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HomeHealth&FitnessSide planks: Benefits, How to do, Variations

Side planks: Benefits, How to do, Variations

Side planks exercise, a variation of the classic plank, is good for your core, and offers a lot of benefits. Let us tell you the benefits of side planks.

Planks are a wholesome body workout. To do a plank, you need to hold your body in a straight position. It is an exercise that helps to balance and strengthen your core. A strong core is a must as it provides stability and support for movements in your daily life. You can try its variation, side planks, for more benefits. Like the classic plank, side planks also help to strengthen the core. But that’s not all! Read on to know the benefits of side planks and how to do this core strengthening exercise.

What are side planks?

Side planks are a variation of the classic plank exercise. Instead of supporting your body weight on your forearms and toes, you will balance sideways on one forearm while keeping your body in a straight line. The focus is on engaging the obliques and quadratus lumborum muscles, which are the sides of your core, says fitness expert Varun Rattan.

A woman doing plank exercise before moving on to side planks
Side plank is a variation of the classic plank exercise. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are the benefits of side planks?

If you do side planks every day, you may enjoy the following benefits:

1. Core strengthening

The side plank is a good exercise to strengthen the oblique abdominal muscles, according to 2018 study published in Sage Journals. The obliques help you rotate and bend your trunk apart from helping in protecting your spine. Side planks also engage the transverse abdominis, and quadratus lumborum. If you have a strong core, it will improve your posture, and stability along with overall functional movement.

2. Better force transfer

Well-trained core muscles act as a stable anchor for force transmission. Whether you are lifting a heavy box or pushing a door open, your core engages to transfer that force efficiently from your legs or arms to the intended action.

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3. Improved balance

Balancing on one arm challenges your stability. Over time, this translates to better balance in daily activities as well as sports, says the expert.

4. Reduced risk of back pain

By strengthening the muscles around your spine, side planks may contribute to better spinal alignment. This in turn may reduce the risk of lower back pain.

5. Injury prevention

Uneven loads, like someone lugging a heavy bag over a shoulder over time, can lead to muscle imbalances. Side plank can strengthen the underused muscles, bringing them up to par with their overachieving counterparts. This can help prevent injuries during other exercises and movements.

6. Enhanced endurance

Side planks build endurance in the core and shoulders. This is beneficial for activities like running and swimming, which you may want to include in your fitness routine to stay fit while beating the heat.

Do side planks help reduce belly fat?

While side planks can strengthen your core, they won’t magically melt away belly fat or give you visible abs. Fat loss occurs through calorie deficit, which can be either done by reducing the calories intake or expending more calories than consumed, says Rattan.

A woman doing side planks
Side plank can help to improve balance. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

How to perform side planks?

To do side planks, follow these steps:

  • Lie on your side, legs extended, and stack your feet.
  • Balance yourself on your forearm, elbow right under your shoulder.
  • From your head to heels, your entire body should be in a straight line.
  • Lift your hips.
  • Pull the belly button in and squeeze the glutes and lift your hips off the ground.
  • Maintain a straight line, and avoid sagging or arching.
  • Hold the pose and breathe steadily then repeat on the other side.

How long should you hold a side plank?

This would vary from individual to individual. You would naturally start with shorter durations until you can maintain a good form and gradually. You can aim for 15 to 20 seconds initially. As the strength improves, your duration would increase. Once you can hold the plank for a minute, then it is time to try out some advanced variations, says the expert.

What are the variations of side planks?

Beginners can start with modified versions like knee-supported side planks to build strength gradually. Here are other variations of side planks:

1. Extended arm side plank

Instead of resting on your forearm, fully extend your arm. Balance on your hand and stack your feet to intensify the challenge.

2. Side plank with leg lift

Lift your top leg while holding the side plank to enhance gluteal engagement and add a balance component.

3. Side plank rotation

Start in a side plank. Rotate your torso towards the floor then return to the starting position. This will engage your glutes, abs, shoulder muscles apart from your obliques.

Side planks can help in strengthening your core while also improving balance. But pregnant women or those with shoulder or wrist issues, should modify the exercise or avoid it, as it may cause discomfort.

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