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Four Methods To Enhance the Efficiency of Your Rotational Core Workouts

Rotational core exercises can be very effective for strengthening your abdominal muscles, particularly the obliques, as they target those small supporting muscles in the trunk. These exercises are categorized as transverse plane movements because they involve rotating your muscles around your spine. Developing the ability to move in this manner, along with forward-backward and side-to-side movements, enables you to navigate daily activities more effortlessly. For instance, whenever you take a step forward, part of the momentum comes from the rotation of your torso.

Moreover, it is the deep stabilizing muscles in the abdomen and back that play a role in maintaining our upright posture, according to CPT Matthew Scarfo. The stronger these smaller muscles are, the easier it becomes to retain balance on unstable surfaces, he asserts. “The obliques are often a primary concern, given their extensive range of motion—they facilitate twisting and bending—and may remain underdeveloped by conventional core exercises like sit-ups,” Scarfo remarks. Rotational core exercises also enhance proprioception, which heightens your awareness of your body’s movement in space.

To ensure effectiveness, proper form is crucial when performing twisting movements. Here, Scarfo offers some simple adjustments you can make to maximize the benefits of rotational core workouts while minimizing the risk of injury.

1. Reduce or eliminate weights in favor of better technique

The main focus of strengthening stabilizer muscles is enhancing muscular endurance, which is most effectively achieved through high repetitions at a lighter weight. Particularly when starting rotational core exercises, “using just your body weight provides a sufficient challenge to engage your body and give you a workout,” suggests Scarfo. Only introduce weights once you can consistently perform a movement with correct form. “If you wish to progress your twists, do so gradually, increasing the weight by about one or two pounds,” he recommends.

2. Maintain a neutral spine

In today’s sedentary lifestyle, rounding the spine is common, especially if you spend the day seated at a desk. Lifting or rounding shoulders forward, dropping the chest towards the ground, or tilting the hips forward all increase the likelihood of spinal rounding.

To enhance efficiency and safeguard your back, keep the chest lifted, shoulders pulled down and back to preserve a neutral spine—essentially maintaining the natural curvature of your upper and lower back with the shoulders, rib cage, and pelvis aligned in one straight line. “I recommend thinking ‘proud chest’ as a cue to remember to keep the chest raised,” advises Scarfo. A neutral spine also triggers your core for increased muscle engagement.

3. Perform movements slowly and deliberately

Slowing down your movements prolongs the duration for which your muscles are under tension, compelling them to engage more. “Moving too quickly, or without proper [core engagement], can cause certain muscles to be neglected or others to be targeted incorrectly,” explains Scarfo.

Additionally, “being deliberate prevents the use of other muscle groups, such as the lats, back, or shoulders,” he adds.

4. Substitute free weights with cables or resistance bands

While dumbbells and kettlebells remain effective for twisting exercises like Russian twists or Turkish get-ups, it is beneficial to include resistance bands and cable equipment as well. “They work well for lumberjack chops or banded core rotations, as the band assists in slowing down, allowing you to focus on how your body resists the weight to enhance form,” notes Scarfo. Moreover, they introduce instability that free weights do not, necessitating greater muscle activation.

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