The Dumbbell Row Side Planks That Will Make Your Abs Sore as Hell


SIDE PLANKS are tough, and for good reason. The static move tests total body strength and balance. At first, the torso tips front and back, feet won’t stay stacked, and abs vibrate under the tension. When side planks become easy, up the ante to do dumbbell row side planks. “Adding a dumbbell row creates resistance that puts more pressure on legs, obliques, and shoulders,” says Kameron Johnson, a trainer at Life Time in Minneapolis. “If form isn’t compromised, it makes you stronger, improves posture, and trains balance.”

The plank variation has tons of applications. Lifts like front squats and back squats require shoulder mobility, core strength, and leg stability. All those come from this move. It may help you knock out more pullups, swim speedier laps, and put more power behind your punch on a heavy bag.

To ensure proper form and balance for the move, start by doing forearm side planks with abductions (Lift the top leg as high as it will go without raising hips, then drop leg without hips lowering.) Then, when you’re ready, grab a light weight, 10 or 15 pounds. Start in a left-hand side plank, weight in your right hand. Draw your elbow behind the rib cage, then reverse it for 1 rep. Do all reps on left side, then switch sides. Start with 2 sets of 10 reps per side. If you can get up to 3 sets of 12 reps without compromising form—hips high, a straight line between head and feet—up the weight.

As you get stronger, focus on minimizing movement in your body. Only your arm and shoulder should move. Though it’s OK if your abs vibrate like crazy.


A Long Engagement

Keep shoulders engaged for the whole move. And don’t let the active shoulder roll forward at the bottom of the row. The weight doesn’t need to hit the floor during each rep.

Strength in Numbers

Some people find one side is tougher than the other, which points to a strength imbalance. Start on your weak side so you have the most juice to complete the reps with good form.

Hip Thrusts

If your hip pops toward the ceiling with every row, the weight is too heavy; swap out for a lighter dumbbell.

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