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Why This Core Exercise Can Really Stink In Creating Results

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It may surprise many people to hear that I often find our plank lateral drags NOT working for most people. More times than not, when I get tagged in a well meaning post of a personal training client or a group performing the lateral plank drag for their core exercise, the truth is I can tell people are just wasting their time!


In most cases people get very focused on the wrong things that make the plank lateral drags an awesome exercise. They get soooo focused on moving a weight back and forth they often totally miss the components of this core exercise that make it really effective. Ultimately, it just becomes a novel core exercise they use, but rarely see much in any results with in their training or that of their clients. So, how can we prevent this from being the case?

Use The Right Progression

I remember years ago presenting at a conference and after my presentation a coach came up to me and said, “Josh, we love your MAX lunges, but our clients really can’t do them well and they struggle to feel good doing them. So, we don’t really use them, do you have any suggestions in fixing this?” I asked a rather simple question, “what progressions did you use to get them to the MAX lunge?”

The response I got was one of great confusion! Like so many fitness pros, they thought you hear an exercise is good and you just do THAT exercise. The truth is to understand WHAT makes the exercise effective and how to you build up the qualities so that you can perform the drill and reap the benefits. When it comes to the core exercise of our lateral plank drag it starts with the right foundations like the right progressions.

Most are surprised that our first goal is to teach people how to create stability into the ground with their hands and feet like Robin Padget shows below…

core exercise

NO matter the level of this movement THIS concept does NOT change! You have to keep grabbing the ground with the hands and driving through the balls of the feet. It is such an action that is how you create stability and why exercises like bird dog rows aren’t great in building stability for most people because it can be almost impossible to engage the bench the same way as we would the ground (most people demonstrate, not build stability in such drills).

core exercise

core exercise

My right hands pinky is legendary for disturbing DVRT attendees, but helps people remember to really grip the ground to build strength ands stability. No, you don’t have to break your fingers to accomplish this, but does show once upon a time my basketball career. 

The greater we create stability like I show with my hand above, the less wrist, shoulder, and other issues we will see (even will help us create a “neutral” spine with people). Once we have that foundation and have built up some strength in doing so (like being able to do 30 second holds with this engagement of the hands and feet), we can start teaching some progressions. However, if you think we are going to jump to a core exercise like a plank lateral drag that is missing WAY too many progressions.

The above isn’t even all the progressions we can use in our bird dog progressions. However, if you went through these you would be much further along the right path. We can split it up even further into individual movements of the upper or lower body as well. You can see from the cuing that Megan Berner of Fitness Lying Down shows that this may look simple, but done with the right intent becomes an incredibly effective and intense core exercise.

After working on these progressions for quite some time we can start working with the plank, version of our lateral drag core exercise. However, we have to make sure that we keep those foundations and realize how easy it is to lose them as we get to more challenging versions. For example, many people look like they have a flat back but they actually have flexed hips.

core exercise

Don’t worry, even when we work in a lot of the military programs one of the first things we do is fix the hip position. It is a very common mistake because too much focus is placed upon a flat back versus full extension of the body.

core exercise

Some might think my low back looks low there, but actually I have a flat back and fully extended hips, it is this position I want to maintain as I perform any lateral drags as Cory Cripe explains below. 

The benefit in taking time and being more purposeful is that you actually get the results that this unique core exercise can offer. The connection of both our front and posterior chains help us so much not with core strength, but overall body strength.

core training

That means healthier shoulders, low backs, and even knees, but also greater mobility in places you may have never expected. This eventually gives rise to being able to do many awesome further progressions of our plank lateral drags like Greg Perlaki shows below. However, you NEVER lose the original foundations and intent otherwise you end up doing “stuff” rather than meaningful training!

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