When it comes to actually benefitting from core training beyond just “smoking” your abs, the side plank may be the most important starting point that most people just misunderstand. While the front plank tends to be the super star of any core workout (heck there are world records for how long you can hold a plank, that’s a whole different post!), yet, it is the side plank that can often deliver more in building strength, helping chronic aches/pains, and teach us what “core” actually means.
The side plank helps bring in several chains of our body, but the most obvious is the lateral chain. Now, I know no one goes to the gym to go #beastmode on their lateral chain. However, we probably should! That is because our inability to have these muscles resist unwanted movement is a big part of using true stability training. Imagine if you had a tall building that was really big and bulky, but only a gust of wind was need to push it over. It really wasn’t that strong of a building right?
The same can be said of our body and reaffirms why the side plank is essential in any good training program. Side planks relate to not only our core, but movement patterns most don’t think about like gait as well. Where the lateral chain of the body is really exposed is when we walk or run. That is a big reason that when people start running in their fitness program they develop issues in their knees, hips, low backs, etc.
However, it is the SAME reason that lifters plateau in exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses, and more! How could that be? Those aren’t lifts that look like they have great demands in lateral strength training, but core exercises like side plank help stabilize the weak links in the pelvis and trunk that allow the arms and legs to express their full potential of strength. This is a BIG reason that machine based training just don’t transfer to real life or even free weight exercises well!
Cool, But I Know Side Plank
Of course I don’t think side plank is new to you, but whenever I teach our DVRT Restoration programs, people get a VERY different view point on the side plank. That is because we largely change the intent behind the side plank and actually help people integrate the muscles and chains that make this exercise so powerful.
That also means understanding why we look to connect ALL the chains of the body. While the side plank is largely dominant towards the lateral chain of the body, what coach Megan Berner of Fitness Lying down shows is that with the right intent we get so much more out of the side plank.
Progressing the Side Plank
Just go on social media and you will find plenty of side plank challenges. I’m not sure how many fall into the trap that fitness expert, Alwyn Cosgrove says of “demonstrating strength not building it.” People often forget the point of the side plank is not to just become great at the side plank, but to take the qualities we build in the side plank to more dynamic environments.
That is a big reason that we have been discussing progressions like half kneeling. In our half kneeling drills, JUST being in the position of half kneeling helps us emphasize the lateral strength training we just discussed. However, while many would see this as a progression because we are off the ground (it can be depending upon the level of the exercise), it can also be a great problem solver for people that are de-conditioned, elderly, and so forth. Not having to lift most of your body weight can be really helpful for many.
So, like all things in DVRT we look to build progression, not just variety. That means we want to have people learn HOW to be in half kneeling and then we can build their strength in the position and then challenge their ability to maintain it!
Here are three great ways to teach people how to optimize the half kneeling position with our core strap as giving feedback in how to control their body.
Dynamic Side Plank Exercises
One of the most overlooked unique aspects of DVRT and the Ultimate Sandbag is how we can load the body to not just be strong like most people expect in the gym, but to go BEYOND that! Mostly, being able to bring these aspects of functional fitness like lateral strength to life. Learning to RESIST unwanted movement in our squats, presses, rows, and hip hinges makes core training so much more meaningful and makes these exercises really come to benefit us beyond the gym.
DVRT drills like the following aren’t novelty, they are all built upon increasing our ability to take the side plank into more dynamic positions and movements.
It isn’t just about stressing the body either. We want to learn how to use tools to enhance what we want to teach the body about stabilizing AS we move. Ultimately, good stability training is about teaching the body how to move efficiently as allowing wanted movement while resisting unwanted movement.
The strongest point is how we build the qualities of the side plank from the ground up! It isn’t about who can do the craziest side plank variation, but can you take those lessons of strength and movement and apply them to more sophisticated training. That is what DVRT is about!
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