A couple of years ago I did a post on a 30-day planking challenge as a way to get the new year off to a good start. I loved how simple (but not necessarily easy!) planking was for giving your core muscles a workout, even in just a couple of minutes. But after the challenge I wasn’t as regular in practicing the exercise and I notice I quickly lose strength when I get sporadic. So I’m planning on starting the challenge again this New Year’s Day and think I’ll also incorporate some side planks to keep things interesting and add more difficulty, if I get to the point of needing more of a challenge (wishful thinking? :-)). I thought this video from Easy Health Options about side planks was great, especially since it shows 3 different ways of doing them, depending on your fitness level. You can start with the beginner version and then progress as you get stronger.
One of my all-time favorite exercises is the plank. It is simple, requires no space, no equipment, no gym, and no investment in time. Standard planks are great for core strength. But when you need to go to another level, and want to work the hips and core together, then side planks are the way to go. They are a super great for hip and core strength in addition to the shoulders which support your body weight.
I previously presented videos on a three-part standard plank routine here and on a mobile plank exercise here. And today, with the help of Tema Esberg of Potentia Personal Training, I’d like to share another version of this amazing isometric exercise known as the Side Plank.
You are going to be doing the side plank with your body weight on your forearm. Do it first on your right side and then again on your left side. So while the regular plank is done once with both arms holding you up, the side plank is done twice, once on each side.
It’s a great exercise and very challenging. We show three versions: beginner, intermediate and advanced for all levels and continued progressing.
Getting into position
Follow Tema as she assumes the side plank first on her right side. Sit on the floor and then lie down onto your right forearm. Be sure to keep your elbow in line with your shoulder; if not too much weight or strain may be placed on your rotator cuff. Make sure your hips are aligned and your body is not bent.
The remainder of the starting position from here will depend on which version you are doing: beginner, intermediate, advanced, as described below.
For the simplest method, bend your top leg (in this case it is the left leg) at the knee and place your left foot on the floor in front of your right thigh.
From here, you want to push your weight into the floor through your left foot. You can also use your left hand for support. Your foot will help lift your body up off the ground to assume the side plank position.
Once your hips are raised up off the ground, raise your left arm up as if trying to touch the ceiling with the fingers of your left hand. Do your best to hold this position from 10-to-30 seconds, and slowly return to the ground.
For the intermediate version, keep your left leg on top of your right and flex both feet, stacked one on the other.
From this position, push your feet into the ground (still stacked) and raise your left hand up (as before). This is a more difficult side plank than the beginner version, as you do not have the support of your other foot and it is more difficult to remain balanced.
Begin the advanced version in the same manner as the intermediate version, but the left hand will be held up at the start. From here, you will do what is called “scooping under the bridge.”
You want to look up at your left hand and watch it as you bring it down and scoop it under your body and then raise it back up.
Try to do 10 scoops and then return to the starting position. If you can do more, great!
All three versions of the side plank shown here are a great method of progressively advancing your strength training and core development exercise routine. And they follow great from the standard plank. Don’t forget to do both sides!
Related Self-help Health post: Have You Planked Today?
And here’s a unique exercise you may want to try in 2016 that you can use to help flatten your stomach….. while driving in the car. Nothing like multi-tasking. HA! It’s from Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist & Personal Trainer and author of The Fat-Burning Kitchen & The Top 101 Foods that FIGHT Aging. Mike says:
This is a VERY simple exercise that you can do anytime, anywhere to help get a flatter stomach over time. It does NOT increase fat burning, but it CAN help to flatten your stomach by strengthening your deeper transversus abdominis muscles and “pulling in” a lazy stomach (aka beer belly or “pooch belly”).
It involves doing an exercise called “ab vacuums”…
I find it a good time to get in the habit of doing daily ab vacuums while driving on your daily commute or another time that would get you in the habit of doing them regularly.
(please make sure this doesn’t distract you from driving safely… I find that it doesn’t distract me at all, since you can keep your eyes on the road at all times and both hands still on the wheel…it’s certainly much safer than driving while on a cell phone!)
Of course, ab vacuums can be done anywhere and at anytime and don’t have to be just for driving, but I’ve found that it helps me to remember to do them if I do them at a specific time when driving regularly…. this could be while driving home from the gym every time (I do this 3-4x per week while driving home from the gym), or perhaps during your daily commute to work.
They even help to strengthen your core and support a healthy back!
Ab vacuums are simple (Instructions)
- You can do them standing, seated (such as in a car), kneeling in a four-point position, or even lying flat on the floor. I prefer them seated or standing.
- The movement is as simple as pulling your belly button in as far as you can by imagining you’re trying to touch your belly button to your spine and holding for 10-20 seconds at a time.
- Start by inhaling deeply. Then, as you exhale, start pulling the belly button in towards the spine and hold it there for 10-20 seconds while just taking short breaths. Repeat for several of these 10-20 second holds, perhaps 5-10 times if you have enough time while in the car. But even just repeating 3-4 times whenever you’re driving somewhere can really add up over time and give you the benefit of a flatter stomach!
- Get in the habit of doing this at least 4-5 days per week while driving somewhere and you may find that this helps to flatten your stomach more by strengthening the transversus abdominis muscle (the deep abdominal muscles beneath the rectus abdominis) if you previously had a “lazy belly”.
As mentioned before, this “ab vacuums” exercise does NOT increase fat burning… but it does help to flatten a round stomach that has lazy deep ab muscles, and it will strengthen your core and that’s important! 🙂
Salud and Happy 2016 Everyone!
p.s. Be sure to give Self-help Health a follow so you don’t miss out on any future posts. Also check out the To Your Health page at my website Evolution Made Easier and my other blog for more helpful information, tips, tools and resources.
Disclaimer: Please note that any information here is provided as a guideline only, and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician, nutritionist, trained healthcare practitioner, and/or inner guidance system. Always consult a professional before undertaking any change to your normal health routine.