The high to low core rotator is functional rotational exercise targeting your core, including shoulders and hips. We consider it one of the best rotational exercises because of how effective it is at targeting specific phases of muscle contraction and focused movement patterns. The variations you can take from plane of movement, stance, unilateral vs. bilateral … they feel limitless. This really allows us to follow the principal of variability to increase stability throughout the core.
If I had to estimate how often we use core rotators with our clients, I would say 99% of time.
Why not 100% of the time? Well there are in fact some people who can’t or shouldn’t rotate. Think along the lines of injury rehabilitation or spinal based limitations.
Why 99% of the time? Well, your core is your foundation, training it regularly and completely will have a significant impact on your performance and comfort. Training the rotational component of the core is no exception.
It is important to note that your core as we refer to it includes abdominals, posterior muscles of the trunk, glutes and shoulders. Additionally, if you focus on the abdominal muscles you will find that rotation requires multiple muscles, not just one like many ab exercises. The high to low core rotator is trunk rotation with flexion meaning we are getting obliques, transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis to name a few.
How to Perform a High to Low Core Rotator
We love to use core rotator variations in our programming because they scale easily to meet the individual where they are, they are highly functional and the amount of variations make them applicable to everything from sports performance to injury prevention/rehabilitation.
The high to low core rotator we would consider a starting point. A basic, entry level movement that can provide us with feedback on client abilities and challenge a client’s strength, proprioception and range of motion.
Steps for a High to Low Core Rotator
- Set your cable attachment at the top of the pulley machine so that it is above your head.
- Start perpendicular to and offset from the cable machine so that the machine is slightly in front of you. You can start on facing either side, as long as the cable machine is slightly in front of you.
- Hold on to a single handle with the inside hand, or the hand closest to the cable machine. Wrap the opposite hand around the top of that hand. And take a few steps away, from the cable so the weights are not resting.
- Set your feet shoulder width apart and bend your knees, pushing your weight into the midfoot – heel, to load your hips and glutes.
- Brace your core by squeezing your abdominals, rotate from your hips and shoulders bringing the handle across your body to the opposite hip.
- Control the cable and your arms as your rotate back to the starting position, following the exact same path.
- Perform 10 reps on one side and then switch sides.
What to Avoid when doing A High to Low Core Rotator
Avoid getting hit in the face!! The cable should follow an angled path from high to low (hence the name). If you do not bring your arms down on an angle as you come across your body line the cable will hit you in the face or throat.
Avoid back pain!! Your back should remain neutral as you rotate through this movement. Any extending or arching in your back will cause discomfort. This exercise is designed to use flexion and rotation, flex and squeeze your abs!
Avoid falling over!! Keep your weight even between your left and right foot. Allowing your weight to shift or leaning to the side can cause you to loose balance.
Tips for a High to Low Core Rotator
- Your arms are the force arm in this exercise.The farther you keep them away from your body the greater the challenge on your core will be.
- Control the cable on the return and load the eccentric phase to get the most out of this exercise.
- Keep this exercise close chain and maintain foot contact with the ground through the entire movement for maximal benefit on range of motion.
How to Progress a High to Low Core Rotator
We have mentioned that there are almost limitless possibilities for a high to low core rotator, right? Well that makes it hard to tell you how to progress it. Here is our best advice:
- Change the height – as you bring the cable pulley attachment down towards your chest, hips and then knees the exercise becomes increasingly more difficult. You should not be doing the same weight the entire time. Gravity isn’t helping you as you lower the cable. Which means you are now fighting gravity. Of course we don’t call these high to low core rotators anymore, but they are certainly harder variations.
- Change your stance – you can move your feet around to work on different angles and in various stability situations like kneeling, half kneeling, single leg and more.
- Change the grip – switching what hand is on the bottom and single arm versus double arm will change the difficulty and the demand of the exercise.
Equipment for a High to Low Core Rotator
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There are two basic ways to do a traditional core rotator. One is with a cable machine and the other is with a resistance band. Of course you can mimic the movement pattern with a free weight or medicine ball, but the load and muscle activation will be different. To truly replicate the benefits of a high to low core rotator you should use a cable machine or a resistance band.
When we use resistance bands we prefer to hold on with a towel between the band and our hands.
Other Rotational Core Exercises
Training your abdominals rotationally is a great idea, but consider anti-rotation in your programming as well. Doing so will strengthen your foundation and give you more support in all activities. Here are some suggestions for rotation and anti-rotation to do at home:
- Side Plank Hip Dips or Openers
- Plank Kick Through
- V-Sit Twist
- Plank with Lateral Force
- Paloff Press
Rotational Core Workout
Try this simple but effective rotational core workout at home. Be sure to do a warm-up first. And remember to stop activity if you experience any pain, dizziness or shortness of breath.
Equipment: yoga mat
Work through 5 rounds of these exercises, focusing on an even controlled moderate tempo to really feel the burn in the abdominals.
- Woodchopper 10/10
- V-Sit Twist Paused 20
- Plank Kick Through 10/10
- Flat Back Bicycles Paused 20
- Side V-Up 10/10
- Side Plank Hold 30 seconds a side
Core Rotator Application to Golf Performance
Golfers! Core rotators are a great way to train range of motion, stability and strength for the golf swing. Add specific rotational training for range of motion (ROM) into your program first and see results in pain relief and performance.
If you are looking for some more information on rotational ROM for golf, check out our recent mobility post. There is some good information in there on disassociation for the golf swing and exercise suggestions.
You can also check out more on thoracic extension in this blog post. Working the thoracic in all possible ROMs is an important part of a program. It will allow you to build the most about of stability giving you the best platform to develop power.
Check out our PureForged Method for more information on golf fitness and what exactly you should be doing right now.
Want to Follow a Workout Video for Your Core?
Check out one of these full workout videos from our YouTube channel:
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