Advanced Rotary Stability Plank Progressions

The rotary stability plank is one of my go to Functional Stability Training exercises to start training the core to stabilize in multiple planes of motion.  The rotary stability plank requires the body to stabilize with anti-extension movement while preventing core rotation.  This is a critical component of core stability that I often use as a criteria to achieve before I begin exercises such as chops and lifts.  If you haven’t already, go back and read my past post on the rotary stability plank.

One of the key features of the rotary stability plank is training the hips and the trunk to lock in and stabilize the core together.  Stuart McGill teaches a much more advanced exercise that works on preventing disassociation of the hips and trunk when transitioning from a front plank to a side plank.  Here is a great example of this exercise from Phillip Snell:

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Phillip does an outstanding job at stabilizing his core and keeping his hips and trunk locked in together.  This is truly a great example.  However, this is really difficult to perform, especially for those new to the movement and core training.

I use the rotary stability plank to prepare the body for more advanced exercises like that plank transition.  Once you can master the rotary stability plank by itself, there are two more progressions that I will advance towards to help train the hips and core to stabilize together.

The first exercise involves transitioning from a front plank to a side plank against the wall.  This is similar to the video above by Phillip, and also recommended by Stuart McGill.  By using the wall, you make the exercise much easier than on the ground.  More importantly, notice how I incorporate the rotary stability plank into the exercise before I rotate my body:

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By performing the rotary stability plank and then transitioning from front plank to side plank, you assure that your body is stabilized.  Notice how my forearm comes off the wall first to the stabilize my core and really lock in my hips and trunk?

This exercise can then be progressed to a table top, bench, and then finally the ground.  In the example below, I demonstrate a really bad example of how to perform the rotation movement by disassociating my hips and core.  This is poor movement quality but unfortunately commonly performed.  Again, you can maximize your core stability by performing the rotary stability plank first and then perform the rotational movement.

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These progressions are a great example of how to strip down an exercise to maximize movement quality while minimizing compensatory movements.  This is one of the fundamental principles that Eric Cressey and I discuss in our Functional Stability Training for the Core program.  For more information, please visit

Functional Stability Training for the Core




Rotary Stability Planks

Rotary Stability PlanksI recently started incorporating a new exercise into my core stability programs that I call rotary stability planks.  The concept is really simple.  If you are familiar with Stuart McGill, you have probably seen him advocate using an exercise that involves rotating your body from the front plank to the side plank position.  The purpose is to train the body to stabilize the spine and rotate hips and trunk together as one segment rather than allow for unwanted rotary mobility.

As with many core exercises, I often see this exercise performed poorly.  What tends to happen is that people try to advance to this pretty challenging exercise way too early and before they can properly stabilize.  The results is a poorly performed exercise that actually reinforces poor compensatory movements.  This trend in getting too advanced with core training before your patient or client is ready is something I discussed in length in my new program with Eric Cressey, Functional Stability Training of the Core.


Rotary Stability Plank

The rotary stability plank is the exercise I start to use first when I want to progress the standard plank exercises to incorporate a rotary component.

Most athletic people will need to enhance their rotary stability.  If you are a FMS fan, this is a great way to enhance rotary stability to improve your scores.  This exercise is also the first I will perform before integrating more advanced rotary core exercises such as med ball throws, chops, and lifts.  If they can’t do this, they have no business performing more advanced exercises.

How to Perform the Rotary Stability Plank

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Here are some simple instructions to get you started:

  • Begin by facing a wall with your feet shoulder width apart.  The distance you are away from the wall will increase the challenge, so start closer to the wall and progress back as you master the exercise
  • Assume a standard fron plank position with you forearms on the wall in front of you.  I usually try to have my shoulders fairly perpendicular to the wall, so my hands are pretty close to eye level.
  • Begin by performing a standard plank, keeping your body in line.  Try to avoid flexing at your hips or hyperextending your spine.  You are trying to be in neutral spine.
  • After a few seconds of stabilizing a standard front plank, slowly raise one forearm off the wall without allowing your body to rotate or your hips to hike.  You only need to take your weight off the wall on that side, it isn’t a big movement.
  • The goal is to keep your body stable while avoiding rotation.

