What happens most often in Side Plank is pressure to the outer edge of the stabilizing hand and sagging hips. Both of which leads to a most uncomfortable planking experience.
Let’s fix these issues, shall we?
Use Your Entire Hand
This part is simple stuff: Instead of rolling your body weight to the out edge (pinky edge) of your hand, engage through your index finger and thumb drawing the weight inward. This will share the burden of your weight throughout your entire hand and not just the pinky edge of your hand and wrist.
Engaging your fingers fully is important. Claw at the mat a little bit to get every knuckle on your hand to bend up in its natural form to life the soft tissue of your hand up and pressing the ring of your palm down.
Observe Fancy Figure 1.
Lift the Heaviest Part
Drooping and sagging hips and buttocks make Side Planks look unstable, because they are unstable. Allowing the heaviest part of your body to sink into this pose puts unwanted pressure on the shoulders, neck, and knees.
To remedy this, Side Plankers, we must remember to engage our external obliques to create lift in the midsection.
A few things have to happen for the engagement to occur.
First thing is to pull the belly in and up creating a zipped up jacket effect in the front of the body. This is not the same as sucking the belly and to try to look thin. This engagement comes from deep inside. Another post about full belly engagement to come, but for now think about this as simply engaging the bathroom muscles to create a wave of engagement from the base of your abdominal muscles all the way up to under your rib cage.
The next thing to do would be to engage the hands as I explained earlier in this post. Engaging the fingers in this passive clawing motion and pressing the floor away from you through the index finger and thumb will promote more efficient use of the triceps and serratus anterior which supports the shoulder.
The last step in this is to engage the stabilize leg. For example, if you are doing a Side Plank with your right hand on the floor and your left hand in the air, then your right foot would be the stabilizing foot. It is important here to press down into your mat with the pinky toes edge of your right foot. Drawing the toes back to great more action in the foot would be helpful as well in engaging the peroneals, vastus lateralis, and rectus femoris which is essentially bringing your entire leg on board.
Pressing through the pinky toes side of your foot and the thumb side of the stabilizing hand will create a lifting sensation through the trunk. Follow that sensation like a wise Sherpa guiding you to Everest. Let this whole body engagement takes the brunt of the weight from your wrists and share with the rest of your body.
Please refer to Bob for the muscles mentioned above, but also take a look what was not mentioned. More muscles are hard at work in this pose than listed here. So, check out Bob and think about how your whole body works together to make these cool yoga shapes.
Practice does not make perfect, but the practice does make for a more knowledgeable practitioner.
Over time, you will find that promoting this full-body engagement in the side plank will not only make you stronger in the upper body, but it will increase your balance by strengthening the leg and core muscles. This will keep us in good posture and good mobility for years to come.
Do remember that it took you roughly 4 years to learn how to walk. Making the side plank so weightless might take four years, it might only take two weeks, but nonetheless it will take an amount of time. The moment you start doing this core engagement is the moment that you start working toward the end goal of it being second nature.
Happy day one.