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January 07, 2022 9 min read

The side plank might not look like much but it is one of the most effective low-impact core-strengthening bodyweight exercises. A variation of the  conventional plank, the side plank is a versatile exercise that targets the muscles of your arms, shoulders, abs, and most importantly, obliques.

There are various ways to amp up your basic side plank for a little extra muscle strength. We have compiled, in order of difficulty, the best side planks to sculpt and strengthen your body for a jacked physique.

Why Side Planks Are Great For You

Often overstepped for exercises with more range of motion like sit-ups, the plank is now considered the  best option for exercising your core.

The side plank is an isometric tension exercise that improves core strength and muscle endurance. It also works efficiently to shrink the fat in your belly, providing you with a tight waistline and toned abs. With just limited movement, the side plank primarily targets the core, lower back, abdominal, and chest muscles.

This workout is also particularly effective in the engagement of the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, quadratus lumborum, gluteus muscles, obliques, hams, quads, and inner thigh adductors. These muscles are important for mobility, stability, endurance, and flexibility. The side plank is also a great exercise for improving your resting metabolism. This acts as a means of blasting fat and retaining a healthy and bulky muscle to fat ratio.

10 Side Plank Variations (From Easiest to Hardest)

The side plank is a scalable, gym noob-friendly ab workout. It is convenient and can be done in and outside the gym. This calisthenics exercise is done by simply laying on either of your sides, keeping your spine, neck, and body in a neutral straight line. You are entirely airborne and only supported by a forearm that is angled underneath your shoulder and the side of your feet.

Although the conventional side plank is a great exercise, tweaking your technique even the tiniest bit can generate a whole different result from a completely different muscle vantage point. Below are the 10 side plank variations that deserve to be a part of your bro-splits:

1. Bent Knee Side Plank

The bent knee side plank is one of the easiest side plank variations, even simpler than the conventional side plank. The bent knee side plank takes a lot of pressure off your upper body, letting you focus more on engaging your core throughout your workout. Because your knees are bearing some of your body weight, you have more muscle stability and put less stress on your elbow and shoulders. Since your joints are not bearing much weight, this side plank variation is perfect for athletes who suffer from minor joint mobility problems and back pain.

To do the bent knee side plank:

  • Lay on your right side, facing straight forward.
  • Support yourself with your right elbow ensuring that it is stacked right underneath your shoulder. Your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor.
  • With your feet and knees together, bend your knees at a 90-degree angle. 
  • Stack your knees so your left knee is the top knee and your right knee is the bottom knee.
  • Plant your left hand akimbo on your hip to maintain balance and proper form.
  • Maintaining a straight back, push up your hips until it comes to form a straight line with the rest of your body.
  • Engage your abs and squeeze your glutes together.
  • Hold this position for a minimum of 10 seconds. 
  • Lower your hip and repeat.

The bent knee side plank primarily works the abdominals, obliques, gluteus maximus, and also chips in on the hip adductors and quads.

    2. Side Plank With Pulses


      The side plank with pulses is a powerful low-impact full-body exercise that works the abdominal muscles and each side of your body alternately. This variation works the core, back muscles, thigh muscles, and glutes. It also primarily works the obliques and hip flexors. The side plank with pulses helps with muscle endurance, stability, better hip mobility for a better posture, and a stronger back.

      To do this variation:

      • Lay on your right side keeping your spine straight and head neutral.
      • Push back your shoulder blades and support your body with an elbow. Make sure your elbow is directly underneath your shoulder.
      • Stack your feet. If this is challenging, place your left foot in front of your right foot.
      • Lift your hips until it aligns with the rest of your body, with your forearm and feet bearing your bodyweight.
      • Move your hip down and back higher up than the initial position. You should feel your core tighten.
      • Repeat for 30 seconds and switch to your left side.

        3. Side Plank Dips 


          The side plank dip works similar to the plank with pulses. This variation works to engage and activate the muscles of the shoulder, inner thighs, lats, glutes, and obliques. The side plank dip is a great core and muscle-strengthening exercise. It is also a functional exercise that helps to correct or improve your posture, thereby  reducing the risk of back pain and injuries.

          To do this variation:

          • Laying on your right side, prop yourself up by stacking your elbow underneath your shoulder.
          • Stack your feet or place your left foot in front of your right foot for better stability.
          • Put your left hand on your hip or leave it at your side. Engage your core.
          • Lift your hip into a side plank and straighten your form, ensuring that your body is one straight line.
          • Brace yourself and lower your hip until it barely grazes the floor, not coming to a rest. 
          • Slowly raise your hip back to the starting position. This is one rep.

            4. Side Plank Leg Raise


              The Side Plank Leg Raise is one step more beneficial than its conventional counterpart. Like the conventional side plank, the side plank leg raise emphasizes the core muscles and obliques. The wider range of motion and added leg movements also help to strengthen the hip flexors and shoulder girdles. The side plank leg raise is an intermediate side plank variation. Although it trains the body for added flexibility, stamina, and muscle strength, it also requires a degree of mobility, balance, and coordination.

              To do the side plank leg raise:

              • In a straight line, lie on your right side and prop yourself up with your elbow.
              • Adjust your form so that your supporting elbow is right underneath your shoulder and your spine is straight.
              • Keeping your body aligned from shoulders to ankles, stack up your feet. 
              • Put your left hand on your hip.
              • Engage your core as you raise your right leg straight out laterally. Hold for a second.
              • Do not sag your hips. Return to the starting position.
              • Repeat.

