To improve rotational power, which is essential for any rotational athlete (that includes all of you who only play golf on weekends), it has to start with building core stability through anti-rotation exercises like chops and lifts. Building a solid base of stability is essential to progress to more explosive moves, because you need to be able to successfully transfer force from your lower body to your upper body. Otherwise, you'll end up looking like someone trying to shoot a cannon from a canoe.
But first . . .
One key element of chops and lifts for rotational athletes that is often overlooked is a requisite amount of thoracic rotation along with the ability to move the thoracic spine separately from the hips. There are a number of thoracic rotation drills you can implement to improve this.
Rotational exercises like chops and lifts can be done in two different directions, diagonally, both high to low and low to high, or horizontally.
Chops and lifts can be performed from a myriad of positions; for example, standing, split stance, or half-kneeling. However, even when positioning changes, the basic tenets of the chop remain the same. The movement should come from the core turning the upper body. Think about the hands and arms being as extensions of the rest of your upper body. The focus should be on turning the middle of your chest as opposed to moving the arms.
Second, to create more stability through the shoulders, squeeze the armpits. While this cue may sound weird at first, once you follow it, you'll realize it makes sense and keeps everything locked in.
What Not to Do
Avoid the two most common errors with any chop or lift:
- Too much range of motion
- Using the shoulders and arms
When too much range of motion is used, often to try to maximize the exercise, elbows bend, instability kicks in, and you end up defaulting to the second error, which is using your arms to pull. This also ties back to the issue of having enough thoracic rotation to get the most out of chops and lifts.
Keep the range of motion short in the beginning, then progress from there.
Once you have developed the necessary stability to perform the chops, you've earned the progression to transition to more power-focused chops and lifts. When you think power, you may think Box Jumps and Olympic lifts, but power doesn't necessarily have to involve those exercises. They do a have a place. But rotational athletes should focus on ones that develop power in the transverse plane.
What is power and how can we use it in our programming?
"Power is all about expressing intent."
—Chris Merritt, Strength Faction
Set your intention to be explosive and it will carry over. Much like the stability chops and lifts, these can be done in a multitude of stances and positions and with various implements. Medicine balls are a good go-to; however, there's a fine line on the weight necessary to express that powerful intent. Think lower weight so you can really put some "umphf" into it.
A Final Thought
The thought process may be to mimic a rotational athlete's movement patterns, and try to create stability or power through that movement. However, this can lead to issues down the line when returning to actual sport movements.
- The 27 Best Core Exercises for Athletes
- Why the Ab Rollout Builds a Rock-Solid Core
- The Right (and Wrong Way) to do Rotational Exercises