10 Best Side Plank Alternatives To Train Your Core
Side Planks are an excellent core exercise that teaches how to brace and builds core stability. Not only do they help develop core stability, but they also add some shoulder stability work as well.
However, sometimes you may find yourself needing an alternative for Side Planks.
Maybe you can’t support yourself on your elbow or maybe you’re just looking to add some variety to your workouts.
Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for an exercise to substitute for Side Planks then you’re in the right place. I’m about to share with you 10 of my favorite Side Plank alternatives.
Alternatives for Side Plank
I tried to include as much variety within these 10 Side Plank alternatives as possible. You’re going to find exercises that look very similar to side planks, exercises that are done standing, on the floor and exercises that use different pieces of equipment.
What all these movements have in common though is that, like Side Planks, they will target the core muscles, specifically the obliques.
Lateral Bridges is a Side Plank alternative that turns the static Side Plank into a dynamic movement.
- Start on the ground in a Lateral Plank position – 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, lower the hips down and lightly tap the floor.
- Drive the hips back up to the starting position and repeat for the designated number of reps.
The biggest mistake I see with athletes with Lateral Bridges 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 toward the ground with your upper body.
Single Arm Farmer’s Walk
- Dumbbell or Kettlebell
- Grab a single kettlebell or dumbbell.
- Brace the core and begin walking in a slow, controlled manner.
- As you walk, focus on keeping the core braced and the shoulders and hips square and level.
- Once you cover the assigned distance (or time), switch hands and repeat on the opposite side.
You do not need to grab the heaviest kettlebell you can find. Find a weight that you can walk with and maintain proper form.
Don’t rush through. Single Arm Farmer’s Walk can be done for time or for distance. If going for distance, it should not be a speed walk to cover the ground as fast as possible. Stay under control and focus on form.
Mountain Climber Crossovers
Take Mountain Climbers which most of did in junior high gym class and add a little twist to them, literally.
- Begin in a push-up position – hands under shoulders, core engaged, body in a straight line.
- Now drive the right knee across the body toward the opposite elbow.
- As you bring the right foot back to the starting position, begin to drive the left knee toward the opposite elbow.
- Continue alternating back and forth until all reps are completed. (count moving left and right legs up as one rep)
Keep hips down throughout the movement. Don’t allow the hips to start to raise if you begin to tire. Also, work to maintain the same range of motion throughout the entire set of Mountain Climber Crossovers.
Seated Medicine Ball Twist
This Side Plank alternative is one of the best dynamic core movements for developing rotational core strength and power.
- Medicine Ball
- Obliques Externus Abdominis
- Rectus Abdominis
- Start by grabbing a medicine ball and taking a seat on the floor.
- Slightly bend the knees and raise your feet roughly six inches off the floor.
- Start by rotating your torso to the left and lightly tapping the med ball against the ground.
- Now turn your shoulders and rotate your torso to the right and, again, lightly tap the ball against the ground.
- Keep legs mostly still and maintain the feet off the floor throughout the movement.
- Continue rotating back and forth until all reps are completed.
Coaching Points (Common Mistakes)
The biggest mistake I see with my athletes when doing Seated Med Ball Twists is moving the ball back and forth primarily with their arms instead of rotating through the core. The focus should be on the rotation. The ball touching the ground is simply an added bonus to the movement.
Speaking of the ball touching the ground – there is no need to bang the ball off the ground as hard as possible each rep. Stay in control of the movement and the med ball and lightly tap it on the ground.
Stir The Pot
This exercise may look simple, but Stir the Pot is an extremely challenging exercise that will test your core and upper body stability.
- Stability Ball (also sometimes called a Physio Ball)
- Start on your knees with the Stability Ball directly in front of you.
- Place your forearms on the ball and clasp your hands together.
- Now slowly lift up off of your knees, balancing yourself with your forearms on the ball and toes on the ground.
- You should now basically be in plank position, but with your forearms on a stability ball instead of the ground.
- Now work your hands into small circles. This should simulate, you guessed it, stirring a pot with a big wooden spoon.
- Work clockwise until all reps are completed and then switch and go counter-clockwise as well.
- Once all reps are completed lower back down to your knees.
Take your time getting properly set up! If you’ve never done Stir the Pot before it can be surprising just how hard it is to balance yourself on a stability ball in this manner let alone shift in circles.
- Start with the back flat on the ground, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then, lift your right foot up and place it on your left leg – just above the knee.