                5. Side Plank With March


                  The side plank with march is one of those variations that light your posterior chain on fire. This side plank variation is favored by bodybuilders and athletes for its ability to work the lower extremities while also isolating the muscles of the abdomen, especially the obliques. It also helps target the gluteus medius, a muscle often bypassed in weightless exercises. This variation provides better trunk stability, overall muscle strength, and correction of any lateral muscle imbalance.

                  To do the side plank with march:

                  • Lie on your right side with your elbow in line with your shoulders. Keep your spine straight.
                  • Keeping your legs aligned with your upper body, put your left foot in front of your right, keeping your toes pointed out.
                  • Engage your core. Lift your hips off the ground, supporting your body with your right forearm.
                  • Perform a leg lift by bringing your left knee up to your body towards your chest.
                  • Hold for a few seconds and return it to the starting position.
                  • Repeat on the other leg without breaking form. This completes one repetition.

                    6. Side Plank Crunch

                      This is an intermediate-advanced variation that is great for all the muscle groups targeted by the conventional side plank. It, however, focuses more on the abs, hip flexors, left and right obliques, traps, shoulder muscles, and glutes.The side plank crunch packs a powerful punch to your waistline and is an excellent choice for blasting stubborn belly-fat cells. It strengthens your upper and lower muscles and is a great exercise to improve muscle power. Overall, the side plank crunch is a breath of fresh air.

                      To perform the side plank crunch:

                      • Start in a basic side plank by supporting your body weight on the forearm of your right arm.
                      • Adjust to proper form by ensuring your upper arm and elbow are at a right angle with your shoulders.
                      • Align your body and stack your feet. Fold your free arm behind your head.
                      • Engage your core and brace yourself. 
                      • Keep your torso still as you bring your top leg towards the elbow folded behind your head or as far out as you can.
                      • Straighten your leg and return it to the starting position. That is one rep.

                        7. Alternating Side Plank

                          Just as the name implies, the alternating side plank involves shifting your side plank from one side to the next. It features a side plank on one side, a roll into a standard plank, and a side plank on the other side. The alternating side plank is an advanced-option side plank variation that is not meant for everyone. It engages all the major muscle groups in your upper and lower extremities. It strengthens your upper body, resulting in greater arm strength, better stability, improved muscle endurance, and better functionality.

                          To do the alternating side plank:

                          • Start in a conventional side plank position on your right side with your left arm outstretched laterally.
                          • Engage your core and pull back your shoulder blades to engage your shoulders.
                          • Inhale and turn your torso till you are in a conventional elbow plank position.
                          • Keeping your spine straight, rotate immediately to your left side, propping your left elbow under your shoulder. Return to a side plank.
                          • Exhale and raise your right arm laterally, turning to the starting position on your right side.

                            8. Side Plank With Twist

                              The side plank with a twist is a waist-shrinking core exercise that isolates the internal and external obliques thanks to the trunk twisting motion. The oblique muscle group is a strong connecting muscle that holds your upper and lower extremities. It is an extremely functional muscle that comes to play in your walking and running motion. This makes the side plank with twists an extremely important exercise to have in your arsenal as an athlete.

                              To do the side plank with a twist:

                              • Start in an elbow plank on your right side with your feet stacked and body in a neutral straight line. For better stability, put your right foot in front of your left.
                              • With your body weight distributed between your right forearm and feet, fold your left forearm behind your ear. 
                              • Inhale and exhale as you engage your core, simultaneously bringing your left elbow towards the floor. Keep the rest of your body still as you twist your trunk.
                              • For a more difficult version, aim to point your elbow at your hip. 
                              • Twisting your rib cage, return to the starting position.

                                9. Feet Elevated Side Plank


                                  Because the core primarily comes into play to prevent your body from collapsing under its weight and effect of gravity, the foot's elevated side plank engages all the core muscles. Coupling this with the activation of major full-body muscles groups, the feet elevated side plank variation is a killer routine that deserves a spot at the top of your bro-split.

                                  To do the feet elevated side plank:

                                  • Starting on your right side, assume the conventional side plank. 
                                  • Stack your feet on a sturdy base like stacked weighted plates, a sturdy box, or a step.
                                  • Engage your abs by pulling your belly button towards your spine.
                                  • Raise your hip so that your body forms a straight line.
                                  • Hold this position for a minimum of 20 seconds. Rest and repeat.

                                  The foot's elevated side plank can be inverted so your upper body rests on an elevated surface.

                                    10. Side Plank With Lateral Raise


                                      This variation is simply a conventional side plank done with a dumbbell for increased muscle resistance. This muscle-cruising advanced side plank variation is a foolproof way to tone and bulk-up your upper body while working the whole body at once.

                                      To do the side plank with lateral raise:

                                      • Get in the traditional side plank position. Ensure that your body is aligned in a straight line.
                                      • Hold a dumbbell in your free hand. 
                                      • Engage your core and raise the dumbbell out to your side until your hand is a straight line from your shoulder.
                                      • Hold this position for a second before slowly lowering your hand to your side.

                                      A common mistake that gym-goers make while doing the side plank with lateral raise is sagging their hips. This would not engage the right muscle groups and might even lead to a muscle injury. When doing this variation, make sure to start with lightweight dumbbells. This would help you focus more on keeping the proper form.

                                      The side plank with lateral is a great way for inducing muscle hypertrophy on the bicep and tricep muscles.

                                      Time to Side Plank

                                      The side plank is a major contributor to upper and lower body strength. These muscles come to play in our daily activities and are also a major part of how well you engage in weighted exercises in the gym. Now that you have been introduced to various side planks variations, pair your favorite variations with our tested and trusted  pre-workouts to assist you on your fitness journey.