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The Exercise You Should Be Doing: Plank Shoulder-Touch

Just wanted to throw it out there that last night, despite my hockey team’s (now) 3-0 record, I scored a goal. Flat out sniped it bar-south from the point (aka clapped it on the ice and it somehow made it through everyone without the keeper seeing it).

Slap shots, much like golf swings, require great core stability so that the shooter can effectively transfer power from the legs, through the arms, to the stick/club.

The job of the core is not to crunch your abs into oblivion. The job of the core is to stabilize the midsection of the body in the frontal, sagittal, and transverse planes while the hips, thoracic spine, arms, and legs apply force to objects.

Learning to stabilize the core is important because it will A) save your spine and B) allow you to be a bad-ass and regularly pick up small cars effortlessly, among other reasons.

Core stability is the only thing holding you back from this.

An exercise that I’ve been in love with lately is the plank shoulder-touch. It’s a great plank progression for a couple of reasons.

  1. It involves rotational stability as well as anti-extension.
  2. It involves greater shoulder stability as the weight is shifted onto one shoulder at a time.

Where To Start

Before you start touching your shoulders all over the place, you need to have a solid amount of anti-extension strength, as well as reflexive core stability.

Start with prone planks. Real planks with a posterior pelvic tilt. None of this arched-back crap.

If you’re concerned about your plank form, ask a trainer. Don’t Google Image search it like I just did because it will not help.

Oh no! PPT’s going to reveal my lack of glutes!

The next exercise I think should be mastered is the bird-dog. Again, don’t Google Image Search this either because you’ll get A) puppies or B) a bunch of terrible looking excuses for the bird-dog exercise.

Start by moving one leg at a time, keeping both hands on the ground, and contracting the glutes hard. If your lower back arches, you’re doing it wrong.

If you stabilize correctly, you should feel you weight shift onto your same-side hand, freeing up the other hand to complete a bird-dog progression.

The Plank Shoulder-Touch

The plank shoulder-touch is, in my opinion, a progression from the plank, rotary stability FMS test, and bird-dog, all at the same time. Start in a plank position with the feet spread, as wide as you like initially. A wider stance makes the exercise easier.

One hand at a time, touch the opposite shoulder while keeping the hips and torso still. Like the bird-dog, you should feel your weight shift onto the same-side extremity. In this case, it will be your foot.

Try this for reps on each side, making sure to control the moving arm, not letting it slap back down on the ground each time. If you cannot do this, make sure you’re mastered a solid plank and bird-dog first.

Plank shoulder-touch with a shoulder-width stance.

Progressions

1. There are a few ways to progress the plank shoulder-touch. The first is to make the lever longer.

By flexing the shoulder and starting with your arms at an angle greater than 90 degrees relative to your torso, the plank becomes harder and the plank-shoulder touch demands more in the way of anti-extension.

2. The next option for progressing the plank shoulder-touch is to bring the feet closer together.

As noted earlier, a wider stance provides a wider base of support and make the exercise easier. Therefore, a narrower stance will increase the difficulty, demanding more from the core in the way of rotary stability.

3. The last option I’ll list (and my personal favorite) is to do plank shoulder-touch isometric holds.

Much like a 3-10 second rep set of pallof presses, you can hold the shoulder-touch for 10 seconds. Try this for 3-10 second reps with each arm. This definitely challenges shoulder stability, as well as rotary and anti-extension strength.

Conclusion

The core was built for more than just showing off your six-pack at the beach.

Rotational stability is, as I’ve found, the most overlooked piece of core stability. Although planks and side planks are easy to do, rotational movements often require a cable machine to provide resistance in the transverse plane. However, these plank shoulder-touches are a great way to add some additional rotational work to your program, even if you work out at home.

Happy hump day.

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