at a later date, but feel free to view the above YouTube links, if you are inclined to check it out.
Getting back to rotation (sorry for the digression)! Another way to gain spinal rotation is to totally unweight your body. Start by lying on your side and bringing your hips and knees up slightly bent – sort of like being in the fetal position. Gently reach your upper shoulder back like you are trying to get it to the ground. This is one of my favorites. Just let your upper body fall away while your lower half stays put. As always, not into pain of any sort. Hold for several seconds let your body relax.
Now it is time to look at the hips and their role in rotation. If you have performed all of the above without issue, but found yourself lacking in total standing rotation, the hips may have been the culprit. Try this: Lying on your back, bend your knees and bring them together. Next, place your feet wider than shoulder width apart. You should feel like you are winding up your hip joint and feel some tightness deep within the join capule. Another way to do this is from your stomach. Still lying with your knees together, but letting your feet fall away. This is working the internal rotation at the hip.
The next move is to sit up tall, maybe even with your back against the wall, and place the bottoms of your feet together + let your knees fall out to the side. This will address hip external rotation. Our hips want to move into each of those ranges (external and internal), but one will be easier than the other. It seems many guys have problems with this pattern in general. Male’s torsos and backs are usually stronger, but oten less mobile. No excuses, we should all move free from restriction. Start exposing yourself to these positions. Don’t be afraid to get on the ground and move. Attempt to find an area where you move poorly and address it. Stay mobile. Avoid pain. Move better.