The Lateral Plank is a popular (and effective) static ab exercise that targets the obliques. There are also a number of variations that you can add to your training program that stems from the Lateral Plank.
In this guide, I’ll teach you how to do a Lateral Plank, what muscles it works and some variations that you can build off of Lateral Planks.
Table of Contents
- How To Do Lateral Planks
- Muscles Worked
- Lateral Plank Variations
- Lateral Plank Alternatives
- Lateral Plank FAQ
- More Links and Info
How To Do Lateral Planks
- 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.
- Hold this position for the designated amount of time.
The biggest mistake I see with my athletes with Lateral Planks is allowing the top shoulder to hunch forward. Both shoulders (along with hips and feet) should be stacked directly above each other. Do not allow yourself to twist forward towards the ground with your upper body.
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 towards the floor. Try to keep those hips high and fight through until the end.
What muscles do Lateral Planks work?
Lateral Planks 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 Variations
Lateral Planks are an extremely effective exercise all on their own, but the Lateral Plank position also serves as a great building block for more complex movements. If you’re feeling up to a challenge, here are a few movements you should try out.
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.
Lateral Plank Leg Raise
From the Lateral Plank position, lift the top leg up to about parallel to the ground and then lower back down and lightly tap the foot still on the ground. That lateral leg raise motion will target the hip abductors and take Lateral Planks to a whole different level of challenge.
These are great as a glute activator before a lower body lift day or as part of a core finisher at the end of a workout.
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 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.
Want even more options? Here are 10 of my favorite Side Plank alternatives.
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.
Lateral Plank FAQ
Here are a couple of the questions I get asked the most regarding Side Planks
Is Side Plank Better Than Plank?
I consider Side Planks and Planks two different movements with slightly different objectives. Both are ab exercises and both are static holds, but the Side Plank focuses on the Obliques and Planks focus more on the Rectus Abdominus.
I always like to include both in my programming, oftentimes as part of the same core circuit.
Is a Two Minute Side Plank Good?
These are my favorite questions! Great athletes always want to know how they stack up against other athletes and I respect the competitiveness.
I would say, yes, being able to hold a proper side plank (without the hips slouching down or turning the chest toward the ground) for two minutes is a very respectable side plank time.
I’ve seen athletes hold planks for as long as seven or eight minutes, but two minutes would probably put you in the top half of most groups of athletes.
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.