Planks & Variations
Side Plank Windmills are a great core and shoulder stabilization exercise. It really taxes the side core and hip muscles while working muscles involved in anti-rotation and anti-lateral flexion. Try lifting your top leg as I demonstrate later in the set to make the movement
Here's one of my female figure athletes performing a very advanced core and plank exercise. This single arm variation of the weighted plank performed on the ball is sure to tax your entire midsection not to mention all of the muscles throughout your entire body.
Here's Jarius Wynn one of my NFL athletes and defensive ends training for the upcoming season. The single arm plank on rings is a difficult but highly effective movement for the entire core, hips, shoulder stabilizers, triceps, chest, lats, and more.
This is one of the most brutally difficult core exercises you will ever try and is by far one of the most advanced renegade row variations there is. Think of this movement as a core exercise rather than a back exercise as the strain on the core musculature will not allow you to go very heavy for the back. However, the entire core, hips, and upper body stabilizers will be firing very intensely to lock in the movement.
Another oftentimes-disregarded aspect of core training is rate of stabilization development. Whether you’re an Olympic weightlifter or a competitive athlete, most sports require the muscles around the spine to activate quickly not just intensely. This drill can be performed using two different methods. The first simply requires the individual to perform the quadruped on a bench by lifting each side as quickly as possible and stabilizing rapidly. The second variation is a bit more complex as it addresses response time and response selection, as well as stabilization development. In this video I’m calling out left or right signals to my NFL athletes Fernando Velasco and Jarius Wynn, in which case they not only have to respond as quickly as possible to my voice, but they have to select the appropriate corresponding side to lift based on my commands without any hesitation. Once they’ve selected the appropriate side to extend (typically match the proper arm side with the command given), they’ll have to stabilize their body, core, and spine, as quickly as possible to lock the movement in and avoid losing their balance.
Perhaps the most difficult quadruped is a variation made famous by the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) Assessment. Developed by Gray Cook and Lee Burton this quadruped drill was designed to represent the most challenging variation of rotary stability and spinal stabilization as a means of exposing any and all forms of imbalances and activation deficits. If you’ve ever witnessed or experienced an FMS assessment you’ll immediately understand how difficult this one can be as less than 10% of high level athletes can actually pass the test. With that said, if you’re a glutton for punishment and looking for a core exercise that many consider impossible, look no further than the reverse ipsilateral quadruped. To add to the insanity, try performing these on a bench in a similar approach as the previous quadruped variations. The difference is that you’ll be lifting the same arm and leg (ipsilateral, i.e. right arm and right leg), rather than the opposite arm and leg (contralateral, i.e. right arm and left leg). This makes the movement feel insanely difficult to balance and control. If you’re a masochist like I am you can also try these eyes closed with a narrow base, positioning yourself widthwise on the bench. Just don’t blame me if you crash and burn.
One quadruped bird dog variation I perform with my athletes to further emphasize shoulder stability is placing their hand on a medicine ball. You’ll want to use an adjustable step box or bench that allows the hands and knees to be at approximately the same height.
Besides forcing the lifter to pack their shoulders and centrate their glenohumeral joint, the instability provided to the upper extremities elicits further disruptions throughout the kinetic chain requiring full body stabilization. Whether you’re an athlete involved in throwing sports, a lifter who needs increased shoulder stability, or an injured athlete looking for an effective rehab exercise to fix both shoulder and low back pain, this ones tough to beat.
One common complaint you’ll often hear individuals make regarding the quadruped bird dog exercise is that they can’t feel their core muscles working to the same degree they typically would on more intense anti-extension exercises such as weighted planks and abdominal rollouts. Although the quadruped is a highly effective rotary stability and core stabilization drill it’s not designed to burn the core to the same extent as other exercises. Instead the goal is to improve stability, alignment, posture, motor control, and other critical components of performance.
However, if you’re looking for a bird dog variation that not only addresses these factors but also satisfies the mindset of those looking to annihilate their core, try performing the quadruped in a stretched or long-lever position. Although it can be performed on the floor, the bench variation makes it substantially more difficult. Besides greatly increasing activation of rotary stability and spinal stabilization muscles, the degree of extension forces placed against the spine requires the entire musculature of the anterior core to fire at near maximal levels. If this one doesn’t annihilate your core, then nothing will.
Here's one of my athletes Ben Lai performing a very tough single arm plank variation on rings. Having the feet elevated increases the difficulty of the lift requiring even more core activation as well as greater anti-extension forces throughout the entire musculature of the core and spinal stabilizers.
Here are a few of my NFL athletes Jarius Wynn and Fernando Velasco prepping for the season.
It’s one thing to produce levels of stability in a very systematic and uniform fashion under highly predictable circumstances. However, athletes need to address other biomotor capabilities that carry a higher degree of specificity to the playing field. Several of these factors I like to address involve reactive stabilization, unpredictable instability, and rate of stabilization development. This variation involves athlete assuming a standard quadruped bird dog position on a bench then tapping them with a variety of angles and forces. This is also known as perturbation training and has been scientifically shown to increase activation of the stabilizers and surrounding core musculature as a means of handling the unpredictable oscillations and body jolts.
Here's one of my clients Taylor performing a heavy plank variation with the feet elevated on a bench. The foot elevated position makes the drill even more challenging as the core has to resists even more extension forces making it a highly effective anti-extension and core stabilization movement.
Another effective and simple method for increasing the overall tension and physiological demands of the quadruped bird dog is to perform it weighted by placing a plate on your mid/low back. Besides providing greater stimulation and overload to the targeted musculature, this variation punishes any twisting or rotational movements as the weight will begin to shift and slide off your back. To keep the plate locked in you’ll be required to produce very smooth motions and resist any rotation or lateral deviations. The bench variation makes this movement even more challenging.