Unilateral Training from the Ground Up: Side Plank Series

If you’re a runner and the side plank is missing from your training routine then let me tell you something, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice. 

The side plank and all of its variations are often overlooked.  Not only is it too challenging for some but being that you’re on your side and not planting both feet into the ground, runners tend to opt for the traditional plank because it’s more popular and less challenging.  

The problem with the traditional plank is that you’re typically training bilaterally instead of unilaterally – meaning that you’re training both sides of the body at the same time as opposed to working each side individually.  The benefit of unilateral exercises is that you strengthen muscle imbalances that may exist which in turn prevents common injuries and makes you a stronger (and faster) runner. 

Over the course of the last few weeks I introduced a series on how to incorporate unilateral training from the ground up.  I started with the building the glute bridge then progressing the bird-dog movement.  Today, I am going to go through a series on how to properly progress the side plank. 

As I mentioned, if you’re not doing already doing side planks then you’re totally missing out on a key part of your unilateral training…especially if you’re a runner.  To break it down, the side plank exercise builds lateral strength and stability –  which is KEY to not only building a stronger core but also activating the muscles that connect your lower body to your upper body, specifically the quadratus lumborum.  The QL (quadratus lumborum) acts to stabilize the pelvis and spine during activities such as walking and running meaning that if it’s weak, your running form will suffer…which clearly is NO bueno. 

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As I have mentioned previously in this series, in order to functionally strengthen your entire body and get it in prime running shape, you need to active your lats along with your core and glutes.  Your lats work with your glutes during your gait pattern so making sure they all work together when you’re strength training is incredibly important.  Which is why using the DVRT System in conjunction with the Ultimate Sandbag Core Bag really makes a world of difference. 

The beauty of using the Ultimate Sandbag along with the DVRT System is that it’s progressive meaning that you start in the most stable position first then build from there – building a foundation is imperative.  

Why not just do the traditional side plank and forgo adding weight? Well, like I mentioned activating your lats is super duper important and incorporating the Core Bag allows you do to so and add weight progressively. 

There are actually SEVERAL variations and ways to progress it but for the purpose of this series, I am gonna keep it simple. 

Unilateral Training from the Ground Up for Runners: Progressing the Side Plank Series


As you can see from the graphic above, each exercise progressively gets harder.  You start on your knees which is a more stable position incorporating the Iso Pull – which is taking the tension out of the suitcase handle without arcing it back then layering it with the leg lift.  The goal is to work toward the traditional side plank with the legs extended, rowing the bag up and layering with the leg lift in that position. 

The key to performing the side plank when using the Ultimate Sandbag Core Bag is to keep the body in alignment and activate the lats by taking the tension out of the handle of the bag which activates the lateral stability system in a more functional way. 

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Next week we will continue to work our way building strength from the ground up with a series of new unilateral progressions using the DVRT System.  These progressions will help you to build the unilateral strength you need to not only do more advanced exercises but also help to identify and correct muscle imbalances making you a stronger, faster and more resilient runner. 

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About me

Annmarie is a self proclaimed foodie, avid long distance runner and functional fitness coach. A DVRT Master Trainer, HKC Instructor and food allergy sufferer, she writes about strength training for runners as well as shares allergy friendly recipes for busy athletes.   She is also the owner of Strength In Motion Studio, mother of two sassy sisters and wife to a chronically busy chiropractor.   Subscribe by email for updates to get the latest workouts, advice and recipes straight to your inbox!


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November 01, 2017
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Unilateral Training from the Ground Up: Bird Dog Progressions
October 18, 2017
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October 04, 2017
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September 06, 2017
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August 30, 2017


angela @ happy fit mama
Reply October 25, 2017

Of all the planks, side plank is my fav. Love the variations!

Reply October 25, 2017

Oh how I need this. For 48 years :-) I did that thing we are not supposed to do. I avoided the side plank because it was hard for me.

Susie @ Suzlyfe
Reply October 25, 2017

Seriously loving this series from you. Those iso pulls must be KILLER!

Deborah Brooks
Reply October 25, 2017

That side plank w the row looks seriously challenging-I love it! Thanks for the link up
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Katie @ Hungry Runner
Reply October 25, 2017

OK, you've just convinced me to step up my side plank game! I never thought about how it helps you train each side individually. Thanks for the insight and awesome moves!
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Laura @ This Runner's Recipes
Reply October 25, 2017

The side plank is my favorite type of plank. Tour progressions look so challenging - I love a good side plank with leg lift!

Sandra D Laflamme
Reply October 25, 2017

Planking is such a great way to strengthen the core. Love this series of exercises!

Kimberly Hatting
Reply October 25, 2017

I love planking, especially side planks! I can really feel the lats burning, as well as my inner thighs. I have never tried planking with resistance, though...looks tough!

Reply October 25, 2017

side planks FTW! We've been doing so many of those in my classes lately. Must be in the air. ;)

Chantal Steele
Reply October 25, 2017

Let me tell you, there's nothing like the 3rd tri of pregnancy to remind you that you really actually do enjoy a killer workout and side plank! I haven't tried using anything other than a dumbbell to increase the intensity of a side plank - super good idea. P.S. I've been trying to add the badge from the link party and it keeps showing up as weird text instead of the image...any ideas?
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Nicole @ Fitful Focus
Reply October 25, 2017

That last progression looks T to the OUGH! Challenge accepted.

Reply October 26, 2017

I do a lot of these side plank variations except without the bag thing. That's new to me! My clients have a love/hate relationship with my side plank leg raises. ;-)

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