Linear movements are often the most practised and widely accepted 'modus operandi' in the gym. Movements that act in that singular plane of up and down, where you don't have to take your eyes off the mirror in front of you and you can certainly continually watch your body without flinching any attention away from the practised form you are attempting, not to mention the cute chick behind you doing dips!
Now, lets shift that attention to a movement pattern that lies outside the 'self focus' on the mirror in front - let's introduce rotation!
Rotational movements are very rarely isolation exercises. They are composite (involving more than one muscle or muscle group) and mutli-faceted movements that challenge not only physical strength and power, but also stability, co-ordination, balance and flexibility. Having to actually move your focus during a movement primarily takes away the stability of a movement and requires you to activate and stabilise in areas that are not directly related to the movement itself, but are vital for any action that takes place in the street or certainly on the sporting field. Not only this but muscles rely on 'sequential activation' to perform at their optimal best. For example, a gluteal should fire momentarily before a hamstring in hip extension to enable a solid base for the larger hamstring to power against on the hip. Training this sequential contraction is vital to ensure that when something 'unusual happens' in the field of play or execution of a throw, joints and bones aren't pulled on in different directions and excessive force which most certainly could result in injury.
Rotation has a huge role to play in core activation as I mentioned in the previous article. But it's also quite possibly the best way to train your core as well! When you twist a piece of paper or a cord, the rotation from the two opposing directions creates a force in the middle of the ends of the paper (think wringing out a towel). This force is where the item must maintain integrity or else it will break or snap under the pressure. Now think of replacing the ends of the towel with your upper and lower body and where does the force of contraction lie? You betcha - the abdomen. A woodchopper resembles a big burly large hefty man or woman. That amount of force and power inherent in the woodchop means that their core and back is strong and solid, no matter how hefty they actually are. If you can train these movements, targeting your mid section and remembering the importance of how to maintain the 'solid core' you are going to really train your body to be solid in the mid section where the force is greatest.
Balance is a major aspect of movement. Being able to stand on one leg and swing the other is inherent in so many sports and movements excluding perhaps- umm - Billiards! When most people attend their first dance class, no matter what the discipline, the primary skill to maintain is balance. Without balance, you cannot hope to perform any movement or achieve a degree of perfection to enact a motion. Standing on one leg may be simple. But ask someone to stand on one leg and then turn their body towards the back of the room and maintain balance and you have a greater understanding of how important it is to train this aspect of movement. Yoga works with this principle a lot - placing yourself in one direction and then having to maintain balance as you rotate against the axis to face the other way - and not fall over! My personal experience with this was demonstrated in my first ever hammer throw (which you can find here) where balance was sacrificed for power. Yes I achieved a great deal of slack for that throw, particularly from my family, but it does show that without balance, you can't hope to achieve maximum power or effort in an action.
So to close off the argument, if you are looking at your exericse regime and you are not being challenged by an element of rotation at some point in the program, are you really actively promoting a healthy training regime? We all rotate, whether its swinging a tennis racquet, picking things out of the dishwasher or reaching to turn the light out at night. So it's important to think of approaching things from ALL angles, including rotation to ensure you are primed and ready for all that the world has to throw at you.