There is a specific motion that – when not working well – causes a lot of people a lot of problems. We’ve had clients give up BIG THINGS like their retirement golf dreams, gardening aspirations, walking and jogging goals, and more…. all over this one motion.  

What is this motion?? One of the most predominant motions of your trunk, called trunk rotation.

Our bodies use the motion of trunk rotation all the time. We use this motion even when you don’t think you are rotating or twisting!

Obvious times that you are using this motion are playing golf, tennis, pickleball, or handball, and reaching over your shoulder to buckle in the car.

Less-than-obvious times when we use this motion are walking, running, lifting groceries, cooking, reaching up high for something, gardening, going up and down stairs and more!

When the muscles that do this motion are weak, tight, unstable, or deconditioned, many everyday life and sport motions become symptomatic and compromised. Symptoms, tightness, and instability can be felt BOTH in the core or trunk area AND felt elsewhere like knees, hips, feet, shoulders, or neck. When the rotation muscles are strong, stable, conditioned, and working well, many symptoms go away and activity feels effortless.

So how do you know if you have an issue with your trunk rotation motion? Here’s a self check:

  1. Sit in an upright posture in a chair
  2. Cross your arms over your chest to keep them out of the way
  3. Slowly rotate your trunk fully to your left, keeping your hips and pelvis stationary → think about turning your sternum or breastbone while keeping the lower half your body still 
  4. Repeat to the other side

You have a muscle deficiency in trunk rotation if you noticed any of the following:

  • Difference in motion between the sides (example- Right twist moved less than the Left)
  • Symptoms of pain as you rotated
  • Symptoms of tightness as you rotated
  • Difficult rotating slowly (it was hard in general or it was hard to do it slowly, you had to do it fast)
  • The motion overall felt unstable or weak
  • You felt like you would “throw your back out” or something else risky while doing it

If you did this self check and have realized your muscles could use a little TLC in trunk rotation, there are two ways to improve this!  

First, add in strengthening exercises for your trunk rotation. Be sure to utilize our four Exercise For Life principles (respect your range of motion, maintain your moving non-moving segments, move slowly, and focus on the muscle squeeze) to be sure the exercises do not cause injury.  

Second, schedule with your local Muscle Activation Techniques® specialist. MAT® is perfect whether you have already been strengthening your trunk rotation muscles or you cannot because it always causes issues.  MAT® is designed to reincorporate muscles that are not able to be strengthened in traditional strengthening exercises. You can download our free 20-page report on MAT® here to learn more about it.

Also, if you are in the Chicago suburbs or within the city, you can click here to schedule a time with us to get an MAT® assessment at our studio in Schaumburg!

Your activities do not have to be limited by your body’s capabilities. You deserve to feel and function great all day long, and making sure your trunk rotation muscles are strong and functioning well is a huge component of that.


Categories: Julie Cates

Julie Cates

Julie Cates is an experienced, certified, and insured National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Certified Personal Trainer and mastery level Muscle Activation Techniques® (MAT®) Rx Specialist (MATRx). She is one of 88 certified mastery level Resistance Training Specialists® (RTSm) in the world. This combination makes her style of training impactful and still preventative and restorative of joint and muscle issues and pain that are common with exercise. Julie specializes working with women 50 and over. Specifically, her main focus is working with women with bone density loss, muscle loss, Osteopenia, and Osteoporosis. Julie has incredible experience working with brand new exercisers. Very specific types and styles of exercises are needed for restoring and maintaining bone density, and Julie guides her clients through these in a pain-free way. She is also well experienced in helping women exercise even with various joint, bone, systemic, and neurological diagnoses. Julie is definitely your go-to personal trainer for women with Osteoporosis! Julie graduated cum laude from the University of Florida. She earned her degree in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology with a specialization in Exercise Physiology. Julie is the co-owner of Muscle Activation Schaumburg in Schaumburg, IL. She is a wife and mother of two. Julie can be reached via e-mail at Follow her on Instagram at @julcates!