- Place your left hand behind your head and let your right hand rest on your abdomen.
- Crunch up by contracting the abs and lifting the shoulder blades up off the ground. As you rise, twist towards your right, taking your left elbow towards your right knee.
- If your elbow actually touches your knee, great. If not, reach it as close as possible. Do NOT pull on the back of your head to try to force it.
- Relax back down to the starting position and repeat. Once all reps are completed for the right side, switch positions and continue on the left.
The biggest mistake that I see with Oblique Crunches is athletes pulling hard on the back of their heads and unnecessarily straining their necks. The hand is meant only to support the head, not aid in the actual crunch.
Medicine Ball Side Slams
- Medicine Ball
- Grab a medicine ball and stand tall with feet roughly shoulder-width apart.
- Reach the medicine ball high overhead.
- Using the core, pull the body down – hinging forward at the hips – while simultaneously rotating to one side.
- Follow through with the arms and release the ball. The ball should hit the ground just to the outside of the feet.
- Let the ball slam into the ground, catch it off the bounce and repeat (alternating back and forth to each side) for the designated number of reps.
First and foremost, test how ‘bouncy’ your medicine ball is before starting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen athletes almost have their face smashed by a medicine ball bouncing much harder and rebounding much faster off the ground than they were anticipating.
The biggest mistake I see with Med Ball Side Slams is athletes not utilizing the core and simply throwing the ball down with their arms. The bulk of the force should be generated by aggressively using the core to hinge forward. If done correctly, it should almost (and actually might) lift your feet up off the floor.
Single Leg Pallof Press
- Resistance Band (Preferably a thin one)
- A Band Anchor (A squat rack works perfectly)
- Start by looping a band around the vertical beam of a squat rack.
- Stand far enough away from the rack to get proper tension on the band. You should feel the band pulling and trying to rotate you, but not so much that you cannot maintain your balance.
- Grab the band with one hand and then place the other hand over top.
- Start with your hands right in front of your sternum.
- Lift the leg furthest away from the rack up off the ground.
- Now, in a controlled tempo, press the band straight out in front of you and then return it to the starting position.
- Repeat for the required amount of reps.
Keep the movement slow and controlled. Don’t rush through the exercise.
Try to keep the opposite foot off the ground for the duration of the set. Touch the ground only if necessary to regain balance.
Similar to Oblique Crunches, Bicycle Crunches are another tried and true core exercise that is simple to do, yet still very effective.
- Lay on your back with your knee and hip flexed to 90 degrees
- Raise your shoulder blades off of the ground several inches and put your hands behind your head.
- Keep your chin off of your chest and keep your left leg off of the ground.
- Straighten your right knee while simultaneously driving the left knee in the opposite direction toward your shoulder.
- Touch your left knee to your right elbow and immediately repeat to the other side.
- Each time your right elbow touches your knee left knee, count as one repetition.
Your hands behind your head should only be there for support. Do not pull on your head.
Half Kneeling Cable Chop
- Cable Machine
- Attach a cable attachment* and slide the pin to the top of the cable machine.
- Assume a kneeling position about a foot and a half away from the machine (may vary depending on what the machine will allow)
- The knee toward the machine should be up and the knee away from the machine should be on the floor.
- Start with both arms straight out in front, one on each side of the rope or bar.
- Allow the weight to slowly pull your arms up and to the side about a foot, keeping your arms relatively straight.
- Now, brace the core and pull the cable diagonally down across your body.
- Do not twist or turn or significantly bend the arms (a slight bend in the arm is okay).
- Control the eccentric portion of the movement back to the start and repeat.
- Once all reps are complete, switch to the other side.
*This movement is best done with either the rope attachment with the rope slid all the way over to one side or a straight bar attachment with the cable attached to one side.
Keep the torso upright during the movement. If you find yourself (or your athletes) leaning to one side or the other it’s probably an indication that the weight is too heavy. Lighten the weight being used and focus on maintaining that upright position.
Do not rotate through the torso. The goal here is to maintain a braced core and upright body position as you pull the weight across your body.
Side Planks are an awesome exercise for developing strong core muscles, but sometimes Side Planks are just not an option. Maybe you can’t support yourself on one elbow or maybe you just want to mix up your workout a little bit.
In these situations, you’ll need a Side Plank alternative and I hope that one of the exercises I’ve listed here fits what you were looking for.