Exercise of the Month (EOM) / Side Planks

by James Camastra...

The exercise of the month is the side plank.  The side plank is an excellent core exercise that is often overlooked.  Many people work mostly their abdominals when core training, performing various crunches, leg lifts and sit-ups.  With side planks you stabilize your spine through isometric lateral flexion thus strengthening the internal and external obliques, quadratus lumborum and lateral spinal flexors.  Adding side planks to your exercise routine will bring better muscular balance to your core, decreasing your chances of injury as well as improving sport performance.

Try any of these four side plank variations, beginning with easiest to most difficult.

1. Knees to elbow: lie on your side, bend your knees placing feet behind you (keep your body straight from shoulder through hips to knees), then lift your body up toward one side, keeping the opposite elbow on the floor/mat.  Your upper arm should be perpendicular to the floor.  If it’s not your shoulder will tire quickly

2. Knees to hand:  same as above, just on your hands.  Ideally your arm would be perpendicular to the floor and your spine would run through between your legs.

3. Feet to elbow: the classic side plank position.  Feet stacked for added difficulty or split.  Be sure your upper arm is perpendicular to the floor and your body is straight (your spine will run through between your legs).

4. Feet to hand: Turn to your side with your feet stacked and lift up your body with a straight arm, hand on the floor.  This is the most difficult side plank of the group.  

There are a few ways you can perform the side plank:

a. Static holds: up to 1 minute per side

b. Alternating: start in a plank position (same positions as side plank), turn to one side, center and balance, return to plank and alternate.  Up to 30 total reps

c. Non-Alternating: more advanced, start in a plank position, move to one side, center and balance, return and repeat on same side.  Up to 20 total reps

This is part one of my plank series.  Look for next months EOM for more advanced side plank variations. I hope this article has made the benefits of doing side planks more clear and given you some great ideas of how to improve your exercise program.  If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us at Workout@PPTchelsea.com.