Progressing the Side Plank for Core Stability

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When it comes to core training there are some people out there hopelessly grinding away on situps and crunches.

I do not like these choices because they put the spine at risk but they also do not promote good patterns.

When someone is lacking core stability, it can hold their performance back. This can be both in the weight room or on the field in a game. Core stability is needed to run fast, change direction quickly, and improve strength.

If we want to effectively train for core stability we use the following movement categories.

  • Anti Extension
  • Anti Rotation
  • Anti Flexion
  • Anti Lateral Flexion

The one that I have found the most tricky is Anti Lateral Flexion. For the other 3, I could rattle off plenty of choices and variations.

When it comes to resisting lateral flexion, or side bending, the choices are much more limited. We have side planks, single arm carries, and and overhead Pallof presses.

side plank

A lot of people do not think of single arm carries as a core exercise. Grip often becomes a limiting factor and a lot of people can be seen leaning towards the dumbbell.

We should be focused on keeping upright and avoiding movement in anything away from perfect posture.

Side planks were a very common exercise even going back to the meathead, undergraduate days. People perform plenty of them.

One disadvantage of side planks is that they are usually held for time. This can be good but I have a couple of issues with it. One is that every seems to count incredibly fast when holding a plank or side plank. The other is that we can hang out in the position somewhat passively.

There are some side plank variations that I like to incorporate. Most of these have built in reps so that we do not need to count off time. This will mean no fast counts to end the torture early.

Side Plank with Row

This is my favorite side plank variation. Most people will benefit by adding in the row to get some additional pulling in their program.

The only thing to remember here is that the row is not the focus of the movement. The row may not seem all that hard. The goal is the side plank and the row just provides an extra benefit.

Side Plank with Hip Flex

This variation is a little bit harder. Holding the side plank and bringing the knee to the chest is difficult. Master the easier choices before going to this.

Thread the Needle

Thread the Needle is another good option. It is also a little bit more dynamic. There should be some rotation but not a big wild motion.

I like these 3 options for most people. I think that a lack of lateral core stability causes a lot of problems for many people. Adding side planks into a program can help alleviate back pain and improve hip mobility.

Personally, I like to play golf and lift weights. When I do not keep up with lateral core stability I can usually feel it in my back or in my swing. Using rep based exercises means that I actually get what I need out of the movements.