One of the worst challenges I've ever done is the 2:00 side plank challenge. This is where you plank on one side for 2:00, rest for 2:00 and then repeat on the other side. It doesn't sound that bad, but it's down right awful.
The side plank is a great and underestimated core exercise. Unlike other core exercises it incorporates the lats, glute medius, and cool stabilizing muscles you've probably never heard of like the quadratus lumborum.
Because it's easy to set up and do, not much coaching ever goes into it. Most of the time I hear trainers say, "Have you ever done a side plank?" When the client says "Yes," they simply make them get on to the ground and do their own version of a side plank.
But there are ways to get more out of your side plank. Here are the instructions and cues I use:
- Lay on your side with your elbow directly under your shoulder with your hand in a fist.
- The feet can either be, top foot placed in front of the bottom foot (staggering the feet), or both feet stacked (top resting on bottom foot). The stacked version is more challenging.
- Place the top hand either cupping the bottom shoulder for added comfort of down shoulder, or place it on top hip to increase intensity.
- The spine should be neutral, glutes fired while the core is braced.
- The body should be in a straight line, the hips should not dip during execution. I tell people to think about pushing the floor away with their forearm to engage lateral core muscles.
- Keep your head straight forward by focusing your eyes on something. Many people will put their necks in flexion while holding this position.
- Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. And as your are exhaling feel the bracing of your core muscles.