Front planks and side planks are nothing new to core stabilization exercises. They are used quite often and for good reasons. Most people train their outer core for strength (producing movement) but many lack the necessary control of the hips and spine with stabilization patterns. I learned a few tips from Mike Robertson and Charlie Weingroff on how to maximize stabilization, most notably, reflexive stabilization which is really how we want to target our core musculature to prevent high threshold strategies of the prime movers. Typically, the inner core is seen as a cylinder made up of the diaphragm (top), pelvic floor (bottom), multifidi (back), transverse abdominis (around on sides like a brace). The deep cervical neck flexors should also be included (teach the packed neck with everything). Often times during pain, there is a delayed firing or activation of these muscles. Consequently, the outer “core” musculature takes over to stabilize the spine. The muscles that can be seen on an individual are the ones that become primary stabilizers when they are supposed to be secondary to stabilization, which results in pain. These high threshold strategies can adapt to alter proper movement patterns.
With the front plank & side planks exercises, these happen to be exercises where we need to demonstrate proper diaphragmatic breathing instead of simply getting “your belly tight.” Having someone crunch through a plank is demonstrating this high threshold strategy by allowing them to hold on to their rectus abdominis or hip flexors as stabilizers. One way to correct this is to make sure you have everything else locked down and then have the athlete demonstrate proper breathing patterns. The diaphragm it is the trigger to start stabilization of your entire body, without it, problems will occur. Some cues that I have learned from Mike Robertson and Charlie Weingroff are that someone should be to begin their diaphragmatic breath after locking the legs straight, pulling the toes up towards shins, glutes fired, then have the athlete breath through the planks. When you fire the glutes and locked the legs long, they cannot hang onto their hip flexors as stabilizers, allowing for the proper reflexive stabilization.