Side plank is one of the best moves to make your core strong and (almost) bulletproof to back pain. A regular plank is a popular exercise that almost everybody includes in their training regimen, but the side plank is often neglected, forgotten, or hated-and-ignored.
If you ignore the side plank, you also ignore your obliques and often very weak muscles in your lower back called Quadratus Lumborum. These muscles are crucial if you want to avoid future back problems.
According to researchers in Finland, if you have poor lower back muscle endurance, you are 3—4 times more susceptible to developing lower back problems, compared to those with an excellent lower back endurance. You may wonder, “what is good endurance?”
You should be able to hold a 1-minute side plank with a flawless form on both sides, for at least three sets.
Side planks are unilateral movements (it means that you work each side separately), and that helps you to find your weaknesses on each side. Eventually, you will be able to address the weaknesses before they cause you major problems and chronic pains and issues. You may find that you can hold a side plank easily on one side, but struggle on the other side. This important revelation will help you to focus on your new number one goal, which is evening out this imbalance.
There are many variations of side plank, and it this article, I reveal my favorite one. It adds increased difficulty not just to your core, but also your arms, upper back, and shoulders.
A basic version of side plank is on your hand or elbow (if your wrists hurt too much) with support of both legs. A little bit harder version (well, actually, quite a lot harder IF you have problems with the strength of your hips or one of the hips) is lifting the top leg (neutral, or internally rotated). You can slowly lift up and down, or hold it up for endurance.
And then comes this awesome version, with a band pull.
Side Plank with Band Pull
- Side plank cues: support yourself either on your hand or elbow that is directly under your shoulder. Keep your body rigid and straight. Your bottom foot is on the EDGE of the foot, not on the sole. The top foot is on your bottom foot. Push the ground “away” with your hand/elbow, so you would not sink into your shoulder. Elongate your neck and look forward, the neck in a neutral position.
- Tie a band to anything you find around you, table, chair, sofa, door, tree, a dog… ? (well, maybe let the dog sleep instead) and grab the other end with your hand and arm outstretched in front of you.
- In the side plank position, either basic or advanced (leg up), pull your elbow far back behind you, nicely and slowly, hold the contraction for one second, and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 12-20 times, depending on your plank endurance.
- When you pull slowly, you have time to pay attention to all the muscles in your core engaging. Enjoy that feeling.
- Change sides. Repeat for 3—4 sets.
Enjoy this awesome side plank version and add it to your training repertoire at least a few times per week. You will be surprised how quickly you gain strength and balance, and how your entire core will work for you in all your other training and life.