Bodyweight Side Plank

Start Position
End Position


  1. Lay on your side and position yourself on one elbow, bearing the your upper body weight on your elbow and forearm.
  2. Form a 90-degree angle with your elbow and keep the shoulder in line with the elbow.
  3. Extend legs, suspending your body in the air, bearing the weight on the side of your foot.
  4. Chest and head should be facing to the side.
  5. Extend non-weight bearing arm to the side.
  6. Keep neck in line with body, looking straight ahead to side.
  7. Hold this position until volitional fatigue.
Do not hold your breath during this exercise. Inhale and exhale appropriately.


Exercise Data

  • Primary Stabilizer: External oblique, internal oblique
  • Secondary Stabilizers: Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, quadratus lumborum, longissimus, iliocostalis, rotator cuff muscles, teres major, deltoids, rhomboids
  • Type: Strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance
  • Mechanics: Isometric trunk stability
  • Equipment: Floor mat
  • Lever: Isometric exercise
  • Level: Beginner to advanced
  • FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Bodyweight Side Plank

    What Is A Side Plank?

    A side plank is an exercise, which involves the abdominal muscles, primarily the obliques. This exercise is performed on a mat, suspending your body weight sideways on your forearm and foot. This exercise is an isometric exercise, which means the muscles are activated but at a constant length as opposed to lengthening and shortening. Therefore, this is no upward/concentric or downward/eccentric phase.

    The purpose of side planks is to strengthen the abdominal muscles while promoting the hypertrophy (increases in size) and muscular endurance of this muscle group.

    Why Do A Side Plank?

    Promoting hypertrophy of the oblique muscles with trunk flexion and rotation helps define the surrounding area adjacent to the “6-pack” of the rectus abdominis. Training the obliques is essential to abdominal muscle aesthetics.

    Strengthening the oblique muscles offers protective effects for the lower back as the obliques aid the lower back when bending over and bending sideways. Stronger obliques also complement exercise and sports performance as they can contribute to biomechanical efficiency (e.g. rotation) during physical activity and exercise.

    Anatomy Of A Side Plank

    The abdominal wall is made up of broad, flat sheet-like muscles that are layered. The oblique muscles are essential to trunk rotation and lateral flexion of the vertebral column (as with oblique crunches). They surround the rectus abdominis on both sides. The external oblique muscle runs downward and medially and forms the inguinal ligament of the groin area. Its origin is at the outer surfaces of the lower eight ribs and it inserts into the linea alba via a broad aponeurosis. Some of the fibers of the external oblique insert into the pubic crest and iliac crest.

    The internal oblique, as its name suggests, is located below the superficial external oblique. Its fibers run in an upward and medial direction. Its origin is located at lumbar fascia, iliac crest and inguinal ligament. Its insertion is located at the linea alba, the pubic crest and the last three or four ribs.

    The rectus abdominis aids the obliques in lateral suspension of the body by stabilizing the torso. The rectus abdominis is a vertical muscle that extends from the pubic crest and symphysis (at the pelvis) to the rib cage (xiphoid process and costal cartilages of ribs 5-7). The rectus abdominis is segmented by three tendinous intersections that run horizontally across the rectus abdominis. This tendon outlines the “6-pack” of the rectus abdominis along with the linea alba, a tendinous seam that runs down vertically, dividing the “6-pack” in half.

    The transverse abdominis is the deepest muscle of the abdominal wall with fibers running horizontally. This stabilizing muscle compresses the abdominal contents. Its origin is located at the inguinal ligament, lumbar fascia, iliac crest and the cartilage of the last six ribs. It inserts at the linea alba and the pubic crest.

    The body’s suspended nature in this exercise also requires stability from the back muscles. The quadratus lumborum forms part of the posterior abdominal wall located in the lumbar region (lower back). The longissimus passes though the transverse processes of the vertebrae from the lumbar region to the skull. The iliocostalis is the most lateral of the erector spinae back muscles. It extends from the pelvis to the neck.

    The elbow’s weight bearing places tension on the rotator cuff muscles of the shoulder girdle to stabilize as well as the deltoids, teres major and rhomboids

    Variations Of A Side Plank


    How To Improve Your Side Planks

    The obliques are constantly assisting the lower back and abdominals with physical activity. Therefore, a greater overload stimulus is required to stimulate growth of the obliques when isolating them during exercise.

    Time the duration of how long can you hold a side plank position. Perform three to five side planks with rest periods in between. Track the progress of your side plank durations over time. Strategically increase the difficulty of the plank in accordance with your overall training protocol. Take shorter rest periods (e.g. 30 seconds) between sets and/or add resistance by having a training partner place a plate on your upper back to increase the intensity of planks.

    Another way to increase the difficulty of this exercise is to reach extended arm underneath your body, rotating the body, and return to starting position. This requires further activation of the obliques while rotating and keeping the torso suspended.

    Common Mistakes When Doing Side Planks

    Upon reaching fatigue, the individual may allow hips to drop. This can take the tension off of the obliques, therefore, it is important to be aware of keeping your torso straight with hips elevated appropriately or have a training partner monitor you.

    When incorporating oblique training into your exercise regimen it is important to evaluate what other exercises you are doing in that training session. For example, it may not be best to train abdominals/obliques on the same day as performing deadlifts and squats as those exercises fatigue the abdominals substantially. Training abdominals before or after a training session that involves smaller muscle groups (e.g. calves, biceps, triceps) may be suitable, as it will not interfere with the quality of the overall training session.

    Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding Side Planks

    Ensure proper weight-bearing technique of this exercise to avoid shoulder injury.