Core Exercise: Side Plank
The side plank is only one of many plank variations. Alignment is vital; when holding, keep your body in one long line. Do not allow your weight to sink. Instead, focus on pushing the hips up toward the ceiling to best engage your abdominal muscles, particularly the obliques.
The side plank trains your obliques very efficiently, and just like the front plank, the side plank is an isometric exercise, which means that the muscles are under the load without changing their length (“iso” means “same”, and “metric” means “length”; isometric literally means same length).
How to Perform Side Plank?
Get down on the ground on your right side. Stack your feet on each other and support yourself on your right elbow (right forearm). Keep your knees straight. Lift your hips up so they are in one line with your feet and shoulders, resembling a plank. Keep your body straight from the above view as well, do not stick your glutes out, or push your chest forward. Place your left hand on the hip. Hold the plank for one minute, and then switch sides.
Lean on your left elbow and forearm in a side-lying position, with your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. Brace your core by contracting your abs forcefully as if you were about to be punched in the gut. Place your right hand on the hip. Hold the position for as long as you can without letting your hips drop, then repeat on the other side.
Side Plank Tips & Key Points
- Your body forms a completely straight line from head to toe with your legs stacked one on top of the other.
- Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders.
- Your right forearm should be on the mat pointing out in front of you with your elbow directly below your right shoulder – so your upper body will be raised off the floor.
- Your left forearm should be on the mat pointing out in front of you with your left elbow directly below your left shoulder – so your upper body will be raised off the floor.
- Engaging your abs, raise your lower body off the mat so that only your right feet and forearm are in contact with the floor.
- Hold the top contraction for one second before you slowly return to the start position.
- Engaging your abs, raise your lower body off the mat so that only your left feet and forearm are in contact with the floor.
- Hold the position for as long as you can and then repeat on the other side.
- Keep the head in-line with the spine throughout this exercise.
- Primary muscles involved: deep abdominal muscles (obliques, transverse abdominis), quadratus lumborum (muscle in the lower back)
- Secondary muscles involved: erector spinae, adductors, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus.
Do It Easier
It is possible to reduce the difficulty of this exercise by bending the knees.
Do It Harder
This exercise can be made harder by balancing additional weight on the hip (weighted side plank).
There are a ton of plank variations that you can try out. Some of them are more intense and require greater strength and dexterity.
- To add variety to the side plank, prop the body up on the hand instead on the elbow.
- To add more difficulty, lift the top leg up, lead with the heel and keep the knee straight (single-leg side plank). Performing the side plank with leg lifts regularly will strengthen your entire core, hips, and the shoulder stabilizing muscles. You can also raise your top arm toward the sky (pointing directly at the ceiling) – which will stretch your chest.
- Side plank with feet on bench
- Side plan with feet on Swiss ball
Side plank is a powerful core strengthened – perhaps the best overall exercise for building powerful obliques. If you core is not sufficiently strong, your body may start shaking after a few seconds of holding the plank position. Do not worry, because the trembling will go away as you get stronger. You should definitely include this exercise to your core workout.