Rotation exercises – crossfit accessory programming part 2

by Exercise and Injury Prevention

Rotation exercises are key to generating power in movements like throwing or swinging and they also play an important role in muscle balance and healthy joint mechanics. 

Unfortunately, they are often missing from many functional fitness programs like Crossfit. 

If you neglect these important movements then you stand an increased risk for movement impairments and therefore, injury. 

For this reason, we recommend adding rotational movements to your accessory training program.

Accessory Programming Series

This post is part of our series on accessory programming for functional training programs like Crossfit. Click the links to view other posts in this series:

      1. Anti-Rotation Movements
      2. Rotation Movements – You are here
      3. Horizontal Pulling Movements
      4. Lateral Movements
      5. Unilateral Movements
      6. Building Accessory Programs

Rotation Movements In accessory Programs


Again, rotational forces aren’t very common in Crossfit.

With anti-rotation movements, you want to learn how to resist and control the movement. But with rotation you want to be able to generate force in movement and control it.

This can be along the midline or at any specific joint. Case in point, I routinely give shoulder rotation exercises to my clients to strengthen the rotator cuff. I also give whole-body rotation exercises to my people because…

While rotation may not be common in the sport of Crossfit rotation is incredibly common in most other athletic activities and in daily life. Some examples:

      • Swinging a bat, club, or racquet
      • Throwing a ball
      • Reaching to buckle your seatbelt
      • Washing the dishes and reaching to place them in the drying rack

One thing to note – loading the spine and forcing it to rotate can be pretty dangerous. So most rotation movements are unloaded, like throwing and swinging. In general, if you have a barbell on your back you should not be rotating the spine.

Here are a few safe rotation exercises to add to your Crossfit accessory program.

Kettlebell Halo and chop

Taco Fleur of demonstrates this awesome drill for core strength. This flow is one that I love giving to clients who need overhead mobility, thoracic spine mobility, and core engagement. 

Want to learn more about kettlebell training? Check out what Taco has for you at – Cavemantraining the premier kettlebell education provider

Rib cage opener

This is a drill I often give to athletes to open up their thoracic spine and rib cage. It is a mobility drill and therefore isn’t really an athletic movement but it will really help set the stage for better movement quality in trunk rotation. Use it during warm ups, cool downs, recovery days and of course accessory programs where mobility is needed.

Landmine Rotational Clean and Press

The landmine rotational clean and press is unlike most movements in Crossfit. It includes rotation and a split stance which are things we don’t see often. Meauxtion Fitness shows us how it’s done. Also note, if you don’t have a landmine attachment you can push the far end of the barbell against a wall. But a corner works best.


Rotational Medicine Ball Toss and Rotational Slam

Dr. John Russin of does an excellent job of bringing us through these two rotational exercises. Notice that both of these are excellent power builders and can be included between your warm-up and your strength work on any given training day. They can also be included in your metcons or energy systems training but be warmed, the more fatigued you are the less power you will be able to generate.



You may be asking why should I care about these rotational movements if they aren’t part of my sport or fitness regimen?

The truth is that you rotate far more than you probably realize and there are degrees of rotation that we do in our day to day lives that we could do better.

I have had patients who injured their back doing something like reaching awkwardly into the back of their truck or picking up something light from the floor. 

Can you imagine putting yourself out of the gym for several weeks to months because you picked up a pair of socks?!

Bottom line- Rotation is everywhere and owning it will help prevent injuries. But because rotation isn’t commonly found in Crossfit movements you should try to create an accessory training program that uses these movements.

How to add Rotation Exercises to your Training Programs

Rotation movements are unlike most of the other types of exercises I discuss in this series. You can actually add some of these exercises to metcons or energy system training. 

For example, the Landmine Rotational Clean and Press could be worked into traditional Crossfit training instead of standard barbell cleans.

The same rules apply of course. Form comes before intensity and technique is more important than how much weight is moved.

While some rotation movements will fit into your current training program many won’t. This is why we put them in accessory programs. You can also squeeze them into warmups and mobility routines; the rib cage opener is an excellent example.

Since many functional fitness programs like Crossfit lack rotation exercises, I recommend adding rotation a couple of times per week.

If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of building your own accessory program, make sure to follow this series.

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Ian Elwood Headshot for Mission MVMT about page

Ian Elwood, MA, LAT, ATC, CSCS

Ian has been practicing as an Athletic Trainer for over 14 years. More than half of which have been spent with military forces including US Marines and Air Force Pararescue. He loves sharing and is enthusiastic about helping anybody who wants to move better and train pain-free.

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