Rotations, rotations, rotations …. pull UP, Selecta!!!

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Reggae music is a passion of mine and the thing that stands out for me as far as national pride goes, so I could not resist the title reminiscent of local DJ lingo.

Pilates is as colourful as our musical heritage, and we have so many variations to choose from when it comes to focusing on our body’s ability to use fuller ranges of motion to perform better for us.

Whether you are a golfer and want to up your game, or you just suffer from a nagging lower back pain, you will always have one more degree of spinal rotation that you can explore which will have you moving in a whole new direction.

As I have discussed in previous articles, the more you use your spine to move in all directions, the healthier it is, and the more movement that is distributed along the length of the spine, the more you will distribute load. When load is evenly distributed, the less you strain the “hot spots” (lower back and neck).

Additional power can be accessed from the core and garnered from more muscle groups, adding force to the intended outcome of movement, which is how you can up your movement game. You are sitting on a treasure of potential energy and not tapping into it if you are not training your spine to move in all planes of movement.

Think of wringing out a wet cloth; if you fold it over you don’t get much out of it, but the more you can twist it the more efficient the motion is. Your organs will also get a great flush as your spine increases the range of rotation and eliminates toxins to promote healthier circulation.

Rotations, being the one which allows the body to turn in a transverse plane and includes any twisting motion, improve whole-body health and brings more benefit to the flexibility of the spine to do things like turn around to check behind you when you reverse your car, improves digestion, even down to the way you walk.

When starting to include rotations in your Pilates programme it is recommended to begin from the basics because it’s important to learn how to twist properly to get the whole back and core muscles involved in the movement evenly. Twisting exercises where the spine stays in a tall, neutral position are the best exercises to start with. With progression you will start to separate the movement by training your ribcage to turn independent of the pelvis, twisting with bending and extending, garnering more strength from the core to stabilise.

In Pilates, your body never graduates, you only move deeper into the next level of movement and exploration.



Sit upright on a stool or chair, pull the arms out to the sides in line with the shoulders, using as much strength as you can find to pull your spine upright so that the back of the head lines up with the back of the shoulders and pelvis. Using the side seam of your clothing as your focal line, move the side seam on your right side behind you and the seam on he left in front of you creating a rotation from the waist which follows all the way up into the crown of the head. Make sure to keep the nose in line with the centre of the chest, moving all parts together as one. Repeat on the other side.

Lifting the upper body is the key to mastering this exercise. Watch for any shifting in the pelvis from one side to the other, as it is a flag that you need to be lifting up even more. Your legs are stabilisers like a concrete block foundation, with the abdominals working hard to maintain that stability for the pelvis to remain in place.

Be aware of twisting from the waist, and watch that the arms do not direct the shoulders, superseding the twist without any movement from the ribcage. Such a simple exercise, but when performed with attention to the details it becomes one of the most challenging physical movement practices.

“Axial elongation places the body in its optimal position to increase available degrees of freedom and increase efficiency of movement.” — Brent Anderson, Polestar Pilates Principles of Movement, p 28.

A nice lift with a corkscrew effect to your spine aids your body in developing the oblique muscles, which not only promote a shrinking waistline, but also forms a subsystem that gives support during rotational activities and gait. This subsystem distributes force which would have otherwise been taken up by the lower back, causing an imbalance It thereby reduces the risk of injury of unnecessary load in that region.

The great thing about rotations is that they develops the body’s ability to turn efficiently and evenly. Every sport has a bias, and if you don’t play a sport you have a dominant side, which eventually will cause you to develop compensatory patterns in your movement strategies, and may lead to injuries and pain.

Using various ranges of motion with the Pilates fundamental principles of core control and axial elongation will build your body’s acquisition of new movement, decreasing the amount of energy required to move, and allowing you to use “as much as necessary, as little as possible”.

Note this statement by Joseph Pilates: “If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old; if it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”

It is is substantiated when you consider efficiency of movement to be more beneficial than brute strength. Body-building is a magnificent sport, but the traditional philosophy of building muscle strength through strength training should be avoided, knowing what we now know about the body and its long-term health. Efficiency of movement will provide you with greater power and control, while minimising the risk of injury.

There is a prediction role that Pilates plays in managing your mechanics to keep you in a normal zone of movement organisation and out of pain and injury. When you practise rotations, you combine core stability, spine articulation, and integration of the lower and upper extremities to not only get more power, but provide the optimum environment for performance mastery in every move you make.


Selena DeLeon has been a personal and group fitness trainer for 16 years. She has a Pilates studio in Kingston called Core Fitness, where she helps people to move and live better. Its website is

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