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Why These Dynamic Side Planks Are OFTEN Done Wrong

sandbag workouts

It is probably the MOST common question in fitness, it goes something like this…

“I don’t have equipment X, what can I use instead?”

Don’t worry, I get the question and it’s fair based on the responses that most fitness pros give. We don’t often want to make it seem like there are more obstacles to people performing their fitness programs, so, many times coaches will tell people “oh, just use whatever you have.” In some cases this may be okay advice, especially if the fitness coach showing the exercise/workout hasn’t picked a piece of equipment for any particular reason either (which is a giant shame as you will see).

However, the problem is we aren’t being honest or really helping people as much as we can when fitness pros offer such advice. If I show using a kettlebell, a band, a medicine ball, or an Ultimate Sandbag there is a very definitive reason I do so! There is a result that I am trying to achieve that this tool does it better or only when we use it.


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A great example I see ALL the time in this regards,  is the use of the shoulder position. When I first began using sandbags (not even the Ultimate Sandbag) in the late 90’s (I had some ugly homemade sandbags) one of the most unique uses I saw for sandbags was the shoulder position. Why? Well, we know side planks are important for building resilience of the knees, low back, and even shoulders, as well as unlocking great strength. If we have poor lateral stability then we get what are known as “energy leaks” that cause our body to move with significant compensations and unable to produce strength like we want.

There are only so many side planks you can do though until we want to train that lateral strength/stability in more dynamic ways. After all, that is when we need to be able to show that strength/stability, beyond being on the ground with side planks. That is why the shoulder position with an Ultimate Sandbag can be so effective because it is basically THAT, making side planks come to life in more dynamic movements!

side planks

However, in recent years people have thought just throwing anything on the shoulder works the same as an Ultimate Sandbag. Probably one of the most common examples is the use of medicine balls on the shoulder. They look similar so it must be just as good, right?! Nope, let me explain!

side planks

I chose the picture above because it is a great representation of what you will see most of the time. Right off the bat, you can see that this often causes two BAD compensations…

  1. The person starts to lean to one side which is the compensation that you are trying to AVOID by using this position.
  2. It often results in people altering their head/neck position which can cause issues in those structures, but because of the kinetic chain it will result in people being weaker and overload the wrong parts of the body.

Then there are the more subtle issues that people don’t really understand or think about (I’ll be honest, some people that use the Ultimate Sandbag miss these points as well). If we don’t know THESE ideas then building more dynamic side planks won’t happen!

-We want to active PULL the Ultimate Sandbag into our shoulder. This allows us to not have the head/neck issues that we often see, but it also helps us engage our lats and connect our core. This makes our body more stable and actually STRONGER when we perform any movement with the Ultimate Sandbag in this position.

-When we pull the Ultimate Sandbag the weight sits on our body as well, this means the weight becomes part of our body causing our whole body to bear the load more than our shoulder, traps, or head/neck. This puts the weight through the lats, core, and lower body, which is what gives this movement so much power.

If you want to really understand how to make the strength of side planks come to life to bring higher functional strength, resilience, and stability to your training, check out the great coaching that Cory Cripe provides about the movement below. These concepts apply to whether you are doing shoulder lunges, step-ups, and even shouldering itself!

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