Strengthening your core is essential for maintaining health, improving posture and reducing lower back pain. Side planks and side plank raises are among the best exercises for strengthening your obliques and your internal core muscles. Include various types of planks and oblique exercises in your exercise routine two or three times a week to improve overall core strength.
The rectus abdominis, commonly referred to as the six-pack muscle, works to flex the spine forward and to the left and right. The transverse abdominis is the deep core muscle that lies beneath the other abdominal muscles. This muscle stabilizes your trunk during isometric contractions such as the plank. The internal and external oblique muscles are the diagonal muscles that work to rotate and stabilize your torso.
The basic plank is a standard exercise for developing core strength. It primarily works the transverse abdominis. Perform the plank face down on a mat with your feet together. Lift your hips off the ground and support your body weight on your forearms and toes. Your body should be straight and rigid, maintaining a neutral spine and a tight core. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds. The side planks are similar to the standard plank, except they are performed on your side. Support your upper body with one forearm resting on the ground and your legs extended out, stacked on top of one another. The side plank works both the internal and external obliques, as well as the transverse abdominis. Perform the side plank on the right and left sides of the body, holding the position for at least 20 seconds on each side.
Side Plank Raise
Begin the side plank raise by rising up into the side plank position. Lift your hips off the floor until you have created a straight line with your body. Slowly lower your hips without allowing them to touch the ground and then rise back up and repeat for 12 to 15 repetitions. After completing one set, perform the movement on the opposite side. Complete three sets on each side. Hold a dumbbell on your hip during the exercise for an added challenge.
Best Oblique Workout
Begin your workout with bicycles crunches, one of the most effective exercises for targeting the obliques. Lying flat on the ground with your hands behind your head and your feet off the ground, alternate bringing your right elbow to your left knee, and then your left elbow to your right knee like you are pedaling a bike. Perform one set of 15 repetitions on each side. Roll over on the mat and perform the plank, holding the position for 30 to 60 seconds. Rotate onto your left side, perform a 30-second side plank hold followed by 12 to 15 repetitions of side plank raises, and then repeat the side plank and side plank raises on your right side. Rest one minute, then complete two more sets of all exercises.
- American Council on Exercise: Side Plank With Straight Leg
- "Oxygen" magazine; Sculpt Sexy Abs; Rachel Crocker and Stacy Kennedy; March 2011
- ExRx.net: Side Bridge