Why Side Planks Are Basically the Best Obliques Exercise Ever

Nothing beats this classic move for strengthing the muscles on the sides of your stomach.

Even if you're not a yogi, side plank (demonstrated here by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti) is a pose you'll want to start practicing on the reg. Holding this pose for even a few seconds will remind you that you're not working out your obliques nearly enough.

Side planks are a unilateral exercise, meaning they work one side of the body at a time-and you'll really feel it since those muscles are working double time to support your entire body.

Side Plank Benefits and Variations

Once you've built a solid plank base through the high plank and forearm plank and developed strength and stability through your shoulders, side planks are the next progression, explains Stephany Bolivar, CrossFit coach and personal trainer at ICE NYC. (Now that you're a plank master, try this powered-up plank workout that HIITs your core hard.)

Not only is it a killer core exercise, but planks help tone your shoulders, obliques, and legs from heel to hip. This move also strengthens the deep muscles of your low back, so it can help with lower-back pain.

If you're not able to hold a full side plank just yet, it's easy to modify: Instead of stacking your feet, lower your top foot to the ground in front of the bottom foot, creating a wider base to balance on. You can also set the knee closest to the floor on the ground, says Bolivar.

To make this movement harder, raise the top leg, driving the heel toward the opposing wall. From there, you can try side plank crunches (bringing the top knee toward the top elbow), or side plank twists (reaching the top arm under your body and back up to the ceiling). (A surefire way to improve your plank strength? Tackling our 30-Day Plank Challenge.)

How to Do a Side Plank

A. Start in a low plank position with elbows on the floor directly under shoulders, core and glutes engaged.

B. Shift weight onto the right elbow and roll onto the right side of the right foot so entire body faces to the right, stacking feet on top of one another and raising left arm to the ceiling.

Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat for 2 to 4 sets. As you build strength, increase time to 1 minute or more. Repeat on opposite side.

Side Plank Form Tips

  • Keep hips driving away from the floor to keep body in a straight line from head to heels.
  • Keep core engage and avoid rounding or arching back.
  • Keep shoulder stacked directly over palm.
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