Side Plank?

Mr. Dawes,

I was really surprised at the article published in the recent Strength and Conditioning Journal entitled “the Reverse Side Plank/Bridge: An Alternative Exercise for Core Training” I felt like I was looking at a Shape Magazine.

1. No human on the planet would ever have a reason to support their body, 90 degrees to the ground with a locked knee, especially on the edge of the foot. Gymnasts don’t even perform this in their sport! If they did, it would be for a few seconds; if even that.
2. Structure determines function. Since there is no reason for a human to ever be in that position, both the LCL and the MCL aren’t that strong in that plane of motion.
3. Even if the intent were to strengthen the tissue in those ligaments (pre or post surgery)how would measure it? What standard would you put a living ligament up against?

In my opinion, the premise of the article is absurd! How to alleviate forces to a ball and socket joint who’s structure is clearly more adept at dealing with forces at 90 degrees to any axis, so a person can introduce forces at 90 degrees to a hinge joint?

For example, in wrestling or MMA fighting, if an athlete were trying to get an opponent off of them they would never attempt a side plank with their leg locked. The moment arm is too long. Any fighter or wrestler would bend the knee to shorten the moment arm. The photo in Figure 1, letter A is a much better version for health care professionals to explore as a core exercise. However, if people are experiencing shoulder pain/fatigue because they’re leaning on their shoulder with a portion of their own body weight, then either they’re too heavy and/or, they need shoulder strength. Many people sleep on their side and although they’re not up on the edge of the foot (why would they be?)they should be able to lie on their side with their body weight for more than 180 seconds!
I’m a Stuart McGill fan but when it comes to a side plank I fervently disagree. The Biering/Sorenson mentioned in the article is a test for nonspecific back pain and is performed in the saggital plane. Mr. McGill may use the side plank in the same manner as a test, however, if he or anyone else uses the side plank as a training tool, I’d find it hard pressed not to question their judgment.

Here’s why:
1. Even if the side plank did increase core strength, what’s the point? There is no activity or sport performed in this position. Why strengthen a position that is never used?
2. The ground reaction forces are all wrong. No one performs anything on the lateral side of their foot.
3. It stresses the knee at 90 degrees to the joint.
4. Are the muscles used accordingly i.e., transference of training to what?
5. There are so many other options, why risk the knee?

Many times our desire to be creative gets in the way with the basics. In my opinion, not performing a side plank is just common sense. In fact, I never saw anyone perform a side plank prior to 2000. Maybe even 2002.
We need to be careful, magazine writers who are not fitness professionals often create exercises in order to have something to write about. Their criteria, often is what looks cool, not exactly
what is functionally correct. I see this all the time at magazine stands, in fact, I film videos to educate the public in regards to this matter. I don’t mean to be negative.
I tore my meniscus in 2007 performing a side plank in front of 300 people at a convention in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I have it on film. It took 30 seconds. I was demonstrating a study I had discovered that showed there was 33% more activation of the lower abdominals (it didn’t mention anything about force production)while performing a side plank on a stability ball. The point I was making, was although you might have more activation in the lower abdominals, the knee could be damaged. Embarrassingly enough, not to mention the pain and financial cost of the 30 seconds……. Unfortunately, I made my point.
Please forward this to Mr. Tvrdy. Hopefully, this will save some more knees.