Working with athletes and having been a member at a general membership gym awhile back I can remember back to some people performing great exercises for the core such as front and side planks. However, they were rarely performed in the way that they were intended to ensure optimal alignment through the spine (cervical-thoracic-lumbar), and hips. Consequently, because of improper training programs, poor core programs, and terrible posture throughout the day, you are putting yourself more at risk for injury and in turn, decreasing performance. What people fail to realize is that endless crunches or sit-ups are categorized movement-wise as spinal flexion. Training to isolate your rectus abdominis all the time fails to recognize that your core plays more important roles to control pelvic alignment, resist extension of the back, prevent excessive movement, and transmit forces.
Keep shortening your abs depresses your ribs, further promoting problems with the rest of your posture. Depressed (think pulling down on the ribs) ribs will cause slouched shoulders and forward head posture. Eventually this can lead to neck and shoulder problems, boom! Ok, so let’s get to some of the common occurrences seen with the front and side plank exercises and how to cue to ensure proper form. Often times even cueing someone to get into the correct position may not be enough because of the postural adaptations that have occurred over time. However incorporating more pulling & thoracic spine mobility exercises as well as cueing proper cervical neck position for all exercises etc..can help re-establish proper alignment.
Front Plank (BAD)
Front Plank ( GOOD)
- Chink Tucked (like a double chin) to ensure stability through the anterior core while allowing a stabilizing effect through the entire spine.
- Chest up posture to ensure proper stabilizing function of both the rectus abdominis and obliques together
- Important cue*- breathe through the belly to optimize diaphragmatic breathing
Side Plank (BAD)
Side Plank (GOOD)
- Chest up posture still applies
- Head alignment is back, looking straight ahead with the eyes
- Hips are all the way through (also make sure shoulder and hip are not rolled forward or backward)
- Cue to breathe through the belly again while holding this position
Remember that mastering the form is most important, not just doing its most difficult progressions because that leads to further dysfunction while hindering performance.
For more on understanding the function of your core and some of it’s progressions these blog posts offer awesome advice.
Understanding Your Abs– Mike Robertson
Anterior Core Progressions– David Lasnier