The Side Plank aka Hover
By Ryan Unverzagt
The Side Plank aka Hover
Hopefully your summer has been filled with plenty of physical activities. This month’s exercise is an isometric one called the side plank or hover. The goal of an isometric exercise is to hold the position shown in figures 1 and 2 without any movement. This is a total body exercise. Therefore, multiple muscle groups are involved including the shoulders, triceps, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, internal & external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae, and muscles of the hip and outer thigh.
Looks may be deceiving because the side plank is difficult to master. Balance, strength, and posture are important factors to pull this one off successfully. Even though no movement is required, balance will be the biggest challenge. If this is your first time attempting the side plank, try the position in figure 1 using a mirror for feedback. Notice that the knees are bent, but you should form a straight line from head to knees, meaning that your hips are forward and in-line with the shoulders and knees. Place the elbow directly below your shoulder with the forearm perpendicular to your body. This will help maintain proper balance. Place your other arm across the chest with the hand on your opposite shoulder. During the plank, focus on your spinal posture and don’t forget to breathe! Just because you are holding this position doesn’t mean you need to hold your breath.
Figure 2 is the full-fledged side plank. This is the more difficult position because the points of contact with the floor (forearm & feet) are further apart thus creating a mechanical disadvantage between these two points. This means your muscles have to work harder to maintain the desired position. A common mistake is to let the hips drop toward the floor. To prevent such occurrence, concentrate on keeping the torso rigid by contracting your oblique muscles underneath your body. The top shoulder should be kept above the bottom one to keep proper alignment.
The benefits of the side plank or hover is an increase in core stamina and strength and a decrease in low back pain. I rely on the side plank along with a combo of other exercises to help decrease my low back pain. Remember to plank on the other side of the body to assure symmetry of strength. Try holding the hover for at least twenty seconds per side to start. Eventually progress to 3 sets of 60 seconds per side. You will find that the side plank/hover is a great exercise to mix in with any exercise routine. Enjoy until next time…..stay fit!!