6 Side Plank Exercises You Should be Doing Instead of Weighted Side Bends

 

I cringe when I see Weighted Side Bends. They do more harm than good, and yet I still see them being done by unknowing folks who think they’re getting a great ab/core workout. Weighted Side Bends take a toll on the spine, particularly the intervertebral discs of the spine.

 

Fortunately, there’s a much better way to train and target your lateral core muscles, and it comes in the form of the Side Plank position.

 

Most people seem to recognize that Side Planks are a great core exercise. I see them being done regularly, but I don’t always see them being done correctly. I also wonder if everyone realizes why they’re such a good core exercise. It’s important to know how to do Side Planks right, what they do, and why they are so beneficial. This will help you to use Side Planks correctly and get the most out of this important core exercise.

 

Side Plank Benefits
The side plank position targets the quadratus lumborum (QL) as well as the obliques. The quadratus lumborum is the main focus during this exercise. This is a massively important muscle for core function and low-back health.

 

The QL connects the pelvis, the spine (lumbar vertebrae) and the rib cage. It’s a deep core muscle that connects your lower body to your upper body. The QL acts to side bend the spine, but more importantly, it acts to stabilize the spine during actions such as walking, carrying heavy objects on one side, and unilateral pressing. In other words, it prevents side bend when side bend is bad. It’s also a key player during breathing due to its connection to the rib cage and proximity to the diaphragm.

 

If the QL isn’t functioning as it should, even basic actions such as walking and breathing will be limited. Poor function by the QL can lead to problems such as low-back pain or even pain above and below the low back.

 

It’s important to consider that the QL should be trained as it functions.

 

The QL functions to provide stability to the pelvis and lumbar spine intermittently as you perform any and all activities. This means you should train it to be strong and stable for relatively brief bouts.

 

How to Do Side Planks
When you do Side Planks, avoid the common mistake of trying to hold for record duration. Shoot for 4-6 sets of 8-15 perfect and intense holds instead of 1-3 sets of poor form, low intensity holds.

 

Let’s discuss the three most common mistakes made during any Side Plank variation:

 

Shoulder Sag: I often see people performing Side Planks by hanging on their shoulder. This puts unnecessary stress throughout the shoulder and diminishes the effectiveness of the exercise. To avoid this mistake, press your upper body away from the ground during the hold. Fight to keep as much distance between your rib cage and the ground as you hold your Side Plank.

 

Low-Back Arch: Another common mistake is failing to keep the core engaged during the hold. This results in a Side Plank that looks OK from the front but looks tragic from above. When you see a Side Plank from a bird’s-eye view, you should see a straight line from the ear to the shoulder and all the way to the hip. When you fail to engage the core as if you’re about to take a punch, you end up with an arched or curved low back instead of a straight line.

 

Hip Drop: The hip drop can come from fatigue, lack of awareness, or both. The Side Plank is an anti-side bend exercise. When you let your hips drop toward the ground, you fall into side bend. This means both your QL and glutes are relaxing and no longer being targeted. Keep your hips up and in line with the rest of your body as you hold your Side Planks.

 

Side Plank Variations
Here are six side plank variations for you to train your QL and other core musculature to perform at their best:

 

1. Side Plank with Hip Flexion

Today’s Edge: Day 2️⃣ of 7️⃣ Days of Side Planks. Enter the Side Plank with Hip Flexion. _____________________________________________ Benefits: This side plank variation targets a number of core muscles including the quadratus lumborum, lats, rectus abdominis, and obliques. It also challenges the adductors (inner thigh/groin muscles) on the top leg while the bottom leg moves in and out of hip flexion. That’s all just a fancy way of saying it’s an exercise that will strengthen your low back, protect your spine, and bolster your lower body. _____________________________________________ Coaching Keys: Keep your rib cage away from the floor. Get your hips up and your core tight. Make sure the rest of your body stays still while your bottom leg moves in and out of hip flexion. _____________________________________________ How To Use: This exercise is perfect for high level core training during any workout. You can super set it with a grip dominant upper or lower body exercise or have it as the centerpiece to a core focus day. It can also be a great warm-up for any workout or activity. Shoot for 2-4 sets of 6-12 repetitions. _____________________________________________ *Stay tuned for day 3️⃣ tomorrow.

A post shared by Tim DiFrancesco (@tdathletesedge) on Feb 28, 2017 at 5:39am PST

 

2. Side Plank with Alternating Hip Flexion

Today’s Edge: Day 3️⃣ of 7️⃣ Days of Side Planks. Enter the Side Plank with Alternating Hip Flexion. This is a progression from yesterday’s unilateral hip flexion variation. _____________________________________________ BENEFITS: This side plank variation targets a number of core muscles including the quadratus lumborum, lats, rectus abdominis, and obliques. It also challenges the adductors (inner thigh/groin muscles) on the top leg while the bottom leg moves in and out of hip flexion. The deep hip flexors are trained as well due to the alternating action. This exercise mimics the running gait pattern while requiring the core to hold strong. The upper body is simultaneously challenged due to the forearm hold position of the side plank. This exercise will strengthen your low back, protect your spine, and bolster your upper and lower body. _____________________________________________ COACHING KEYS: Keep your rib cage away from the floor. Get your hips up and your core tight. Make sure the rest of your body stays still while your legs move in and out of hip flexion. _____________________________________________ HOW TO USE: This exercise is perfect for high level core training during any workout. You can super set it with a grip dominant upper or lower body exercise or have it as the centerpiece to a core focus day. It can also be a great warm-up for any workout or activity. Shoot for 2-4 sets of 6-12 repetitions. _____________________________________________ *Stay tuned for Day 4️⃣ tomorrow!

