The Lateral Plank plus Leg Raise is a deceptively difficult core exercise that will challenge not just core strength. The Lateral Abductors, specifically the Glute Med, and the upper back are also put to the test not to mention balance.
I can’t tell you how many athletes I’ve seen who were surprised that this exercise didn’t come easy to them as they assumed it would.
In this guide, I’ll teach you how to do the Lateral Plank plus Leg Raise, what muscles it works and some other variations that you can build off of Lateral Planks.
How To Do Lateral Planks with Leg Raise
- Lay on your side, one elbow down and feet, hips and shoulders stacked vertically above one another.
- The opposite hand (non-support arm) can be placed on the hip or held up in the air.
- From this position, raise the top leg in the stack until it is roughly parallel to the floor.
- This exercise can either be done for time (holding the position for a set time like regular Lateral Planks), or for reps (lifting the leg up and down)
The biggest mistake I see with athletes with Lateral Plank plus Leg Raise is allowing the top shoulder to hunch forward. Both shoulders (along with hips and feet) should be stacked directly above each other. If you allow yourself to twist forward toward the ground lifting the leg will be extremely difficult to impossible.
The other aspect of Lateral Planks to be mindful of is keeping the hips elevated and the body in a straight line. When fatigue starts to set in, the first thing that will happen is the hips will being to sag down toward the floor. Try to keep those hips high and fight through until the end.
Benefits of Lateral Plank with Leg Raise
Some potential benefits of incorporating Lateral Planks with Leg Raises in your training program include:
- Improving Core Stability: The Lateral Plank with Leg Raise works the core muscles, which helps to improve stability and balance, and may also help to reduce the risk of low back pain.
- Improving posture: Strong core muscles can help to improve posture by helping to support the spine and keep the body in alignment.
- Improving athletic performance: Strong core muscles are important for all sports, as they help to improve balance and stability, and can also help to transfer power from the lower body to the upper body.
- Glute Med activation: The addition of the leg lift activates the glute med, making it a great movement to use in the warm-up for squat days in the weight room.
What muscles do Lateral Planks plus Leg Raise work?
Lateral Planks with a Leg Raise will hit all the same muscles as a regular Lateral Plank and then some. It will directly target the Obliques, but they work so much more than just the Obliques. The Rectus Abdominus (your six-pack) also get really good work out of the Lateral Planks.
And it’s not just your abs. The hip abductors play a role in the movement, the QL (Quadratus Lumborum) which provides spinal stability is worked and this doesn’t even include the upper back muscles that have to work to keep yourself raised up off the floor.
Lateral Plank plus Leg Raise Variations
Lateral Planks + Leg Raise is an extremely effective exercise, but the Lateral Plank position also serves as a great building block for other great variations as well. If you’re feeling up to a challenge, here are a few movements you should try out.
I’ve already mentioned Lateral Plank several times in this guide as it’s the foundation of this variation. This is good to know though, because if you’re struggling with doing Lateral Planks with the Leg Raise then the first thing I would recommend is taking the Leg Raise out.
Focus on just the Lateral Plank until you build your strength up to the point where you feel comfortable trying out some of the more challenging variations.
Lateral Bridges turn the static Lateral Plank into a dynamic movement.
Start in the same Lateral Plank position and then lower your hips and lightly tap the ground with your hip. Drive the hips back up to the starting position (or even slightly higher than the starting position).
Coaching Tip: Once planks become easy for my athletes, I like to start them off with 10 to 15 Lateral Bridges and then hold the Lateral Plank position for an extra 30-45 seconds. Combining the dynamic and static movements together noticeably ups the difficulty.
Changing Foot Positions
There are also a ton of variations you can do by simply changing what you put your feet on.
Elevating your feet onto a bench will place more stress on the upper body to have to stabilize.
Placing your feet on a Stability Ball or inside a TRX strap will add instability. This will force the core to have to work even harder to maintain balance and stability.
Lateral Plank + Leg Raise Alternatives
If you can’t do Lateral Planks for whatever reason, or you just want to change up your program – here are a couple of alternatives that you may be able to use as a substitute.
DB Side Bends
If getting down onto the floor is an issue, then DB Side Bends may work as a substitute. You won’t get all the added benefits that holding the plank position brings, but they are a good exercise to target the Obliques.
If you want to keep things simple you can opt for tried and true Oblique Crunches. Lay on your back, place one foot over the opposite knee and crunch across your body. Simple but effective oblique exercise.
More Links and Info
Looking for more ab movements to build a strong core? Check out Horton Barbell’s growing collection of Core Exercises inside the Exercise Library.