Notice that I start this exercise on the wall.  This reduces the difficulty and gravitational component of the drill.  The focus should be on performing the exercise well, and then progressing to more challenging positions like standing leaning on a table edge or on the ground.

[box]If you remember one thing from our Functional Stability Training of the Core program, it is simply that movement quality is by far the most important component of core training.[/box]

For more information on our Functional Stability Training of the Core program, check out

Functional Stability Training of the Core


Side Plank Clam and Side Plank Hip Abduction Exercises

side plank clam shellThere is no doubt that the core and pelvis intricately work together to produce spine and pelvic mobility and stability.  Most of us tend to focus on both core stabilization and hip mobility and strength separately, at least initially in the program.   But we should also consider working them simultaneously.

In this model, I tend to emphasize exercises that require core stability and hip strengthening exercises.  This is a major concept in what I have always referred to as Functional Stability Training (get ready, you are going to be hearing that a lot more from me in the next several months).  Many of the basic exercises we already routinely perform achieve this goal, even if indirectly.  Bird dogs and bridges come to mind, for example.  Both exercises require core stabilization while performing hip movements, although fairly basic in regard to challenge.


Side Plank Hip Abduction Exercise

Recently I have seen the incorporation of side planks and hip abduction on various websites around the web.  That is a great example of the type of Functional Stability Training i am referring to here, simple stated:

[box]Train the core to stabilize while simultaneously incorporating hip mobility and strengthening exercises[/box]

Performing side lying hip abduction from a side plank position achieves this well.  However, I should note that I see many people recommending that we perform this up against a wall.  By doing this, you essentially are putting training wheels on the exercise and using the wall to help perform the side plank and abduction movements with proper form.  To me, if you need the wall, you are not ready for the exercise.

This simultaneous incorporation of spine stability and hip mobility is not a beginner exercise.  One should be able to perform each exercise perfectly as individual exercises prior to performing them together.


Side Plank Clam Shell Exercise

In addition to the side plank and hip abduction exercise, I also often perform a side plank and clam shell exercise.  I have talked about the many benefits of the hip clam shell exercise and why I think it is so important to include in our programs.  This is the next progression of the exercise in my mind, but in order to perform it well, you need to master both the clam shell exercise and the side plank exercise.


Video of the Side Plank with Hip Clam Shell and Abduction

Here is a video demonstration of the side plank with hip clam shells and with hip abduction exercises:

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Here is another view of the side plank with clam shell exercise from my friend Masai Takahashi, who showed me how he likes to incorporate the clam shell into his side planks.  He is pretty advanced and includes a resistance band around his knees:

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A few things to notice in the video:

  • The clam shell exercise is performed while performing the side plank from the knees, making this one a little easier at first and probably a good place to start.  Not that when performing the side plank from the knees, you need to make sure your hips move forward and your body is in alignment, as Masai demonstrates well.
  • The hip abduction exercise is performed with the legs straight.
  • The most important aspect of these exercises is maintaining core stability.  Your body should perform the plank and be able to keep the core stabilized.  If you can’t keep your form during the plank, you shouldn’t progress to include hip movements.
  • The second most important aspect is to assure you are using good hip form without compensating by rotating or losing core stability.
  • These exercises can be progressed by added weight or resistance bands around the legs


Remember, these exercises are not for beginners.  They require pristine form on both the side plank and hip exercises individually.  This is a key component to Functional Stability Training:

[box]If you can not perform these exercises individually, you should not progress to perform them simultaneously.[/box]

Try the side plank exercise with hip clam shells and hip abduction exercises, I think you’ll be surprised at how challenging this is for both core stability and hip strengthening.


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