Side Plank vs Regular Plank

Side Plank vs Regular Plank (Differences & Similarities)

If you’re looking to strengthen your core, Planks are a great exercise to add to your strength program.

However, there are different variations of Planks that can target different muscles and provide unique benefits. Two popular variations are Side Planks and Regular Planks (also called Front Planks). While they have a lot of similarities, they have distinct differences in terms of the muscles they engage and the overall challenge they provide.

In this article, I’ll compare Side Planks and Regular Planks to help you determine which one is best for your training goals.

Side Plank

Equipment Needed

  • None

Muscles Worked

Side 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.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • 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.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake I see with athletes with Side Planks, also called 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 toward 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 toward the floor. Try to keep those hips high and fight through until the end.

RELATED –> 10 Best Side Plank Alternatives to Train Your Core

Benefits of Lateral Planks

Doing side planks regularly can improve core strength and stability, shoulder stability and balance. A strong core is crucial for many athletic activities, and Lateral Planks can help athletes improve their overall performance.

Even more importantly, a strong core can also help prevent injuries, especially in the lower back.

Front Plank (aka Regular Plank)


Equipment Needed

  • None

Muscles Worked

There are a ton of muscles that have to work to execute a Front Plank. It’s one of the reasons why Planks are such an effective core exercise.

The abs, the Rectus Abdominis and even the Obliques, are both heavily emphasized. However, many muscles are required to act as stabilizers, especially the shoulders and upper back.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Start on the ground on your stomach.
  • Assume a push-up like position on your elbows and toes. Elbows should be directly under the shoulders.
  • Position your body in a straight line from the shoulders through the hips, knees and ankles.
  • Brace the core tight. (As if you’re going to be punched in the stomach)
  • Do not let the body slouch to the ground nor push the hips up high in the air.
  • Hold for the designated amount of time.

Coaching Points

The biggest mistake that I see with Front Planks is athletes holding the position, but not properly keeping the core engaged and just allowing the torso to slouch. So, while they are technically up on their elbows and toes, all they’re really doing is straining the low back.

The other mistake I see is the exact opposite and that is athletes shooting their butts into the air, resembling more of a Down Dog position.

The difference between the two is the second, having your butt too high, is easier to notice and corrected more often. However, letting the body slouch during a plank is often allowed to pass as ‘good form’ when it is not.

Benefits of Front Planks

Front Planks are one of the most effective exercises for building not just core strength, but more specifically core stability.

Planks are my favorite exercise to help teach athletes how to properly brace their core. A braced core is what helps to protect your spine for many exercises in the weight including Squats and the Olympic lifts.

Side Planks vs Regular Planks: Is One Better?

Now, let’s take a look at both Plank variations side-by-side and discuss their differences and if one is better than the other for specific training goals.

Difference Between Front and Side Plank

The biggest difference between the two Plank variations is in the core muscles that they target.

Front Planks will place more of an emphasis on the Rectus Abdominis and Side Planks place more of an emphasis on the Obliques.

This is NOT to say each exercise only targets those muscles. Both Plank variations will work the entire core including all the abdominal muscles and the low back.

Is One Better for Developing Core Strength?

No. Both variations are excellent at improving core strength and to say one is better than the other would really be splitting hairs.

My suggestion is to incorporate both variations into your workouts. I almost always include both Front Planks and Side Planks together into a core stability routine.

For example, try doing 30 seconds of Front Plank, then shift into a Side Plank for 30 seconds. Next, immediately shift over to the opposite elbow for another 30 seconds and then finally back to both elbows for another 30 seconds of Front Plank.

I’ve used this 2-minute Plank routine with athletes for a long time and it’s a very simple, efficient and extremely effective routine for developing core stability. Try adding it to the end of a workout for an ab finisher that will completely torch your core.

Final Thoughts

First and foremost, I hope this quick guide has helped you decipher the differences (and similarities) between Side Planks and Regular Planks.

Which is better?

Well, I don’t think either exercise is necessarily better than the other and I would advise figuring out how you can incorporate both Plank variations into your strength program.

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