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One Challenging Strength Move That Powers Sue Bird on the Basketball Court

In this episode of The Unlock, basketball’s female GOAT reveals why the Rotational Row is her go-to move.

Sue Bird doing a rotational row on Tonal

Sue Bird is hands-down the greatest female player in professional basketball history, and at age 41, she’s not finished yet. The point guard, known for her no-look passes and beautiful, mid-range jump shot, is about to start her 21st season in Seattle. Bird is the only female professional player to win titles in three different decades, and the four-time champ has her sights set on a fifth.

In this episode of The Unlock, a series that highlights one key move that takes even an elite athlete’s game to the next level, Bird shares her go-to exercise for explosive, rotational power: the Rotational Row.

The Benefit

As a point guard, Bird is constantly rotating from her core, whether it be to switch hands on the dribble, throw a pass, or quickly change direction on defense. Staying strong in those movements is key to both on-court success and injury prevention. “With the rotational row, you get that strength in your core, and it challenges you in a way that translates onto the basketball court.”

The How

  • First, attach the handle and adjust one Tonal arm to the bottom height.
  • Start with the feet hip-width apart and perpendicular to Tonal.
  • Grab the handle with your outside hand and, with your weight loaded on the leg closest to the trainer, pull the handle toward your ribcage while bracing your core like you’re starting a lawn mower.
  • Bring the cable across your body, aggressively drive off the inside leg while rotating your hips to transfer your weight to your outside leg.
  • Slowly bring the handle back toward the trainer and repeat on the same side.

The Key Point

Power is plane-specific, points out Tonal sports performance specialist Max Artsis. If you develop power in front-to-back movements, it doesn’t necessarily transfer to rotational movements in the transverse plane. “We live in a 3D-world, whether you’re in the general population or the female GOAT,” says Artsis. “Developing power in the transverse plane is so important for changing direction, and for any sudden moves.” By working on the Rotational Row, Bird is able to transfer that rotational power directly to her sport. Artsis also points out that maximum benefit is achieved by moving explosively and violently away from the Tonal. “If we move with  power, we create power,” he adds.

The Level Up

If you want to ramp it up a notch, try Chains Mode. “This will activate the core a little more on the concentric portion of the exercise,” says Artsis. “As you pull away from the Tonal, you’ll feel the core really engage, and you’ll have to drive from the glutes as things get tougher.”


Though it won’t make the overall movement easier, using Eccentric Mode during the Rotational Row will make the movement easier on the way out. “This means we can create more velocity,” says Artsis. “But, on the way in, this kind of loading of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons presents a different kind of challenge that is beneficial for injury prevention.”

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