The act of moving your arm away from the midline of the body, or shoulder abduction, serves to stabilize the rotator cuff and strengthen the shoulder joint structure, building your deltoids while increasing your range of motion.
Common abductions include jumping jacks and the lateral dumbbell raise.
Vasisthasana, also known as the side-plank, is an advanced pose promoting strength and balance and targeting the obliques, abs, quads, and glutes while stabilizing your core.
Merging the two together forms a dynamic total body compound exercise.
Origins of Vasisthasana (side plank)
Vasistha was Lord Brahma’s first ‘mind-born son’ and creator of Jnana yoga. Brahma represents the creative aspect of the Hindu trinity. Brahma told him at an early age, “You are not the body and mind; you are infinite. You are not bound; your nature is limitless. Thou art that.”
This spurned a lifelong quest for young Vasistha to seek truth and knowledge of the infinite universe. It’s a long story, but essentially he believed the secrets of the universe could be unlocked by sustaining difficult bodily poses while meditating. The side-plank was originally invented as a way to achieve spiritual enlightenment.
How to Perform the Side-Plank with Shoulder Abduction
This exercise can be done with or without the use of a dumbbell of your desired weight.
Step 1: Lie on your side on the floor, supporting your bodyweight on only your forearm and the side of your foot, with your shoulder directly above your forearm. Engage your core to maintain a straight diagonal line throughout the body.
Step 2: Extend your top arm (with or without a dumbbell in the hand) straight out from your shoulder, parallel to the floor and lower it to the mat. This is your starting position.
Step 3: Inhale as you raise your arm straight to the ceiling in a controlled and fluid motion.
Step 4: Lower your arm slowly back to the floor as you exhale.
Step 5: Repeat the process for the desired number of reps.
The many benefits of the side-plank with shoulder abduction include:
- Increased range of motion
- Stabilization and strengthening of the core
- Stabilization of the rotator cuff
- Strengthened shoulder joint structure
- Lengthening, stabilization, and straightening of the spine
- Improved balance and control
- Strengthened arms and wrists
- Improved concentration
- Enlightened mind (maybe?)
There are five main alternative versions to the side-plank with shoulder abduction. Try them all!
- Side-Plank: This is good for those who want the benefits of this strengthening and balancing pose, but don’t need the extra shoulder work.
- Bent-Knee Side-Plank: If the standard side plank proves to difficult for you to master, start with your bottom knee bent at a 45-degree angle to provide extra support and balance.
- Elevated Side-Plank with Shoulder Abduction: Once you’ve mastered the move resting on your forearm, try it with your bottom arm extended, palm to the floor for a greater challenge.
- Side-Plank with Hip Abduction: If your hips need more stabilization, this variation may be better for you. You can also alternate between the hip and shoulder.
- Side-Plank with Leg Lift: When you need additional leg-work, this is a great way to incorporate it into your planks. Try a combo shoulder abduction-leg lift for an added challenge.
Plank your Way to Stronger Shoulders
Strong shoulders are paramount to most upper body strength training techniques, but isolating them by doing straight shoulder abductions can seem like a waste of time. Similarly, though we love targeting those hard to reach obliques, the stagnant pose feels boring.
Putting the two moves together kills two birds with one stone, making the exercise exponentially more dynamic, challenging, and worthwhile.
Plus, you may just find your path to enlightenment.