Brian Carroll Coaches the Side Plank

Brian Carroll Coaches the Side Plank

ANOTHER MCGILL BIG 3 POST? Yes, I give a brief side plank coaching demo with a client in this video. I have shot a few videos over the years, but this one is simplified and straight to the point. For more context on the side plank, please check out Back Mechanic and Gift of Injury for regressions and progressions. This is only the tip of the iceberg, and particular coaching cues I used for this session are as follows:

Most of you will be able to follow along with this video and have no issues once you see the primary cues hammered consistently:

1. Set your elbow, knees/ hips (depending on variation). Engage the lats.

2. Stiffen the torso appropriately

3. Use the hip hinge to come up, with precision, into the side plank

4. Lower down to the floor with control between reps

More Side Plank Context and Coaching 

In my experience, the side plank is generally executed pretty well compared to the bird dog and curl up in the McGill Big 3 families. Generally, they are not very hard to learn or even do for most. However, for those injured and those with a bodybuilding background, I have noticed that this exercise tends to be a weakness because bodybuilding focuses on the back extensors and anterior core in the pursuit of symmetry, not athleticism. Training the obliques and lateral core can make your core bigger, which is unsuitable for bodybuilding and those wanting to maintain a particular taper. Many back-injured bodybuilders who have come to Jacksonville, FL, for an assessment are so unstable in the lateral core they shake violently as a paint mixer would (during an elementary version) while doing the bird dog and sometimes the curl-up without any problem.

Main flaws I see with the side plank: Flopping down after the repetition, not bracing properly with tuned efficiency to start the rep, twisting the ribcage away from the pelvis, and progressing too fast; i.e. moving to the rolling plank, when not proficient in the side plank from the knees. Most problems seem to come when the user starts the rolling aspect of the side plank, does not maintain the ribcage and pelvis as one, and ‘twists’ instead of being locked in as one unit.

BONUS: In this video (briefly), I discuss breathing. This needs its article and context. Why? Depending on the goal, you should be more forceful (for performance), while at other times, for recovery, you would likely not try to create so much tension, stiffness, and IA pressure as someone training for a world record. Everything must be adjusted and tuned to achieve a specific goal for each individual. For those backs pained with compressive forces, we should consider less stiffening in some cases, specifically the abdominal region. But, as I say, this needs an entire article, or better yet, read more about the nuance here: Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance 6th ED.

Brian offers Virtual & in-person coaching

Back Injured Average Mary or Joe who wants their life back

Back Injured Athlete Wanting to Return to Sport

Lift and exercise coaching & cueing to troubleshoot form

Program adherence & accountability coaching

Nutrition & Supplementation Coaching & Guidance (10 or 20 weeks)

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Brian Carroll

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Brian is a retired world-class powerlifter with over two decades of world-class powerlifting. From 1999 to 2020, Brian Carroll was a competitive powerlifter, one of the most accomplished lifters in the sport's history. Brian started off competing in bench press competitions 'raw,' then, shortly into the journey, he gravitated toward equipped lifting as there were no "raw" categories then. You only had to choose from single-ply (USPF) and Multi-ply (APF/WPC). Brian went on to total 2730 at 275 and 2651 at 242 with more than ten times his body weight in three different classes (220, 242, 275), and both bench pressed and deadlifted over 800 pounds in two other weight classes. He's totaled 2600 over 20 times in 2 different weight classes in his career. With 60 squats of 1000lbs or more officially, this is the most in powerlifting history, regardless of weight class or federation, by anyone not named David Hoff. Brian realized many ups and downs during his 20+ years competing. After ten years of high-level powerlifting competition and an all-time World Record squat at 220 with 1030, in 2009, Brian was competing for a Police academy scholarship. On a hot and humid July morning, Brian, hurdling over a barricade at 275lbs, landed on, fell, and hurt his back. After years of back pain and failed therapy, Brian met with world-renowned back specialist Prof McGill in 2013, which changed his trajectory more than he could have imagined. In 2017, Brian Carroll and Prof McGill authored the best-selling book about Brian's triumphant comeback to powerlifting in Gift of Injury. Most recently (10.3.20) -Brian set the highest squat of all time (regardless of weight class) with 1306 lbs – being the first man to break the 1300lb squat barrier at a bodyweight of 303 lbs.
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