The title is brutally simple, but it’s really true. Of all the abdominal exercises that most people do on a regular basis, the plyometric lateral flexion is probably the dumbest.
Many people will want to strengthen the external obliques and psoas with this exercise, but few will wonder if it is a good idea for long-term training. Do we really need to work on these parts again? Is it really safe from a functional point of view?
Unless a functional screening reveals that the member has some limitation of lateral flexion, but if you don’t have that problem, then in the vast majority of cases you don’t need to do it, much less practice it, either from a functional standpoint or from the standpoint of the abdominal muscles you want to build.
First of all, let’s analyze why we don’t need to do it from the anatomical function point of view. The psoas is more of a stabilizing muscle, so it’s more suitable to use isometric contractions when training, and there’s no need to do too many centrifugal and centripetal contractions. The above point is from a muscular point of view, and from an articular functional point of view, the entire spine of our body, except for the cervical spine, the lumbar spine and the thoracic spine are not very good at doing lateral flexion, because the movement angle of the upper and lower articular processes of the lumbar spine is almost in the sagittal plane, which means that they are more suitable for forward and backward flexion and extension, and less suitable for coronal plane activities, not only lateral flexion, but also many movements involving lumbar spine rotation. We are extra careful.
Many people train weighted lateral flexion, because the ability to carry a load is generally good, so the weight used is not light, and the number of training will often be very high, easily do a dozen or more times or even more are common, and this constantly with a certain amount of weight repeatedly squeeze the intervertebral discs, which is very risky behavior, no matter for the spinal nerves, for the intervertebral discs, for the deep small muscles.
Thirdly, in the whole dynamic chain of the human body, the thoracic spine is more responsible for flexibility, while the lumbar spine is responsible for stability, which is a basic thing that many trainers know, and many people are actually moving their lumbar spine when they do standing lateral flexion, but you need more core stability improvement to ensure the ability to keep the torso from deforming during different movements and activities.
From this perspective, I would recommend that you do unilateral stabilization exercises to work on your lumbar stability and core resistance to lateral flexion, such as unilateral dumbbell farmer’s walks, unilateral dumbbell bench presses, and unilateral dumbbell overhead supports, trying to keep your body in a neutral position, keep your trunk stable, tighten your core, and don’t lean toward the weighted side.
The other reason why many people train weighted body lateral flexion is because they want to work on their abdominal obliques and get a thinner waist and a better look, but in fact, the most direct result of too much abdominal oblique training is muscle hypertrophy in the lateral abdomen, which affects your visual waistline.
(Of course, if you have a very small, well-proportioned waist and abdomen and want to have some proper side abdominal lines, then the external obliques still need to be trained, but if you want to reduce the absolute circumference of your waist, then you really shouldn't.)
If you must do it, there are many forms of bodyweight lateral flexion that you can choose from, the most common being with dumbbell barbell pieces, but you can also use elastic bands or ropes to perform it, which are relatively better than dumbbell barbell pieces.
What we don’t see is how their overall training is structured and how they are compensated for it. If you are an average fitness enthusiast, if you want to make your waist and stomach look better, if you want better training safety, then the deadlift is a move you should give up, you have many better options.