According to the American Chiropractic Association, more than 50 percent of working Americans report experiencing back pain. It’s one of the most common reasons people miss work — and the second-most-common reason doctor’s appointments are scheduled. In most cases, the causes of these back-pain issues are mechanical and not underlying medical conditions. This means that they can often be mitigated or remedied through basic back-strengthening exercises like side planks.
Benefits of Side Plank Exercises
Side plank exercises target the gluteal muscles, obliques, quadriceps, hamstrings, thigh abductors and adductors. Strengthening these muscles means that your lower back and spine have more support and are better protected from injury caused by back strain and/or sudden movements. Side plank exercises also improve core strength; this means increased core stability, which translates into a stronger back and minimal soreness.
Side planks are relatively simple to perform — but they are not easy if you are a beginner with little to no core strength. Start by lying on one side on an exercise mat with both legs straight and stacked one on top of the other. Bend the elbow underneath you and use it to support your upper body by keeping it in line with your shoulder. Keep your hips, spine and neck in alignment throughout. Exhale and engage your abs, lifting your knees and hips away from the floor, keeping the side of your bottom foot in contact with the mat. Pause at the top of the movement, inhale and gently lower yourself back to your starting position. Repeat on both sides.
There are a number of different variations that you can do increase the intensity of the side plank exercise as your fitness level improves. Start by increasing the length of time you spend at the top of the movement, with your body lifted off the floor. Next, try lifting the top leg toward the ceiling while at the top of the movement.
If you experience back pain, talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise routine, particularly back exercises. If you feel uncomfortable while performing the side plank exercise, stop and rest. Make sure that your form is correct before trying again. If you are concerned that chronic back pain is an issue or that an underlying medical disorder may be the cause of your discomfort, see your doctor.