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Exercise of the Week: Side Bridge Rows

Written on March 21, 2013 at 7:19 am, by Eric Cressey

Check out this week’s exercise of the week: the side bridge row.  I think you’ll find it to be a great progression you can add to your strength training programs.

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  • Shane

    Nice. Thanks for the cues. Do this exercise quite a bit. Now i can do it right!

  • http://www.dieselcrew.com Jedd Johnson

    Nice one, Eric.

  • http://blog.thebaseballzone.ca Mike

    This is a very interesting “bang for the buck” exercise that I haven’t seen combined this way before, so thanks.

    I do have one question – this is the third video I have seen recently where you are careful to not have the elbow go past neutral and you do explain well as to why. However in the scapular load phase of the delivery the elbows do go far past neutral. So is it your belief that pitchers (well, all throwers) go past neutral so much in their actual throwing programs and competition that they don’t need to train past neutral? Or do you have other exercises that you believe are better choices to go past neutral?

    Thanks for your time.

  • Evan

    I really don’t understand the necessity to combine a side plank with a cable row. Is the point of this exercise just to add dynamic instability to the plank to make the side plank itself more effective? Does the athlete benefit from the row in any other way? Why do core training at all when subjects that squat and deadlift regularly have shown to have extremely strong cores already? Wouldn’t training time be better spent elsewhere?

    Sorry for the rapid fire questions… Just curious!!! New to training.

  • http://nccpt.com John Platero

    The knee is predomanately a hinge joint. Now you have the knee locked at 90 degrees to gravity.
    No human would ever sustain their entire body on the edge of their foot for any length of time for any reason. If the knee is never really in this position
    in regards to gravity, it tends to reason it’s strength wouldn’t be that great in that position. Why would it be if no human would ever do it? Prior to 2000 or 20003 I had never seen a side plank.

  • Joan

    My first thought when I saw this exercise, was that this looks like something circus performers would do in preparation for a show.

  • Evan

    Also… Sorry again… Wouldn’t this detract from the effectiveness of an actual cable row? You really like to incorporate a lot of instability in to your rows. Is this because it’s easier to see form errors and correct them? Does the benefit of using instability such as a standing cable row, which will inherently detract from the ability to use heavier weights, to see & prevent humeral glide outweigh the benefits an athlete might gain from using a more stable row such as a pendlay row or Kroc row with heavier weights?

    Anyways thanks. Just curious.

  • Douglas

    Agree with others… not sure what the real value of this exercise is, and it feels like adding a side plank would take away from the real value of the cable row. I think either separately are great exercises (except side plank should be on the hand, not the elbow, and cable row would probably be seated… although really, I prefer barbell rows.)

  • http://www.sportscare1.com Scott Gunter ATC, CSCS

    Excellent cross-benefit exercise that would be highly effective for in-season maintenance.

    Evan: While squats and deadlifts require (and can develop) a strong anterior/posterior core to stabilize the the spine these are primarily addressing vertebral flexion/extension stability as opposed to rotary stability. Control and appropriate execution of one’s rotation is vital for athletes depending on the mechanics of the sport and external factors they may encounter. How often are you playing a sport where your feet are shoulder width apart and performing a crunch in one plane? Its part of a program balancing component that improves functional outcomes.

    In regards to decreased effectivity of the row, Eric made a good point saying this exercise makes a great IN-season addition. While your athlete’s are in-season the primary goals are maintenance and injury prevention. With a maintenance program you aren’t aiming for extremely heavy loads and your time is a little more limited with the team. Incorporating multiplanar or exercises that train both core and a prime mover hit multiple goals in a shorter amount of time and help prevent overtraining a specific area.

    -SG

  • http://www.sportscare1.com Scott Gunter ATC, CSCS

    John: If you’re referring to lateral stability of the knee, we may not be performing side planks on the court as we take a ball to the rim or laying down on the turf in this form before scoring the game-winning goal but but similar stresses are applied to these stabilizing ligaments every time you change direction laterally or push from one side to the other (and even to some extent during a linear run). Here is a good image to show the ligaments we are discussing:
    http://www.pilatesismylifestyle.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/knee_joint1.jpg

    The LCL resists varus forces or joint opening on the outside. While you would have someone with an acute LCL injury perform a side plank right away
    introducing these stresses in a controlled or static environment prior to uncontrolled and more severe varus forces on the field can help prepare the body for such forces and respond to it appropriately.

    In regards to foot positioning, keeping your feet in a neutral position could, to a small extent, work your peroneals on the outside of your lower leg, which contract to slow the inversion motion caused with a typical inversion ankle sprain.

  • http://www.sportscare1.com Scott Gunter ATC, CSCS

    Correction:
    while you “WOULDN’T” have someone with an acute LCL injury perform side planks right away…

  • http://www.dannymclarty.com Danny McLarty

    Evan,

    The purpose of performing this exercise is different than performing Kroc rows, DB rows, etc. This exercise is done to work on rotary stability and scapular stability as opposed to strengthen the lats/rhomboids.

  • Jim Jacobson

    Can you use a lot of weight with this exercise, it looks as if you couldn’t because you would not be able to one, hold the position, and two, fall over because of balance.

    Would love to hear your answer,

    Jimmyj

  • Derrick Blanton

    @John Platero: Concur.
    @ Scott Gunter: I see your point, but I’m not sure side planks are the best technique to training lateral stability of the knee.
    @Danny McClarty: Agree. The point is to work rotary stability and scapular stability. There will be no strengthening going on with this high of a balance component.

