Side Windmill Planks On The Slide Board for Core Strength
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
The ability to transmit force and coordinate neuromuscular recruitment between the hips, core, and upper torso is vital for athletic performance as well as heavy strength training. The side windmill plank is one of the few exercises that requires the hips (especially the smaller glute muscles), upper torso, core, and feet to work together synergistically in one controlled high-tension isometric. This particular variation using the slide board or a similar surface/device is one of the most advanced variations of the exercise as it requires nothing short of textbook mechanics and precise motor control. With that said you’ll need to master these on a standard surface first before attempting the anti-sliding drill.
Essentially what you’re doing during the windmill plank is you’re resisting lateral flexion of the spine and lateral hip collapse as gravity is attempting to drive your hips towards the floor. To fight these forces you’ll be required to fire the glute medius (outer hips), internal obliques, external obliques, and quadratus lumborum muscles of your core. If that still doesn’t make any sense, just think of this as the ultimate exercise for crushing the sides of your hips and stomach/love handles.
In fact the windmill plank targets the same muscle groups you’ll commonly see individuals in the gym attempting to stimulate with side bends and core rotational exercises only this time the exercise actually works. In addition to improving functional movement patterns, posture, and spinal positioning, you’ll be strengthening numerous stabilizers from head to toe rather than just isolating one small muscle group.
When performing these in an anti-sliding manner the aforementioned factors are exponentially multiplied as the extension forces are increased significantly. Fortunately the benefits are also multiplied making this one of the most effective movements for targeting the side musculature of your core and hips.
To perform this, start with both feet stacked. Once you nail the form with this basic position, try incorporating hip abduction by lifting the top leg while keeping both feet perfectly parallel to each other. In addition avoid abducting the top leg excessively high (roughly 12-16 inches above the bottom foot is ideal) as this will pull your body out of alignment making it nearly impossible to hold the position. It’s also best to have the hand angled at roughly a 45 degree position rather than fully turned in or completely straight.
It’s also worth highlighting the importance of foot and ankle dorsiflexion not only for this variation but for all windmill planks. In terms of optimal body mechanics the dorsiflexed ankle position is ideal for most exercises with the windmill plank being no exception. Incorporating the dorsiflexed position not only improves foot and ankle alignment which helps channel greater neural drive throughout the body but it also helps to lock the movement in and make it significantly more stable. Unfortunately windmill planks can easily be cheated on standard surfaces as lack of dorsiflexion can be overcome with subtle compensation patterns.
However the anti-sliding variation literally forces the lifter to dorsiflex their ankles maximally while stacking their feet in perfect parallel alignment with each other. Anything less will make it impossible to keep your body from sliding out immediately as you’ll be unable to resist the extreme extension forces being placed on the body. In fact if you have significant foot and ankle issues you’ll probably need to remedy them before attempting these to avoid undue frustration and repeated failure.
Lastly, it’s important to point out that regardless of your strength or level of function the max time duration you’ll be able to hold these is 8-15 seconds before the force vectors and slick surface terminate the set. However the amount of intramuscular tension produced during this time period will be so intense that it will be more than ample time to produce a significant stimulus in the targeted musculature. If you still need to increase the intensity and total time under tension you can always do 2-3 mini sets per side by setting and resetting several times on each side (i.e. cluster set or rest pause method). If you don’t have access to a slideboard, any slick surface (wood floor with socks) valslide discs, or similar device will do the job.
On a final note, before attempting the slide board variation I suggest becoming proficient at more traditional versions.
Once you master the floor version try progressing to bench variations as demonstrated by one of my awesome clients Leslie Petch.