Side planks build up your oblique abdominal muscles, which tend to get overlooked and underworked when you’re doing typical ab exercises. Crunches and pushups don’t work the obliques, so it’s important to have exercises like side planks in your routine that help to round out your workout program.
Building up those obliques will help you to have great core stabilization, ensuring you can do other exercises more easily and preventing injury to your core. Side planks can be included in Pilates, yoga practice, or a core workout routine.
When you’re just starting out trying planks, you may want to build up the necessary balance and strength needed to pull them off. You may struggle to do side planks successfully at first without the necessary muscle development, especially if you don’t typically stay active or work out often. You can use modified side planks or warmup exercises that work your obliques to help build up your body to where side planks become easy to do.
If you’re attempting to do side planks without proper muscle development in key areas, you can injure yourself, experiencing muscle soreness and long recovery times. If you’re not sure if you’re able to do side planks well, then try them out slowly and gingerly at first. See if the exercise feels like it’s stretching your muscles too much and if it’s very difficult for you to do. If it is, you can start with modified side planks and then work your way up to conventional side planks.
How to Do Side Planks for Beginners
Let’s start by showing you how to do the modified side plank, which is considered the beginner version of this exercise. It’s a lot easier than a full side plank, and it’s a good place to start when you’re not used to working out very often and you’re not sure you have the muscle development for doing extensive side planks.
Modified side plank is a good place to start and a great way to work up to where you can do normal side planks. Try these out if the side plan looks too challenging for you. Even the modified side plank is a decent workout, if you’re doing it correctly and keeping the right form.
Start by lying down on the floor or a mat, keeping your shoulders stacked over your hand and your hand laying on the floor. Your lower knee that’s closer to the floor should be bent while the top leg should be straight.
From there, lift your body up and get into a side plank position while your lower knee is allowed to rest on the floor. Engage your abdominals as you do this exercise, and attempt to keep your hips in place, not letting them raise or lower. Once you’ve done the modified side plank motion, you can turn and do the same exercise on the other side. This will target your core, as well as your shoulders and arms.
How to Do Side Planks Correctly
OK, now let’s go step-by-step through side planks. You’ll start by lying down on your right side with both of your legs extended out all the way. Your legs should be stacked on top of each other from your hips to your feet. Your right elbow should be kept under your shoulder and your head should be aligned with your spine. You can align your left arm down your body’s left side.
To start the exercise from this position, get your abdominal muscles engaged, pulling your navel in the direction of your spine. Then, lift your knees and your hips up from the mat as you breathe out. You should keep your midsection in a straight line and ensure that you’re not bending or allowing your body to sag at all. Stay in that position for about 60 seconds. You want to breathe in several times, then inhale and come back to the beginning position. Then, you can change sides and repeat the side plank.
How to do side planks that really make a difference? You need to aim for holding the side plank for sixty seconds. You may not be able to do that at first, but it’s something you can work towards. It’s not a good idea to try to hold the plank for much longer than that. You’re not necessarily going to get much more benefit from it, but it will exhaust you, which is not what we’re aiming for with this exercise. Instead, take a rest every 60 seconds and then switch sides to do side planks on the other side. You can come back to the original side afterwards. So, that way you’re aiming for more reps rather than longer planks.
Don’t Do This
There are some common errors people make when doing side planks, and I want to help you avoid some of those. I’ll show you how to do planks and side planks without making some of the most common mistakes. Keeping the right form is very important, as it helps you avoid injury and ensures that you get the most benefit from this exercise. The right form is essential for ensuring that you engage the proper muscles for the plank and that you don’t get exhausted too quickly.
Rolling forward- It may be tough to keep your position if you’re lacking balance and strength. That’s why I suggest working up to the regular side planks or warming up before you do them. This way, you can build up the necessary muscles and work on your balance. If you’re not keeping your balance, you may find yourself having trouble keeping your legs and hips stacked one on top of the other. You may end up rolling forward as you do the plank, which is not the right way to hold a side plank.
Sagging hips- Your hips can start to sag if you haven’t developed the strength needed for side planks. You’ll have trouble keeping a straight line. Make sure you pay attention to your form, and it can help to watch an instructional video and do side planks with a partner to spot you, or you can do it in front of a mirror. That way, you can catch your mistakes and make improvements to your form, so that you do the side planks properly.
Holding the plank for too long- I talked about this already, but it bears repeating. You may struggle to keep your plank held for more than a few seconds at first. You don’t have to keep holding the plank longer than you feel comfortable doing so. If you feel that you’re rolling one way or another or you’re struggling to keep your balance, you need to end the plank. If you feel yourself sagging, it’s time to put a stop to the plank so that you don’t hurt yourself or fall out of position. Keep an eye on your form to make sure you’re keeping it straight and in line the entire time.
If your body line starting to crumble, then it’s okay to end the plank early. You will be able to work up to the full 60 seconds later on if you keep practicing. As you build up the oblique abdominal muscles and you practice the side planks, you will gain the strength and balance necessary to do side planks for long periods of time. You’ll be able to do multiple reps in a single sitting without feeling exhausted, but if you start to feel fatigued as you do the plank, you need to take a rest. Otherwise, you could injure yourself.