The sideplank is one of Stewart McGill's Big 3 exercises, along with the modified curl up and the bird dog. The sideplank roll to plank to opposite sideplank is one of the McGill's most advanced progressions of the sideblank, and MAN IS IT HARD. I can barely do the exercise PROPERLY with a completely neutral spine throughout, and I am fatigued after just 3-4 rolls.
The goal of the roll is the maintain an COMPLETELY STABLE AND NEUTRAL SPINE THROUGHOUT. The rolling motion should occur STRICTLY FROM THE HIPS AND SHOULDERS, and there should be absolutely NO SPINAL TWISTING. Mind you, this is extremely hard to do!
In a study by McGill and Karpowics in 2009, they looked at this exercise performed under the guidance of a normal clinician, and then an expert clinician (my guess it's McGill himself lol). They wanted to see if muscle activation patterns could be improved by fine-tuning exercise technique as a result of verbal and manual cueing. With this particular exercise, they found that clinician correction significantly increased activity in both obliques and the latissimus dorsi (18% to 35% MVIC in lats). Even more importantly, torso twisting was reduced from 11 degrees to 4 degrees with corrected instruction. The main verbal cue they used was to emphasize "locking the ribcage to the pelvis" to eliminate spinal twist. The decrease in spinal twist is HUGE, because often times its those little MICROMOVEMENTS that’s the difference between doing an exercise PAIN FREE vs HAVING PAIN.
This goes to show that a MOVEMENT EXPERT can facilitate not only greater muscle activity, but potentially ELIMINATE pain during exercises. Like all of our posts, if you're going to exercise, do it right!
Citation: McGill and Karpowicz 2009 Exercise for Spine Stabilization.