The Biomechanics of Twerking

Do excuse my moodiness, despite the happiness at pulling out a decent performance at the British Championships and finishing third, I was quickly brought crashing back down to reality when I trained on Wednesday and somehow managed to put my entire thoracic musculature into spasm. Oh how quickly we go from up to down. But with my scapulars now back to full function, looking forward to competing in the BUCS champs this weekend (definitely my last year as a student I keep telling myself), this week I would like to address the fitness craze sweeping the nation, “twerking”.

At least I assume this is a fitness craze, why anyone would do this for any other reason is beyond me, i think it falls into the same category of exercise as the shake weight, for anyone who missed out on the shake weight craze feel free to be brought up to speed below.

So with a bit of time on my hands this week, I made sure to research ‘twerking” thoroughly, and I mean throughly (again, feel free to consult youtube if you haven’t come across tweaking yet). No stone was left unturned, and although there are multiple ‘how to’ videos on the subject, I felt some in depth biomechanical analysis was missing, so heres my attempt to bring some light to the issue.

The movement

To perform the “twerk”, the athlete should perform a wide stance half squat position. By externally rotating the feet to around 45 degree angles the head of the femur should be maximally centrated within the acetabulum thus providing the greatest freedom for full range of movement.

From this position, by combining glute max contraction to anchor the ilium with rectus abdominis contraction the pelvis can be tucked under the spine, effectively producing a posterior pelvic tilt hinging around the lumbar vertebrae.

Following this quickly with contraction of the spinal extensors combined with psoas contraction to produce excessive lower back lordosis will anteriorly tilt the pelvis.

By alternating between these two movements rhythmically for many repetitions the “twerk” is achieved. Depending on your body composition at the time it is also possible to add a co-contraction of the glute med muscles, and if you have sufficient junk in your trunk then this will be elevated to accentuate the movement.

Clearly I have just described the beginners bilateral version, more advance practitioners are able to the contra-lateral version , where a single side may be biased first followed by the other. This is a much more complex movement and I’m awaiting EMG data before a full analysis.

Pros and cons

There are multiple benefits to the isometric squat position held throughout, toning to the glutes, quads and hams to name but a few, and the rotational movements of the pelvis should help to work the full range of the hip capsule, clearing out those stiff corners and freeing up range you never knew you had. Unfortunately, this movement cannot be recommended for general health reasons, flexion-extension exercises for the lumbar spine are not highly recommended and the speed and number of repetitions carried out through these workouts, particularly if working the end ranges of motion, will just end up degrading disk health.

These movements are dangerous unloaded, but it only seems a matter of time before someone starts loading these patterns and causing themselves real damage. The take-away should be to stick to tried and tested methods of keeping fit, like the shake weight.

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