How to Perform Trunk Rotation: Techniques, Benefits, Variations

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Also known as: Super high body rotation

Target: sternocleidomastoid muscle, rectus abdominis muscle, and lumbar polycystic (low back stabilizer muscle)

Level: Beginners

Trunk rotation is an exercise used to improve core strength, stability, flexibility, and greater mobility of the spine. Exercises can be done in a variety of ways allowing you to progress, challenge yourself, and do what works best for you.

Body rotation is used in many daily functional activities as well as when participating in sports. You perform a body rotation by lying on the ground, bend your knees by impacting your body, and rotate your knees from side to side. You should feel a stretch in your lower back, obliques, and abs.

How to perform trunk rotation

Performing a torso rotation is a popular exercise to improve the strength and function of the core muscles. That said, and as with any exercise, it’s important that you work at a level that’s appropriate for this type of movement. The following steps will help you perform the exercise safely and effectively:

  1. Start in a supine (back) position on an exercise mat.
  2. Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  3. Keep your shoulders and upper body steady against the floor.
  4. Spread your arms wide and press them into the floor to help keep your balance during the movement.
  5. Exercise/tighten abs.
  6. Rotate the knee slowly to the side in a controlled manner, working within your range of motion. Your feet will change but remain on the floor.
  7. Hold the pose for 3 to 5 seconds.
  8. Do/squeeze the abs to move the leg to the opposite side.
  9. Hold for another 3 to 5 seconds.
  10. Focus and breathe normally through the exercise.
  11. Repeat the exercise with a defined number of reps, such as 10 times on each side.

Benefits of pivoting

The muscles in the trunk play an important part in any movement of the body. They help you walk, balance, and stabilize your body. Improving mobility and trunk strength through a rotation exercise like this can provide general fitness as well as athletic performance benefits.

In addition, torso rotation is also a popular rehabilitation exercise for low back pain relief. Low back pain is a common problem among athletes and non-athletes alike. Improving trunk mobility and learning to control trunk movement can be very helpful if you are suffering from back pain.

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Trunk rotation can easily be added to your existing core routine. It enhances your training program, targets specific trunk muscles, and improves the quality of your fitness in and out of the gym. Trunk rotation is a movement that involves the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae and surrounding muscles.

When you twist and turn, the muscles in your torso are often the first to activate to help maintain stability. In fact, research points to the importance of exercises to help maintain optimal function of these muscles. Trunk rotation exercises can also help improve the strength, function, and mobility of the trunk muscles.

Additional benefits

Adding this bodyweight exercise to your regular fitness routine can provide the following benefits:

  • Increased shaft rotation, flexibility and range of motion (ROM)
  • Reduce the risk of injury
  • Improve physical function (daily activity)
  • Reduce back stress
  • Lower back pain
  • Increase your chances of reaching peak fitness levels
  • Improve athletic performance
  • Improved stability
  • Improve core strength
  • Improved balance and gait (walking)
  • Increase flexibility of low back and hips
  • Improves spinal mobility
  • Improve your posture

Other variations of trunk rotation

Body rotation is an incremental exercise that can be performed in a variety of ways to suit your specific fitness level and needs. If you’re new to gymnastics and core training, you may want to use these variations and modifications to fully engage in the exercise.

Control Ab No Rotation

Practice core engagement by squeezing your abs (think of pressing your navel toward your spine) without moving your legs to opposite sides. This will help with body awareness and muscle control during rotation. Once you’ve tightened your body, switch to leg motion throughout the exercise.

Pelvic tilt

Do a pelvic tilt to help relax tense back muscles and increase flexibility. These movements are performed in the same supine position, knees up and feet on the floor. Squeeze your body (think navel to spine) as you tilt your pelvis up toward the ceiling and back again.

Feet raised

Rotate your body in a supine position with your feet lifted off the floor and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. This move increases the intensity of the exercise by activating the abdominal muscles to contract more strongly during the movement.

Extended legs

Perform body rotation in a supine position with feet knee-width apart. This advanced modification engages the core muscles more during movement. The focus remains on working slowly and in control.

To continue to change the movement as you advance, perform a rotation of your body in a supine position, knees up and feet flat on the floor. As you move the outer knee to the opposite side, extend the other leg flat along the floor. Then bring both legs back to the starting position.

Rotate seat

Sitting body rotation is another variation to consider and can be done while sitting on an exercise mat with your legs extended in front of you. Focus on your center of gravity as you twist your upper body, touching the floor on one side and moving with control to the opposite side.

Vertical rotation

Standing torso rotation is considered an intermediate form of this exercise and is sometimes a better option for those who experience discomfort or pain in a seated position. Follow the same rules for core engagement in this process and all variations of the movement.

However, in this version of the exercise, instead of moving your legs, move your upper body to the side while keeping your hips still. You can bend your arms at the elbows with your hands clasped in front of your chest or bring your arms out in front of you.

In either arm position, move the arm with the upper body as it twists. For an added challenge, hold a weighted pill ball in your hand (just in front of your chest or extending away from your chest).

Common mistake

Doing the torso swing can be an easy bodyweight exercise, but it requires you to pay attention to good form and technique. The following are common mistakes to avoid when doing this exercise.

Inactivity at your physical level

Spinning, like any exercise, requires you to work at the right level and pay attention to detail. The exercise will provide an effective challenge without overloading the muscle tissue.

Because this is a bodyweight exercise, some people tend to overdo it. Start slow and let yourself progress over time as you gain strength and mobility in your spine.

Do not participate in the core

Squeezing your abs during rotation is an important part of the exercise. If you’re just moving your legs back and forth without activating your core muscles, the exercise is being performed incorrectly.

Not exercising the right muscles can make your low back uncomfortable. Focus on interacting with your core to help ease any discomfort.

Incorrect range of motion (ROM)

Rotating the trunk is a slow, controlled, and small motion. The goal is not to see if you can touch your knees to either side of the floor. The goal is to control the movement, rather than make one big movement. Work within the proper range of motion for the exercise to be performed properly and effectively.

Safety and Precautions

Trunk rotation is proven to be an effective exercise to improve mobility, flexibility, and core strength of the spine. The following tips will reduce your risk of injury and help you adopt proper form during movement:

  • Maintain body awareness during exercise for proper form and technique.
  • Engage your center of gravity throughout the exercise to effectively execute the movement without the risk of low back discomfort/injury. Think of the navel being sucked into your spine.
  • Perform the movement slowly and with control. Complete 10 reps on each side.
  • Focus on controlling movement, not increasing movement. Think of a smaller range of motion (ROM) for stronger trunk muscles.
  • Do the exercise at your fitness level and spine range of motion.
  • Apply the principles of proper exercise progression (adding a challenge once you’ve mastered the basic movement).
  • Stop the exercise if you experience increased pain or discomfort that doesn’t feel right during movement.


Incorporate this and similar moves into one of these popular exercises:

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