    If I could toss out an exercise that I learned from Bret Contreras, (I added the contralateral shoulder fly motion, in effect trying to train the same variables as this exercise). although one of his readers asserted that Dr. Evan Osar also came up with it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS43bpE04Fg

    Here’s the thing: If you load it appropriately as demonstrated, you will challenge the anti-rotational lateral musculature of the core in a dynamic fashion, and crush the contralateral hip. The knee is bent to shift the lateral stability focus to the hip where in my view it belongs. This is where the real knee protection is primarily going to come from, not from ligaments at the knee.

    Anyway, EC is the best, and I give him credit for always being innovative and thoughtful in his exercise developments. Just share some of the curiosity previously voiced on this particular exercise. I like discussions like this and learn a lot from contributors, and Eric. Thanks, DB.

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    Jim,

    You won’t load it like crazy, but it really isn’t the intention of it. It’s about training multiple qualities simultaneously.

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    Douglas,

    I guess we’ll respectfully disagree. ;)

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    Mike,

    Two things…

    1. That position is one reason why they may have loose anterior capsules. One more reason inverted W is of concern (great stretch on inferior glenohumeral ligament)

    2. More importantly, good scap load should actually be a combination of thoracic rotation with scapular retraction. The humerus doesn’t go past neutral, in an ideal world. Rather, the ball stays centered in the socket regardless.

  • Randy

    Good way to dynamically work on core stability. Could also perform a Hip abduction staic hold. I’ve also done this with crown of the head facing the cable attachment (with the arm moved a bit higher) and done a unilateral lat pulldown. It’s about thinking outside the box. .

  • Bob

    I cannot wait for some dude to ask me what part of the bicep this works while I am sprawled out on the floor during rush hour at LA Fitness.

    At least it doesn’t look as awkward as the pull-through.

    Seriously though, thanks Eric!

  • http://Www.sportscare1.com Scott Gunter

    @Derrick Couldn’t agree more, Great contribution. This is not an exercise id use specifically to train lateral knee stability. My point was that I haven’t come across research or clinical findings showing that side planks with knees bent or straight have a negative affect on the healthy knee. If they are straight however it actually increases the lever arm of the resistance (physics 110) and may put a greater load on the hip abductors. You’re definately correct in pointing out the role of these muscles in knee stability. Without control at the hip and to a lesser extent the ankle (above and below), there would be excessive valgus, varus, and rotational torques about the knee with landing mechanics that make any AT or Coach cringe and prepare for the worst. The best exercises for improving such stability would emphasize a more dynamic approach with plyometrics, agility drills including controlled cutting and rotation, and landing mechanics as often seen in many ACL or Lower Extremity injury prevention programs.

    -SG

  • http://www.movepainfree.com.au Steve.B

    Thank’s Eric yea I’m a big fan of these a lot of bang for your buck so to speak! I use them as phase 4 or inseason for athlete’s as well.

  • Derrick Blanton

    @Scott Gunter: Excellent ideas and discussion! Good stuff. And your lateral knee protocol is precisely what I was envisioning as well.

    RE: the side plank rationale: I agree that lengthening the lever (plank) increases the torque at the side hip, yes, simple physics. However, the two factors that overcome that deficit right quick with the “clam plank” are:

    1. Loading (as necessary), and

    2. Taking the hip through a full dynamic abduction and external rotation. This is far more challenging, (and fun!) than holding a locked out, static pose. Do 3 sets of 12 with appropriate load, and for the next few days you will be intimately aware of your lateral hip musculature!

    If you prefer to perform the exercise statically, just hold the top postion as an elevated plank. Brutal, and will immediately eliminate any question about which position is challenging the lateral hip more intensely. Loading the movement also greatly increases the challenge to the obliques, QL, et. al.

    This is one of the other issues that I have with a side plank; once you can hold it more than 45-60 seconds, your strength benefits are diminishing rapidly.

    The muscles of the hip and obliques will get stronger and more durable, and then perhaps, the less adaptable ligaments of the knee will start to become the weak link. If you do start loading the side plank heavy, the lateral knee may start to complain, as John Platero alluded to above. While it may not be out and out injurious, it may be at the very least, irritating to the lateral knee with progressively limited benefits.

    Certainly, all exercises have certain risks and benefits, so hopefully I don’t come off as too “anti-plank”. Just think for long haul benefits, there may be some more effective routes to travel.

    As always, I remain open to differing points of view! Thanks Scott for the thoughtful discussion. DB

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    Thanks, Steve!

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    There you go, Randy. I probably wouldn’t progress it that far, but that’s not to say that one couldn’t do it.

  • abdii

    Eric what do you think about isometric holds of this exercise at the end of an upper workout that already has 6-8 sets of dynamic rowing motion ?

    thanks

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    Abdil,

    Certainly “doable.”

  • http://blog.thebaseballzone.ca Mike

    Eric,

    Thanks for your reply.

    Whether a guy loads with an inverted W or a presumed healthier actual W, let’s call it, it seems to me that they are all still taking the humerus past neutral (i.e. guys like Maddux, Unit, Clemens as big name examples of the “healthier” scap load). I acknowledge that some of what looks like the arm going past neutral is indeed thoracic rotation, but it still seems to me that the humerus is going past neutral. Perhaps it is my misunderstanding of where you are considering neutral to be.

    Thanks again for your time and response.


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