Side planks.

Posted by & filed under Exercise and Training.

Side-plank-1The side plank.  A classic oblique trainer.  Can be done on the forearm or hand.

Side-plank-2Here is the start position.  At this point check the alignment is spot on.  Things to watch out for:

  • Head pokes forwards
  • Bottom sticking out.
  • Excessive curvature in the low back.
  • Laying the top arm down the outside of the body helps, since we can better feel when we get out of good alignment.

In this picture, the feet are stacked on top of each other.  This gives quite a workout to the fibularis muscles on the outside of the low leg, and may be too much to start with.  In which case, put one foot in front of the other.

Also the bottom knee can be bent and on the floor.

It is worth checking the difference in feel  between lower knee on the floor and lower leg straight:  it may be that with the knee down, we can feel the waist MORE than with both legs straight. We all tend to rush to the highest options, which won’t necessarily get the best results.  I am as guilty of this as the next person.

The bright red muscle is the quadratus lumborum.

The bright red muscle is the quadratus lumborum.

I am not very fond of specific oblique training and the reason why lies in a troublesome muscle called the quadratus lumborum (QL), pictured right.  It runs from the bottom rib, attaching onto the lumbar vertebrae and the inside, upper hip bone.  As well as helping us side bend, both sides contract together to help support the spine. Unfortunately, when the abs are weak due to excessive wheat eating or other gut problems, the QL becomes the major back stabiliser, so gets over worked and excessively tight.  Added to this, this muscle is frequently stronger on one side than the other, so contributing to a side bend in the low back, or scoliosis; which will only too frequently be balanced by the opposite scoliosis in the upper back.

There is a very simple way to tell if the QLs are of different lengths.  Keeping the feet together and legs straight, slide one hand down the outside of one leg, being careful not to twist, and see how far it goes.  Then compare this with the other side.  Ideally, the furthest points are level.

When the abs are not working properly and/or the QLs are unbalanced, the QLs are a major cause of back ache because the shorter one can go into spasm.  This may even cause the spine to lock up.  It is very rare for people to realise their abs are not working well – sporting a 6-pack proves nothing.  And so they can work their obliques like billy-o, actually making things worse and leading to a nasty case of the feet being a very long, painful distance from the hands.

If the QLs are not the same length, there is a great deal of argument about what to do.  Some say do an exercise like the side plank, but with the shorter side down only, so strengthening the weaker QL.  Others say start with the weaker side down, then do exactly the same on the other side.  Personally, I favour skipping oblique training until everything is balanced. 1  But that is not an option that most would consider.  So if shoved into a corner and poked with a sharp stick, I would say to only train the weaker side in an exercise such as this and compare the lengths of our sides regularly.  If the difference is not improving, then the exercise is not working.  Simples.

Yoga.  Well known for its relaxing qualities.

Yoga. Well known for its relaxing qualities.

  1. The cause of muscle imbalance like the QLs lies in what is going on the brain, the eyes and the inner ears.  And no amount of exercise or massage will cure this.  But working with a a Z health practitioner will eventually sort it all out. []

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)