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Internal and External Rotation: Definition and Examples for Coaches

What Are Internal and External Rotations?

Internal rotation refers to a shoulder or hip motion that causes the associated limb to rotate internally or toward the body. For instance, internal shoulder rotation causes the forearm to move in and get close to the torso. In contrast, external rotation is a shoulder or hip motion that causes the limb to rotate externally or away from the body. In the case of the hip, an example would be rotating the leg outward and causing the inner portion of it to face forward.

Examples of Internal Rotation

  1. Bend the right elbow and lift the arm at your side. Slowly rotate at the shoulder to move the forearm down.
  2. Straighten your right leg with the side of the foot facing forward. Slowly rotate the foot inward until the small toe points forward.

Examples of External Rotation

  1. Bend the right elbow and position your arm to your side with your fingertips pointing forward. Slowly rotate at the shoulder for your forearm to move out while your upper arm remains close to your body.
  2. Straighten your right leg with your toes pointing forward. Slowly rotate outward at the hip until the inner portion of the foot points forward.


1. What joints are capable of internal and external rotation?

Ball-and-socket joints like the shoulders and hips are more mobile and allow for internal and external rotation. Hinge joints where the bones open and close in one direction only (like the elbows and knees) cannot rotate or do so to a small degree.

2. How to improve internal and external rotation?

Hip and shoulder openers, where trainees gradually force their joints to rotate to a higher degree (but not beyond their natural ranges of motion), can have a tremendous positive impact in the long run.

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