Once in a while, you come across an exercise that just makes sense. The Side Plank Crunch is one of those exercises.
There’s a ton of benefits with this exercise since it targets several key qualities and skills related to strength and performance. The biggest challenge you’ll face in this movement is maintaining a static position on the bottom side of your body while the top side of your body is performing a dynamic motion. Case in point: there’s just a lot going on here!
However, if you really dial in your technique and move with precision, the Side Plank Crunch can be a real game-change in terms of developing world-class core strength. Here are some of the reasons I use this exercises with my athletes:
- Promotes overhead shoulder flexion and a “reach”, which allows the shoulder blade to move freely upon the rib cage
- Challenges all of the primary lateral muscles in your shoulders, core and hips for strength and stability
- Lastly, it promotes hip flexor strengthening via active hip flexion
REACHING INTO OVERHEAD POSITION FOR SHOULDER HEALTH
The majority of people in the world tend to skip out on achieving as much range of motion as possible into the overhead position with their shoulders. This is known as shoulder flexion, which is a key indicator of how much mobility you have access to in the shoulder joint. In addition, it gives us a solid idea of how flexible the surrounding muscles are as well, namely, the latissimus dorsi muscles.
I’ve become a big fan over the years of gaining and sustaining overhead shoulder health so that you can continue to stack on strength through greater ranges of motion. It’s still important to continue to train the overhead position directly via overhead presses and similar exercises. However, it’s also vital that you sneak it into exercises indirectly as well, which is exactly what you see here in the Side Plank Crunch.
An additional component to mention is the concept of “reaching” to allow your shoulder blade to move freely upon your rib cage. In essence, this allows for greater motion and mobility of your shoulder blade, which directly impacts the mobility of your shoulder joint. All of this to say that “reaching” with your arm is super important for long-term shoulder health.
CHALLENGING PRIMARY LATERAL MUSCLES FOR DURABILITY
I’ve always seen the value of training the side plank as a way to challenge your core muscles in an “anti-sidebend” fashion. This is an important component of core training in the early stages of training someone who might be new. Training the core for stiffness and stability is typically a good starting point for most folks, in general.
However, it’s also important to layer in movement and motion when it comes to core training as people begin to advance and become stronger. This is why using the Side Plank as a base can be so helpful to add variety to. Once someone has mastered the Side Plank, you can then layer in the “reaching” component with the band, which promotes shoulder and upper back strengthening. Furthermore, you can also layer in active hip flexion and the “crunch” of the abdominal muscles to strengthen both of those areas.
All in all, what you ultimately get is strengthening of the primary lateral muscles as well. The lateral core muscles, lateral hip/glute muscles, and shoulders all benefit from being in that Side Plank position. Not only are you getting core stability training via the anti-sidebend position, you’re also able to target other qualities simultaneously. That’s a win-win in my book!
STRENGTHENING HIP FLEXOR MUSCLES
As a personal trainer, have you ever had that one athlete who constantly complains of having “tight hips”?
Trust me, we’ve all had that one person!
Sure, this athlete could very well be dealing with a hip joint that lacks mobility and range of motion. Furthermore, they’re probably spending too much time adding in mobility and flexibility drills to open up the hips. In reality, although some of this may be helpful to a certain extent, you have to ultimately load the hip flexors if your plan is to get them (a) strong and (b) reduce the feeling of “tightness”.
This is why I’m a big fan of promoting active hip flexion as much as possible with my athletes to not only build strength in their hip flexors, but to also have that transition into them achieving greater ranges of motion for improved hip joint mobility.
This is just another feather on the cap for the Side Plank Crunch.
WELCOME TO THE SIDE PLANK CRUNCH
Now that we’ve discussed all of the pieces to the puzzle, here’s what the actual Side Plank Crunch exercise looks like below:
Intermediate version: Band Knee Bent Side Plank w/ Ipsilateral Crunch
Advanced version: Band Side Plank w/ Ipsilateral Crunch
See how many things are going on at once? This is truly an excellent bang-for-your-buck core (really, full body) exercise!
The Side Plank Crunch is a true game-changer if your goal is to develop world-class core strength. First off, it helps to promote overhead shoulder flexion and a “reach”, which allows the shoulder blade to move freely upon the rib cage. Secondly, it challenges all of the primary lateral muscles in your shoulders, core and hips for strength and stability. Lastly, it promotes hip flexor strengthening via active hip flexion. Give it a try!
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