A post shared by Tim DiFrancesco (@tdathletesedge) on Mar 1, 2017 at 5:08am PST

 

3. Side Plank with Mini Rotations

Today’s Edge: Day 4️⃣ of 7️⃣ Days of Side Planks. Check out the Side Plank with Mini Rotations. _____________________________________________ BENEFITS: This side plank variation targets a number of core muscles including the quadratus lumborum, lats, rectus abdominis, and obliques. This is a great exercise to train the core to keep the spine stable against rotational forces. _____________________________________________ COACHING KEYS: Keep your rib cage away from the floor. Get your hips up and your core tight. Make sure the rest of your body stays still while you move through the mini rotation action. You need to keep your shoulders and your hips connected. In other words, as you move through the mini rotations your shoulders and your hips should be moving together. Picture a surfboard going through the mini rotations – the entire board rotates as one. _____________________________________________ HOW TO USE: This exercise is perfect for high level core training during any workout. You can super set it with a grip dominant upper or lower body exercise or have it as the centerpiece to a core focus day. It can also be a great warm-up for any workout or activity. Shoot for 2-4 sets of 8-20 repetitions. _____________________________________________ Stay tuned for day 5️⃣ tomorrow!

A post shared by Tim DiFrancesco (@tdathletesedge) on Mar 2, 2017 at 12:27pm PST

 

4. Side Plank with Leg Swing

Today’s Edge: Day 5️⃣ of 7️⃣ Days of Side Planks. It’s showtime for the Side Plank with Leg Swing. _____________________________________________ BENEFITS: This side plank variation targets a number of core muscles including the quadratus lumborum, lats, rectus abdominis, and obliques. The Side Plank with Leg Swing requires the core to remain stable and protect the spine during aggressive lower body action. This exercise exposes the core to the dynamic forces it can be faced with while you train, play, compete, or perform. _____________________________________________ COACHING KEYS: Keep your rib cage away from the floor. Get your hips up and your core tight. Make sure the rest of your body stays still while you move through the leg swing action. Your leg swing should come from the hip while your knee remains completely locked out. Keep the rest of your body as still as possible while your leg is moving. _____________________________________________ HOW TO USE: This exercise is perfect for high level core training during any workout. You can super set it with a grip dominant upper or lower body exercise or have it as the centerpiece to a core focus day. It can also be a great warm-up for any workout or activity. Shoot for 2-4 sets of 8-20 repetitions. _____________________________________________ Stay tuned for day 6️⃣ tomorrow!

A post shared by Tim DiFrancesco (@tdathletesedge) on Mar 3, 2017 at 7:27am PST

 

5. Side Plank with Row

Today’s Edge: Day 6️⃣ of 7️⃣ Days of Side Planks. Enjoy the Side Plank with Row. _____________________________________________ BENEFITS: This side plank variation targets a number of core muscles including the quadratus lumborum, lats, rectus abdominis, and obliques. The Side Plank with Row requires the core to remain stable and protect the spine during upper body action. This exercise exposes the core to the dynamic forces it can be faced with while you train, play, compete, or perform. _____________________________________________ COACHING KEYS: Keep your rib cage away from the floor. Get your hips up and your core tight. Make sure the rest of your body stays still while you move through the 1-arm row action. Keep the rest of your body as still as possible during your 1-arm row. _____________________________________________ HOW TO USE: This exercise is perfect for high level core training during any workout. You can super set it with a grip dominant upper or lower body exercise or have it as the centerpiece to a core focus day. It can also be a great warm-up for any workout or activity. Shoot for 2-4 sets of 8-20 repetitions. _____________________________________________ Stay tuned for day 7️⃣, the final post in this series tomorrow!

A post shared by Tim DiFrancesco (@tdathletesedge) on Mar 4, 2017 at 8:08am PST

 

6. Alternating Front Plank to Side Plank

Today’s Edge: Day 7️⃣ of 7️⃣ Days of Side Planks. The final side plank variation in this series is the Alternating Front Plank to Side Plank. Swipe to see all 7️⃣ videos. _____________________________________________ BENEFITS: This side plank variation targets a number of core muscles including the quadratus lumborum, lats, rectus abdominis, and obliques. This exercise requires great core control as you rotate in and out of the plank positions. It trains the core to hold the upper and lower body together while protecting the spine against anterior, lateral, and rotational forces. It covers all of your core training bases. _____________________________________________ COACHING KEYS: Keep your rib cage away from the floor. Get your hips up and your core tight. Keep your back flat. Make the transitions slow and controlled. Fight to ensure that your shoulders and hips move as one during the transitions. _____________________________________________ HOW TO USE: This exercise is perfect for high level core training during any workout. You can super set it with a grip dominant upper or lower body exercise or have it as the centerpiece to a core focus day. It can also be a great warm-up for any workout or activity. Shoot for 2-4 sets of 6-12 repetitions. _____________________________________________ I hope you enjoyed the 7️⃣ days of side planks! Hit me in the comments or on DM to let me know how your training goes when you give these a try.

A post shared by Tim DiFrancesco (@tdathletesedge) on Mar 5, 2017 at 8:35am PST

 

Source: http://www.stack.com/a/6-side-plank-exercises-you-should-be-doing-instead-of-weighted-side-bends?

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