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10 Important Rotational Exercises Every CrossFit Athlete Should Add into Their Training

The movements of our body occur along three different planes. A great deal of WODs and exercises virtually ignore the third. Here's how to attack, train and strengthen this weakness.

Rotational exercises are an important practice to include in your training and involve you moving through your body’s three planes of motion. Rotational strength can help you transfer power, increase your mobility and stabilise your body.

What are the three planes of motion?


Think about the exercises you do. Squats, thrusters, deadlifts, clean and jerks, pull-ups, handstand push-ups; in all these movements the weight is transferred up and down along a straight line.

All these movements occur along the sagittal plane. The sagittal plane divides the body into two symmetrical halves – left and right.


The plane that divides the body into front and back is called the coronal plane. Movements along this plane are sideways movements, such as lateral Cossack lunges.


The final and most disregarded plane is the transverse plane, which divides the body into top and bottom halves.

We move along this plane when we twist and turn our bodies, like when we look around before crossing the street.

Transverse movements are predominant in sports such as tennis, golf, rugby and gymnastics; the movements of CrossFit almost exclusively happen along the sagittal plane.

Whether your goal is general fitness, functional strength, or athletic achievement, you should train along all planes with rotational exercises.

Ignoring the transverse plane means muscles like the abdominis obliquus are neglected. These muscles are part of the core and provide stability, which in turn allows you to generate greater power and forceful movement. Strong oblique muscles also decrease the chance of injury, as they stop the trunk from over-rotating.

Transverse Plane Workout

Here’s a little WOD for you to try with movements that will attack the Transverse Plane:

For Time:

  • 2 KB Turkish get ups (alternating)
  • 30 KB twist lunges (alternating)
  • 30 KB Russian twists
  • 4 KB Turkish get ups (alternating)
  • 30 KB twist lunges (alternating)
  • 30 KB Russian twists
  • 6 KB Turkish get ups (alternating)
  • 30 KB twist lunges (alternating)
  • 30 KB Russian twists

25-meter handstand walk

You can use one KB to work through this entire workout. If you have the skill, handstand walking is a great compound exercise to finish with. As your obliques will be pretty taxed, you should feel how they keep you from falling over with each step and movement.

Other exercises you can include to develop strength along the transverse plane are:

  • Woodchopper
  • Landmine oblique twists
  • One arm dumbbell press
  • Windshield wipers

No Kettlebell? Then be inventive!


1. Half Kneeling Landmine Twist

There is a distinct lack of rotational movement in most functional fitness programs. The time has come to change that.

Rotate more with this kneeling twist. A landmine is a great tool to take advantage of in order to build some rotational work into your training.

2. KB Single Leg Crossbody RDL

Our bodies are meant to move in all planes of motion. Life is 3D and therefore we should strengthen our bodies to rise to any challenge that may be presented.
In this movement we see a large contribution from the hamstring, as well as our obliques and the muscles making up our core. It’s the rotational element that really spikes the engagement of these muscle groups and why it is a great functional exercise for many athletes to utilize.

3. Single Arm Ring Row Hold

Mind Muscle Connection? The Functional Bodybuilding training philosophy is built on a foundation of great motor control. When the mind can send signals to the muscles that get translated into great movement that is controlled and mechanically sound, then you have proper motor control.

That is why I love the single-arm ring row. When we think about rotational strength, by holding an isometric like this you can help athletes connect with what muscles in the body help to fight rotational forces. Give this a shot in warm-ups and start with a relatively steep angle to the body so you don’t overwhelm with too much force.

The kneeling KB Snatch is a great way to challenge yourself with the mechanics of KB Snatching. This will really force you to have an active shoulder blade, utilize a powerful hip hinge, and because of the kneeling position you will engage aspects of the core that are different from standing

4. Half Kneeling KB Snatch

5. Half Kneeling Anti Rotation Kettlebell Press

Anti Rotation is a training concept where a force is applied in the transverse plane and the athlete’s rotational muscle contractions will simply fight the rotational forces and allow them to remain static (aka ANTI ROTATE). Apply this to your next kneeling press session and feel not only the rotational stability but the scapular engagement of the non pressing arm.

6. Barbell Windshield Wipers

The rotational core element of the windshield wiper pairs very well with the barbell press isometric in this exercise. Holding tension in the upper extremity by having to support a barbell really isolates the rotational element of this exercise to the lower core and spine.

7. CrossBody Dumbbell Muscle Clean

Movements like this are designed to put the athlete into positions that are less than “ideal” for lifting. For a heavy max effort lift I would never suggest setting up like this. But under lower loads, executing positions like these can be useful for helping to build resilient bodies that can withstand being slightly out of position in both life and the gym.

Work this pattern under low load and makes sure you are “feeling” the body work through these end ranges of motion when you are flexed and twisted. Don’t just speed through them. Try to feel what muscles are activated and working hard to protect your spine. AWARENESS IS KEY.

8. Half Kneeling Kettlebell Windmill

Rotational exercises missing in your training? Do yourself a favor and start to include one of our #ROTATEmore movements every single day in your warm ups. You will experience the following.

1. Feeling better connected in training from head to toe.
2. Added lateral stability
3. Increased unilateral strength

Give it a go!

9. Tall Kneeling Anti Rotation Arnold Press

The anti rotation element of this exercise is a nice twist on a standing single arm Arnold press. The arm holding the band is going to also get an isometric pulling stability dose. This serves as a great way to train scapular stability in the non working arm.

The angle the band is pulling also demands that the core engages in some rotational force. An all around great full body exercise that looks complex but is accessible to many athletes.

10. Russian Twist

The Russian twist is an exercise targeting the abdominals and the obliques. Beginning from a position that resembles stopping midway through a sit-up, it involves twisting side to side.

It can be performed with body weight alone or while holding a weight plate or other object. It is performed by alternating sides with each rep and can be done for time or for a specific number of reps as part of the ab-focused portion of any workout.

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