How To Properly Do Side Planks + Tips, Modifications & More
You'll be sure to work your entire low body, core, and arms and shoulders, with the added benefit of focusing on your side body. And while a side plank can be a bit tougher than your standard plank, there are simple modifications to make it a bit easier (or harder, if that's your thing). Here's how to do them.
How to do side planks:
- Come into plank pose, or a high pushup, with legs extended straight back and shoulders, elbows, and wrists in a straight line.
- Draw your belly up and in toward your spine. Engage the point where your hamstrings meet your glutes, keeping legs active.
- Begin shifting the weight into your right arm. Release the left arm and bring it up, as you tilt your body so hips and shoulders are stacked over each other and the arms form one straight line.
- From here, the left foot will rest on top of the right. Keep pushing the hips up, avoiding sinking into the bottom hip. Engage the obliques. Gaze up past your left fingertips.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds.
- Come back through center, and repeat on the opposite side.
When doing side planks (and any kind of plank, for that matter), it's super important to keep the hips lifted and core engaged, both to work your muscles properly and get the most benefit but also to protect your lower back.
Additionally, you'll want to keep your tailbone slightly tucked forward, which will keep your glutes active and ensure better form. Keep everything active as you hold the side plank.
If necessary, you can come to your knee on the bottom leg to make this move a bit easier. You can also do side planks on the forearms, instead of the hands—this is a great modification if you have any wrist issues or simply prefer them that way.
If you want to kick your side planks up a notch, incorporating weights is a simple way to add more of a challenge and emphasize your arm strength.
Weighted side planks
- Find a side plank on your elbow, keeping the body tight from your feet to your shoulders.
- For the arm on the floor, press your elbow down toward your hips to create stability.
- With a dumbbell in your free hand, lower weight to tap the floor and raise back up to the sky.
- Resist the temptation to allow the hips to rotate toward the sky or the hips to push backward.
- Continue for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Plank hip dips to side plank
- Come into a forearm plank position, engaging your core while pressing your forearms and hands into the mat.
- With control, dip your hips to one side, then use your obliques to bring you back to the starting position. Complete this movement on the other side. Then repeat once more on each side (four dips total).
- On the fourth hip dip, press into one forearm, then peel the opposite arm toward the sky, coming into a side plank. Hold for a breath, then repeat on the other side.
Side plank crunch
- Start in a side plank position, with your right hand on the mat and right shoulder stacked over your wrist. Stagger your feet so your left foot is in front of your right on the mat.
- Bend your left arm and place your left hand behind your head.
- Twisting at your torso, bring your left elbow and right knee together in front of your body. Return to start.
Side plank pull
- Come into a side plank on your right side. Press your right elbow and forearm into the mat, stacking your right shoulder over your elbow.
- Stretch your left arm overhead, then engage your back as you bend your elbow and pull your arm to the side of your body. Return to start.
- Hold your plank and continue your pull for 30 seconds. Then repeat on the opposite side.
Side plank with lifted leg
- Beginning in a high plank, come into your side plank.
- Bend your top leg toward your torso and grab your big toe with your index and middle finger.
- Extend the knee and send your leg up.
- Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and release by coming back into plank.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
Routines to try:
The bottom line is, with so many modifications, variations, and benefits, side planks ought to have a place in nearly every workout routine.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.