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Pilates Equipment Exercises to Improve Torso Rotation

Pilates Reformer Exercises to Improve Torso RotationLast month we posted an article about using Pilates Mat exercises to help improve torso rotation for golfers. Now we continue to focus on torso rotation but will address the improvements using the Pilates Reformer and Cadillac rather than Mat work. Additionally, we offer these exercises (mat as well) for all clients involved in athletics of any sort. Of course Pilates in an excellent exercise choice for golfers but if you think about it, many other athletes utilize torso rotation.

Watch a baseball player throw a ball—they rotate their upper body one way to prepare for the throw then rotate their torso around a stable lower body to bring the ball forward and eventually release it. How far would the ball go if the player didn’t wind up their torso and utilize elastic energy? It is likely that the ball wouldn’t go very far. The same rule applies for a football quarterback as well as a tennis player. It is impossible to get the stored energy necessary for a good throw or hit without winding the upper body around a stable lower body.

Again we provide the Torso Rotation test so that you can see how well your athlete is able to separate their upper body from their lower body. The test is modified to address all athletes.

Torso Rotation Test

  • Have the athlete set up in an athletic stance: feet between hip and shoulder distance apart, slightly hinged forward at the hips with their arms across their chest, hands on opposite shoulders
  • Ask the athlete to hold their hips completely still while they rotate their torso to one side and then the other (belt buckle stays forward as shoulders rotate around)

What to look for:

  1. The hips should not move, they should stay in place
  2. Note if the client can rotate further to one side than the other

If your client is unable to do this movement without bringing their hips along, stabilize the hips by holding them in place. If this allows the shoulders to rotate further, the client has a problem with hip stability. If the client still has problems trying to rotate their shoulders, they have a mobility problem with the torso. You may find that both hip stability and torso mobility are compromised.

Once you have determined if your athlete has limited ability to rotate, you can design a program to help correct the problems. Hip stability can be caused by issues with core strength and/or lower body strength. Specifically the gluteals must be addressed as well as the obliques and multifidi because they are all stabilizers of the hips. Torso mobility issues can be caused by tightness in the pecs, shoulders, lats, low back and hip flexors as well as core strength.

Pilates exercises that address hip stability


  • Pelvic Lifts (double leg and single leg)
  • Leg Work
  • Side lying work with feet in straps
  • Side Splits
  • Control Front
  • Down Stretch
  • Long Stretch


  • Breathing with Trapeze or Swiss Ball
  • Tower, Mini-tower
  • Kneeling Cat
  • Oblique series with roll down bar
  • Leg Springs (prone and side lying)

Pilates exercises that address torso mobility


  • Articulating Hip Rolls/Bridging
  • Bus Driver (seated or kneeling rotation)
  • Rowing Back / Front
  • Long Box – Prone Pulling straps series
  • Short Box Series – Round Back, Flat Back, Tilt-Twist, Side Bend
  • Mermaid


  • Roll Back
  • Forward Push Through
  • Kneeling Cat
  • Swan
  • Oblique Series with roll down bar

By · Posted on February 10, 2009 · Topic Sports Specific

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4 Responses to “Pilates Equipment Exercises to Improve Torso Rotation”

  1. Sharon O'Donnell on February 12th, 2009 11:36 am

    Thank you so much for the wealth of information your site office Pilates professionals. Love having you as a part of our teaching community and creation of interactive connection with other instructors!! Great quality.

    In reading through the Pilates exercises that address torso mobility on the Reformer, I’m not familiar with the Bus Driver exercise. Can you share?

    Thank you so much!

  2. Deborah Abrams on November 16th, 2011 7:21 pm

    You mention sidelying work with feet in straps to address hip stability. Can you please share with me on how to execute these movements?

    Thank you,
    Deb Abrams

  3. Beth Begelman Beth Begelman on November 16th, 2011 7:50 pm

    Deborah –
    I affectionately refer to these as “Butt Blasters.”
    Basically you lay on one side and place one of the footstraps on the top foot. For the most part, the lateral malleolous, knee and hip are on the same plane. The waistline should stay lifted (as in the side-lying series in mat), and the hips should stay stacked one on top of the other. Once the top foot is in the strap the bottom knee flexes to 90 degrees.
    There are several movements that can be done from there.
    1. Start with the leg straight and hip at 90 degrees. From there pull the leg straight back so that the heel is in line or slightly back of the hip. Return to start position.
    2. Start with both knee and hip at 90 degrees. Extend the leg (I cue it to clients as “kick-starting a motorcycle”) then return to the bent hip/knee position.
    3. Extend the leg fully in line with the body and then lift/lower without letting the carriage move.
    4. Extend the leg fully and perform leg circles. Again, very little movement in the carriage.
    5. Flex the top hip to about 45 degrees and then lift & lower a straight leg there – that one is hard, especially if you have done all the others first.

    I hope this clarifies the exercises. Please let me know if you have any questions.

  4. Deborah Abrams on November 16th, 2011 9:48 pm

    Thank you, Beth, for your prompt reply. I found it very informative and look forward to learning much more from your site.

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