There are many different habits and workouts you can do to improve your life. What about doing side planks, what benefits can you expect?
Side planks are a type of plank variation where you hold your body sideways instead of horizontal. This difference makes it so side planks focus more on other muscles but the benefits side planks offer are still similar to regular planks.
To do a side plank sit down sideways and lean on the elbow of the lowest arm. Keep the upper arm of that side horizontal to support your body. After that walk away from your upper body with your feet until you can put your body in a straight side plank.
Make sure you pay attention to using the right technique to avoid any injuries.
Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding side planks to your routine can offer you some of the following amazing benefits.
1. Stronger muscles
Side planks are mainly a strength training exercise, which means they are mostly for improving muscle strength and endurance. Extra muscle is not only beneficial for your health in many ways but it is also considered to be visually appealing.
Some of the primary muscles you work out with side planks include:
- Hip abductors
Some of the secondary muscles you work out with side planks include:
- Erector spinae
If you like the idea of building muscle while doing side planks you can first of all make it more dynamic by doing side plank dips, moving your hips up and down.
Besides that, you can also hold extra weight on your hips to make side planks more challenging for your muscles. Make sure your body is strong enough to deal with this.
As a strength training beginner side planks can be a useful bodyweight exercise choice to build some muscle mass.
That being said, at some point your body weight may stop being enough resistance to build extra muscle mass with regular side planks. When this is the case, side plank dips or strength training exercises where you use external weights are the next step if you want to keep building a lot of extra muscle.
2. May reduce back pain
Lower back pain is a relatively common problem that can be a challenge to treat. A study review concluded that core strength training exercises like side planks can be effective for reducing low back pain (1).
One other study with 120 people with lower back pain observed that a core stabilization exercise program was more effective for reducing pain compared to routine physical therapy exercise for a similar duration (2).
3. Can help with losing weight
Losing weight is about using up body fat, which is basically energy stored. To do this you want to make sure that you require more energy throughout the day than there is coming in from food.
One way to try to make this happen is by doing a workout. By increasing the intensity of your movements for a period of time you use up more energy than usual. Doing side planks can help with weight loss since doing a workout like it generally requires more energy than most of your usual daily activities.
Another way workouts, mainly strength training exercises, help you lose weight is by increasing your muscle mass which in turn helps with burning more energy with everything you do.
Static plank exercises generally burn a low number of calories during the workout. On top of that your core and hip abductor muscles are not the biggest muscle groups so there is not that much room for extra muscle mass. These things combined make side planks a rather bad exercise for weight loss, but they are more helpful than doing nothing.
Keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat are important when trying to lose weight no matter what exercise you do. You can work out and gain weight at the same time if your other lifestyle habits are not good.
4. Improves posture
When doing side planks with the right technique you train muscles that are important for a good posture.
Improving your posture will help you avoid related injuries. One small study even suggests that open non-verbal displays, which a good posture helps with, are attractive (3).
5. Improved mood
Most people are not always completely aware of it but the physical health of the human body has a big influence on the mood and thoughts of the individual.
Doing side planks doesn’t just help with this by improving general health. There are inevitably many different reasons involved but one reason why exercises like side planks benefit mental health is that they promote the release of endorphins, “feel-good” hormones (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).
Besides the actual physiological changes doing side planks will cause, you will likely also have positive feelings about having done something challenging that’s good for you.
6. You can do side planks almost anywhere
A downside of many exercises is that they need you to be in a specific location, or use specific equipment that you generally don’t have at home.
This makes it so you often have to drive, cycle, or walk somewhere for a while. Let’s say you exercise twice a week and going to your workout takes 10 minutes to get there and 10 minutes to go back. That’s 40 minutes less free time per week.
This extra transportation also makes it easier to say no to your workout. Being able to be consistent is key for a good workout plan.
However, with side planks you don’t have to worry about these things. You can do them as good as anywhere. All you need is a few blocks of free time throughout the day and you can get in a side plank workout.
7. Improves balance and coordination
Although they may not look like it at first, you will definitely challenge your balance and coordination skills while doing side planks. By using these frequently you get better at them like with most skills. Many people forget to implement balance training into their workout routine but it is a helpful fitness component.
The benefits of improved balance and coordination don’t just show up in other technical sports. In daily activities as simple as climbing the stairs, these skills can help you avoid accidents.
8. Low impact workout
If you exercise a lot, or you plan to, potential injuries are a very relevant concern.
Consistency is a big part of working out. The effectiveness of your workout plan will go down drastically if you can’t exercise for 2 weeks every month because of injuries.
Some exercises like running can be rough on body parts like knees and back. Especially if it is the case that you’re carrying around a few extra pounds.
Luckily doing side planks is generally a low impact workout, the shocks your body will experience are relatively soft. This is a huge benefit of side planks, particularly if you are generally injury-sensitive.
9. Budget-friendly workout
Another potential hurdle for many workouts is the budget required.
Some exercises require inexpensive equipment starting at a jumping rope to at-home workout machines of hundreds or thousands of dollars. Even the investment required for gym subscriptions adds up after a while.
Money put into improving your health is generally a great investment but sometimes you can get the same effects with less. In the case of side planks you don’t need to invest any budget at all. This can be a great benefit depending on your personal situation.
10. No complicated technique required
Some machines and workouts almost require a university degree before you can use them optimally. For example some kettlebell workouts or something like dancing can be slightly more complicated to get started with.
When trying to stick to an exercise routine you want to be able to start as soon as possible and as few reasons as possible to not work out.
You do want to pay some attention to your posture when starting out but side planks are generally a simple workout when it comes to technique.
11. Helps you avoid muscle asymmetries
Side planks are a strength training exercise where you put most of your weight on one side at a time. By doing this you reduce the risk of using one side more than the other. This is a possibility in regular planks and other core exercises.
If you use one side more the muscle gain in one side can be different than the other which leads to muscle asymmetries. Muscle asymmetries can lead to increased injury risk and bad posture so likely something you want to avoid.
You can do this by timing the duration of the side plank for each side or doing the number of side plank dips.
12. Improves sleep
Good quality and duration sleep are extremely important for your physical health and cognitive function. Unfortunately, many people can do a lot better with both quality and duration.
A lot of the things you do throughout the day influence the quality and duration in some way. One of the things that can benefit sleep a relatively high amount is doing a workout like side planks (10, 11, 12).
You do want to keep in mind that exercising too close to bedtime can have the reverse effect and mess with your sleep. Make sure you give your body time enough time to calm down after a workout. For most people, this comes down to avoiding exercises at least an hour or two before going to sleep.
While most workouts are better for most of these benefits than side planks, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.
One thing you need to remember is that doing side planks can be hard on body parts like your back, hips, elbows, shoulders, and neck even if you implement the right technique.
If you are sensitive or weak in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. Especially if you have any back pain, you may want to talk to your primary care provider before doing more side plank dips.
Also keep in mind that consistency is a big factor for a workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing side planks is a workout you love, great. If not there are plenty of other exercises to consider that can also offer a lot of benefits.