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Performing the Side Plank Exercise

written by: kitchenella • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 3/15/2011

The Side Plank is a single static position that works your entire body from head to toe. The emphasis is on your shoulders and core, but your biceps, glutes and legs provide strong support and reap the toning benefits as well.

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    Plank to the Side

    At it’s core, the side plank is a very simple yoga pose that has burst its way into mainstream exercise because of its middle-whittling power. The side plank uses all of your muscles from head to toe in varying degrees, and mastery of the move demonstrates strength and athletic prowess indeed.

    1. Begin in plank position, which is basically the top of a push up. The only parts of you that should touch the floor are the palms of your hands and your toes. Your body should form a straight line, with no arching or sagging in the middle.

    2. Shift your weight to the left, and roll your body in that direction until you are balanced on your hand and the side of your bottom foot, with your left hip facing the ground and your face and bellybutton facing out. Maintain the straight line of your body -- be careful not to sag at the hips. Keep your legs stacked, and reach toward the ceiling with your right hand.

    3. Hold the position as long as you can, then return to plank and repeat it to the other side.

    See? It’s a very simple move with no complicated body mechanics, but appearances are deceiving. To fully master the move you must learn to:

    • Support the majority of your body weight with one arm, working your bicep, shoulder, chest and back
    • Keep your shoulders level by reaching up with your free hand, and tucking your shoulder blades to open your chest
    • Tighten your abs, back and butt muscles to keep your body rigid and straight, without sagging down, forward or backward
    • Contract your quads and hamstrings to keep your legs stacked and level, and balance on the side of your foot

    It takes practice to get the form right, and even more practice to hold the position for an extended period of time. There are also variations you can employ to make it even harder once it becomes easy for you:

    • Once you are in a side plank position, raise your top leg as high as you can, and hold it.
    • Alternate sides rapidly, doing a push up in between each plank.
    • Instead of putting the palm of your hand on the floor, put your entire forearm down instead. This brings you bottom oblique into the picture much more prominently, as it works to keep your hips off the ground.

    Side plank is as much a balance pose as it is a strength pose, and the balance comes from the strength of your core muscles. By incorporating the side plank or its variations into your core routine, you’ll develop the grace and stability that comes from a strong midsection.

    Source: Author's own experience as a lifelong yoga devotee and personal trainer.