Try These Rotational Exercises to Strengthen Your Core

Cathe Friedrich doing rotational exercises in STS 2.0 Muscle & Recovery

Are you giving your core the attention it deserves? If you’re only doing planks to target your core, it’s time to jumpstart your core-strengthening routine with rotational exercises.  Rotational exercises are an effective way to strengthen the core because they bring a dynamic component to your workout. They involve rotating your body in ways that improve core muscle activation, range of motion, and overall balance, making them an effective approach to building balanced core strength.

Why are rotational exercises so effective for building core strength and stability? They involve trunk and hip rotation, which also targets your core muscles. During rotation, you engage your core muscles, which strengthens them over time. Plus, since your body must stabilize during rotational exercises your core muscles must work harder to maintain balance and stability. Furthermore, rotational exercises challenge the core muscles to adapt and respond to dynamic movements. This increases core strength.

Now let’s look at some of the best rotational exercises for building core strength.

The Russian Twist

Russian twists are an excellent exercise for core strength and stability. This exercise helps strengthen the oblique muscles but also helps develop balance and coordination. The twisting movement enhances flexibility and range of motion in your spine. If you play a sport, like tennis or golf, rotational movement can improve your performance.

Here’s how to do a Russian Twist:

  • With your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, sit on the mat. Slowly lean back, allowing your upper body to be at a slight angle to the ground.
  • Put your hands together and hold your arms out in front of you.
  • Twist your upper body to the right, bringing your hands to the outside of your right hip.
  • Return to the starting position, then twist to the left, bringing your hands to the outside of your left hip.
  • Alternate sides for the desired number of reps.
  • Keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the exercise. Keep your back straight and avoid arching it.

After mastering the basic move, you can hold a weight in your hands or a medicine ball to make the exercise harder. To challenge your balance more, Try raising your feet a few inches off the mat when you do the movement. As with any exercise, it’s important to listen to your body and stop if you feel pain or discomfort.

Caution: Rotational exercises, especially an exercise like Russian Twists, places stress on your neck and back. If you have neck or back problems, talk to your healthcare provider before doing this exercise. The combination of flexion and rotation places more stress on your spinal discs and compresses your spine.

Hip Crossovers

Hip crossovers are a dynamic rotational exercise that engages the glutes, quadriceps, and adductors to build strength in these muscles. They also engage your core muscles to improve stability and help with core control. This translates into better functionality and enhances athletic performance by improving core strength and lower body control.

Here’s how to do one:

  • Lie on your back with your arms straight out to the sides, palms facing up.
  • Raise your legs off the mat until your thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Contract your abdominal muscles and remember to breathe.
  • Rotate your knees to the right as far as you can without letting your left shoulder come off the ground. Feel the stretch.
  • Then rotate to the left.
  • Alternate back and forth between the right and left sides.
  • Remember to keep your hips bent at a 90-degree angle and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Avoid pushing with your arms during the movement.
  • If you feel any pain or discomfort, stop the exercise.

Best of all, you don’t need equipment to do this exercise, just a mat.

Dumbbell Chops

Exercises such as dumbbell chops strengthen your core and upper body. The benefits of chops include increased shoulder stability, improved posture, and increased muscular endurance. Plus, they help build strength and power, especially in those areas of the body that don’t get worked as often during other exercises, such as the upper back and torso.

How to do one:

  • Grab a dumbbell and hold it with both hands as if you were holding a baseball bat.
  • Twist your torso to the right and hold the dumbbell above your right shoulder. This is the starting position.
  • Swing the dumbbell down to the outside of your left knee, as if you were swinging an ax.
  • Return to the starting position by reversing the movement.
  • Repeat on the same side for the prescribed number of reps, then switch to the opposite side.

Tips for doing this exercise safely and effectively:

  • Keep a strong grip on the dumbbell and avoid dropping it or letting it swing too far out to the side.
  • Keep your back straight and core engaged throughout the exercise.
  • Hold your core firm and don’t round your back when you do this exercise.

To increase the intensity of these chops, use heavier weights or add a squat after each repetition.

Rotational Lunges

Ready to take your lunges up a notch and make them more core intensive? Rotational lunges, also target the muscles of your hips, thighs, and core. They involve stepping out to the side and lunging down while simultaneously rotating your upper body in the opposite direction. Here’s how to do one:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  • Step out to the right with your right foot and lower your body into a lunge position, keeping your left foot planted on the ground.
  • As you lower your body into the lunge, twist your upper body to the left.
  • Push through your right foot to return to the starting position, then repeat on the other side by stepping out to the left with your left foot and twisting your upper body to the right.

Keep your core engaged and your back straight throughout the exercise. Avoid letting your hips drop when you do the movements. You can also hold a weight in your hands for added resistance. As with any exercise, it’s important to listen to your body and stop if you feel any pain or discomfort.


Core strength is essential for everyday activities and long-term health. By incorporating rotational exercises into your strength training routine, you can build a strong, balanced core to protect your back and help you move your body more efficiently. With practice, you’ll enjoy the benefits of a strong core, including improved balance, posture, and coordination.


  • Kahle N, Tevald MA. Core muscle strengthening’s improvement of balance performance in community-dwelling older adults: a pilot study. J Aging Phys Act. 2014 Jan;22(1):65-73. doi: 10.1123/japa.2012-0132. Epub 2013 Jan 23. PMID: 23348043.
  • Kahle N, Tevald MA. Core muscle strengthening’s improvement of balance performance in community-dwelling older adults: a pilot study. J Aging Phys Act. 2014 Jan;22(1):65-73. doi: 10.1123/japa.2012-0132. Epub 2013 Jan 23. PMID: 23348043.
  • “Understanding and improving core strength – Harvard Health.” 06 Sept. 2018, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/understanding-and-improving-core-strength-2018090414662.

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Are Planks Better Than Crunches for Abdominal Development?

Abdominal Training: How Often Should You Train Your Abs?

Are Standing Abdominal Exercises More Effective Than Floor Ab Exercises?

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5 Ways to Get More Benefits from Abdominal Training

Related Cathe Friedrich Workout DVDs:

STS 2.0 Muscle & Recovery

Abs/Core Workout DVDs

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