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Misunderstanding The Side Plank

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Understanding real solutions to our fitness and health goals is challenging. That is because the way most, even professionals, understand the body is not really how the body functions. We are so dedicated to looking at the body in individual parts, that we can’t ever really create the solutions we want or need because of this common misunderstanding. A great example of how this plays out in our training is the misunderstanding of the side plank.

Ask most what is the purpose is of performing a side plank and you will probably get an answer of “core stability.” Well, that isn’t wrong, it is just incredibly vague. What do you mean by core stability and how is that different than any of our other means of developing core stability?

side plank

Having a weak lateral chain can cause many compensations in our movement that lead to knee, low back, and even upper body issues. 

The real answer lies in building greater frontal plane stability. Cool, but what does THAT mean? After all, what muscle does frontal plane stability work? The answer is it isn’t one muscle, but a whole series of muscles that work together to provide us the strength to resist lateral movement.

These would include, but not limited to, gluteus medius, tensor fascia latae, adductor complex, and contralateral (opposite) quadratus lumborum. Yes, that means all the lying down hip abductor exercises, or the standing leg pulling of the weight laterally to train your adductors, and the side bends don’t actually make your lateral muscles function better.

side plank

What drills like the side plank teach is how to use these muscles in the manner in which they are designed to work in the first place.

You can see in the way we create the movement of the side plank that if we aren’t mindful of teaching these muscles how to work correctly then we just get an exercise that often bothers people’s shoulders and necks. That takes us to our next point about the side plank.

The side plank is not a magical exercise. What I mean by that is that for a lot of people a side plank is not a good starting point. There are MANY reasons that someone would really struggle with the side plank even at the most foundational level (age, de-conditioned, bodyweight, injury, and more). For a lot of people using a half kneeling position is far more advantageous because it allows us to train the qualities of the side plank and frontal plane stability while meeting people where they are at in their fitness journey.

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This opens the door for A LOT of great progressions to be used, such as…

The great thing about these DVRT half kneeling movements is that they not only let us train the qualities of the side plank, but also teach how to stabilize our shoulders, build greater hip stability/mobility, use our feet and hands to protect our knees and shoulders, but also to stabilize our core. When these seemingly simple movements are executed really well the impact they have on our overall training is so powerful.

An important key is that we can use these half kneeling drills and positions along with training the side plank, but we want to keep these concepts progressing to higher level training as you will see below. When we use our principles of load and body position, we can develop this frontal plane stability to the point where you will improve your strength and movement in ways you never expected. It wasn’t because ONE muscle was weak and now is strong, but because you trained the whole chain to be strong.

This is what also makes DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training so unique. We can train these qualities, like that of the side plank, at so many levels to improve our strength and resilience. Another great example is using our MAX (multiple axis) concept and apply to hip hinging, lunging, step-ups, and even half kneeling position like you see me do below. The point is that what we should focus upon are not individual muscles or exercises, but how we can train these qualities from foundational to higher levels. When we do so we can achieve so many more benefits at once that makes our training so much smarter!

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