Side Plank

A popular variation of the standard plank that particularly targets the obliques ("side abs").

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  • Main muscles worked: Core, including obliques (side abs)
  • Other muscles: Shoulders, glutes, hips
  • Exercise type: Isometric, unilateral
  • Equipment: None

Benefits of Side Planks

Side planks are a variation of regular forearm planks, an isometric exercise that primarily targets the core muscles, as well as working the shoulders, glutes, and hips.

The side plank is also a core strengthening exercise, but works the oblique muscles more than traditional planks.1 The obliques are the muscles that run along the sides of your core and are sometimes called “side abs”. The oblique muscles help to rotate and flex the trunk, and play a role in stabilizing the body and protecting the lower back. Side planks also strengthen a muscle called the quadratus lumborum, which plays an important role in stabilizing the spine.23

Side planks are a unilateral exercise, working one side of the body at a time, which means it can address strength imbalances between the right and left side of the body. It is performed balancing only on one arm, and helps to improve balance and coordination.

How to Do
Side Planks

Illustration of a woman doing a side plank.

Perform on an exercise mat for comfort. Have a watch in plain view so you can keep track of how long you’re planking or have left to go.

  • Lie on your side with your feet stacked on top of each other. Rest your forearm on the ground so it is perpendicular to your body, with your elbow bent 90 degrees and under your shoulder. Straighten your legs.
  • Engage your core and raise your hips off the ground so your weight is supported on your arm and the side of your lower foot. Your body should form a straight line from your feet to your head. Place your top hand on your hip.
  • Hold this position for the specified time without letting your hips drop.
  • Change sides and repeat on the other side.

Breath: Remember to breathe throughout the exercise.

Speak to your doctor or physical therapist if you have problems with your shoulders, arms, back, or elbows, or another issue that prevents you from doing side planks safely and with good form. They might advise you to modify or avoid this exercise.

Variation: To make this exercise easier you can bend your knees, so that you are supported on your forearm and knees, and form a straight line from your knees to your head.4

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