Assessing anti-rotation pillar strength is important prior to loading the spine with torsional activity. From a tall plank position, you can assess torsional control by observing this test/exercise. Beyond observation, this technique can be used a conditioning exercise to improve anti-rotational pillar strength and stability.
Execution. Start in a tall plank position with feet shoulder-width apart and hands on the floor under the shoulders. Set the core, slowly lift the right hand and tap the left shoulder. Pause for 1-2 seconds, return the right hand to the starting position and repeat the pattern lifting the left hand and tapping the right shoulder. To correct faulty movement and improve control, start with slow, controlled, alternating taps for 5-10 reps. Stop when fatigue or loss of control sets in.
Application. The pelvis and rib cage should remain level if adequate strength and stability are present. If marked rotation occurs, then performing torsional training may carry increased risk for injury and lead to poor movement patterns. Athletes need a stable base prior to adding significant loads and propulsive training.
Exercise Progression. When using this movement as a training exercise, start by performing 5-10 reps to the same side prior to switching sides. Once control with taps is satisfactory alternate taps to each shoulder. To make the exercise more difficult and improve upper body strength, perform a push-up between alternate shoulder taps.
Regression. If an athlete is having trouble maintaining stability when touching the hand to the shoulder, try reaching the hand to the elbow. This is an effective modification that can be used to reduce the demand. If upper body strength or poor pillar control prevents the execution in a tall plank position, perform the exercise from the knees.
Brian Schiff, PT, OCS, CASS, is director of B Fit Training Systems and supervisor for EXOS Athlete’s Performance at Raleigh Orthopedic (AP Ral) in Raleigh, NC