Rotation for the Real World: The Supine Twister

Train unfamiliar patterns to force your body to adapt and build resilience.

Adaptation is awesome, especially from a survival standpoint. Until recent history, we had to adapt to survive. That whole “not dying” thing makes adaptation pretty important on the grand scale of useful traits. However, adaptation is a real pain when it comes to training routines. It doesn’t take long for your body to say, “Been there, done that! I’m not adapting until you’ve got something new and exciting for me.”

Restart Adaptation With the 3 V’s

To combat the pain-in-the-ass side of adaptation and compensation, you need to tap into the 3 V’s. The 3 V’s are the elements you need to break out of your movement comfort zone:

  • Variety
  • Variation
  • Variability

They may all sound the same, but they are far from it. The movement I’m going to show you today will illustrate the differences between the three. Enter the supine twister.

The Supine Twister

Here’s how the movement breaks down.

  1. Lie on your back. Roll to your side and reach over to grab the bar and raise it over your head. You can prop the bar up on another weight at the end if it makes it easier to slide underneath.
  2. Grab the underside of the weights with both hands, making sure to not over-grip.
  3. As you lower the weight to your chest, rotate your body and kick the top leg sideways to the left while tucking the bottom leg underneath.
  4. Press the weight back up and simultaneously rotate back to center and then kick through to the right.

Each kick is considered one repetition. Repeat 25 times for 2 sets. My favorite time to add this exercise is in the middle of my workout. Remember to use a weight that you can control. 25lbs is a good place to start.

A Challenge for All 3 V’s

The supine twister will address all of the elements I mentioned above, to jump-start your body’s adaptation response. Here’s how it works:

Variety: Variety is using a number of different exercises or positions to address a specific goal and increase the transference of learning. In the gym, we spend most of our time with our feet anchored and move the upper body around our feet. With the supine twister, the upper body is anchored and the lower body moves around a fixed point. It’s a totally different dynamic to motor control.

My favorite definition of motor control is from Anne Shumway-Cook:

“Motor control involves the way in which the central nervous system organizes muscles into coordinated movements. Sensory information is used to select and control movement, and movement patterns are influenced by perceptions.”

So if you want to change how you move, one way of doing it is to change your environment, and thus your sensory perception. The supine twister does this by putting you down on the ground, where you don’t usually train.

Variation: Variation means changing elements of a single exercise to stimulate greater diversity and neuromuscular responses. With the supine twister, you can change the pace of the rotations by going fast or slow; do multiple kicks to one side before changing directions; or change how far down, out, and up you kick to the side. By changing the way you lower the end of the bar, you make a difference to how much the upper body is involved.

Variability: Variability adds the elements of unpredictability, rapid change, and automatic reactions to an exercise to develop robustness. With the supine twister, you can train unpredictable reactions and rapid changes in direction by having someone stand above you calling out which direction to go and how long to hold.

You Want Me to Twist? With Weight?

Hold on, you say, isn’t rotation in the lumbar spine bad? Good luck trying not to rotate when you move in real life. Rotation isn’t the enemy; it’s how you rotate that’s the key. 

Many people struggle with the so-called “abdominal brace.” A large percentage of low back problems occur because the abdominal muscles are not maintaining control over the rotation between the pelvis and the spine at the L5- S1 level. It’s difficult to own the brace and move the upper body while the lower body is anchored. But with the supine twister, as soon as you press the weight up you automatically get an abdominal brace.

Train Rotation in the Gym, Own It in Real Life

The supine twister takes a lot of practice. You can injure yourself doing this movement, if you aren’t in total control of the eccentric component. But avoiding a movement because you might get hurt is silly. Learning how to slowly take your body to the edge and back builds resilience. Life can kick you in the ass 24/7 in all planes of motion, especially rotation because that’s where power lives. Are you prepared?

When the rotation ass kicking comes, take comfort in knowing you own it better for having been there before. Have fun and experiment with the supine twister. Or just sit on the couch and do nothing. That’s the only way you ain’t gonna rotate. See you on the ground.

More Core Support Training Exercises:

Photo courtesy of Perry Nickelston.

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