The 5 Best Side Plank Variations for Your Obliques

woman doing a side plank exercise in front of laptop at home
Side planks strengthen your obliques, which help support your back and posture.
Image Credit: Prostock-Studio/iStock/GettyImages

All planks are great, but when it comes to strengthening your obliques, it's all about the side planks.

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Side planks primarily target your internal and external oblique muscles on each side of your torso. Arguably underrated muscle groups, your obliques help support your back, protecting you from injury and improving your posture, according to Sam Chan, DPT, CSCS, a New York-based physical therapist and strength coach. They also help you rotate your torso and, in the case of planks and other isometric hold-it-right-there exercises, resist rotation.

That said, while the main side plank muscles worked are the obliques, holding side planks also train various muscles around your hips. These include your back extensors and hip flexors, the muscles on the front of your pelvis, as well as your glutes and adductors, the muscles along your inner thighs. All act as stabilizers during this move. Really concentrate on your upper-body positioning and stability and you'll also strengthen your shoulders and chest, Chan says.

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Want to strengthen your obliques — and entire body? Toss a few of these side plank variations into your next ab workout and give your muscles the attention they deserve.

5 Side Plank Variations, From Beginner to Advanced

Side planks are a challenging move, so start with modified variations like number-one below. As your strength improves, progress to more challenging side plank exercises and try holding your planks longer.

Move 1: Side Plank on Knees

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Reps 4
Time 10 Sec
  1. Lie on your side.
  2. Prop yourself up on your forearm with your elbow in line with your shoulder.
  3. Bend your knees and keep them stacked on top of each other.
  4. Tighten your abs and glutes to stiffen your torso.
  5. Lift your hips off the ground, supporting your body weight on your knee.
  6. Hold, then slowly lower back down.
  7. Do all reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

Move 2: Side Plank

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Reps 4
Time 10 Sec
  1. Lie on your side with your legs and feet stacked on top of each other.
  2. Prop yourself up on your forearm.
  3. Keeping your knees straight, stiffen your torso and lift your hips off the ground, balancing on your forearm and outer foot
  4. Hold, then slowly lower back down.
  5. Do all reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

Move 3: Raised Side Plank

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Reps 4
Time 10 Sec
  1. Lie on your side.
  2. Press up onto your hand and extend your arm. Align your shoulder over your wrist.
  3. Stagger your feet on the ground, but keep them in line with each other.
  4. Pushing down through your hand and feet, lift your hips off the ground.
  5. Keep your abs, glutes and thigh muscles tight as you hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds.
  6. Hold, then slowly lower back down.
  7. Do all reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

Move 4: Raised Side Plank With Raised Leg

Reps 4
Time 10 Sec
  1. Perform a raised side plank.
  2. While holding this position, lift your top leg up toward the ceiling as high as you can without losing your balance.
  3. Hold, then slowly lower back down.
  4. Do all reps, then repeat on the opposite side.

Move 5: Raised Side Plank With Leg Lifts

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Sets 2
Reps 5
  1. Perform a raised side plank.
  2. Lift your top leg up toward the ceiling.
  3. Immediately lower your top leg while maintaining the side plank position.
  4. Do all reps, then slowly lower back down and repeat on the opposite side.

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