Side Plank: How-to, useful tips, Common mistakes + FAQ

One of the most famous exercises to train the side of the abs is the side plank. This exercise can make a good contribution to the stability of your waist and is also fairly easy to learn, provided you have already built up some strength.

On this page, you will find extensive information about the muscle groups that you train and how you should really perform the exercise. In addition, you will discover which mistakes are made the most and we have a number of fun challenges to make the exercise a bit more difficult.

Which muscles do you train with a side plank?

The most important muscles that you train with the side plank are, of course, the obliques. There is a good chance that training this muscle group is the reason you want to do the exercise in the first place. However, as with many exercises, it does not stop at one muscle group.

During the performance, you will also notice that your entire abdominal muscles are put to work. Not only the obliques but also the lower and upper abs are trained while doing a side plank.

In addition, you also use your lower back to stay well-balanced. Just like with a normal plank, your lower back can also 'slump'. With a side plank, this should also remain well-tensioned during the entire exercise. So focus on keeping your waist in constant tension.

How-to Side Plank

Execution of the side plank

Here you will find a step-by-step explanation of the side plank. Do you still find the following too difficult? Then read on under the heading 'side plank for beginners'. There we explain how to do the side plank in a way that is perfect for people who have never done it before.

1. Lie on your side

Lay down a yoga mat or choose a surface that is soft enough to lie on. Then lie on your side, with your feet placed together.

2. Place your arm directly under your shoulder

Push your upper body up and lean on your forearm. Your elbow should be directly under the shoulder. Place your hand flat on the floor to create a stable position.

3. Move your hip off the ground

Then lift your hip off the floor. Make sure to tighten your abs and keep your waist straight. Also, tighten your glutes firmly.

4. Move your knees off the ground

Now lift your knees off the floor as well. Once these are off the ground, your legs should be fully extended. Now it's time to push your hip up.

Visualize that there is a rope tied around your hip and someone is using this rope to pull you up. You can also choose to raise your top arm straight up. Many people find it easier to maintain balance because of this.

5. Keep pushing your hip up and hold

Now it is important to hold this position. Try to get 30 seconds in the beginning. If this is too easy, you can try to get 45 seconds or maybe even one minute. Then lower yourself back down and take a rest.

6. Repeat as many times as desired

You can repeat the exercise as many times as you want. Note that you also have to train the other side of your obliques. So you have actually only done one set if you have trained both sides.

Most common mistakes

Unfortunately, the exercise is still regularly performed incorrectly. Do you want to prevent this? Read the most common mistakes here and avoid making them yourself.

1. Hip not raised enough. Perhaps the most common mistake made during side plank: the hip is not pushed up enough. When pushing the hip up, you tighten the oblique abdominal muscles enormously. When the exercise becomes more difficult, many people lower their hips slowly. Try to avoid this and really focus on pushing this up.

2. Arm not straight under the shoulder. Another mistake that is regularly made is placing the arm incorrectly. If you don't place the arm with which you rest on the floor directly under your shoulder, the exercise becomes a lot more difficult. This puts unnecessary pressure on your shoulder and arm. This is exactly what you want to avoid.

Variations for beginners

Is the standard version of the side plank still too difficult for you? Then the solution is quite simple. At the point where you would normally take your knees off the floor, now just leave them on the floor. You need to focus again on pushing your hip up.

Does this now work well, but is the standard side plank still too heavy? There is also a variant that makes it a little easier.

Push your knees off the floor as if you were going to do a normal side plank. Instead of placing your feet on top of each other, however, put your top leg forward a bit. This way you keep your balance much easier and the exercise becomes a bit easier. Once you can do this properly, you can try a full-fledged side plank.

How do you make it even more challenging?

Is the side plank too simple for you? Then there are different variants that you can perform. Here we briefly explain each variant, so that you can experiment yourself. This way you not only make your training sessions a bit more difficult but also a bit more fun.

side plank with extended arm

With the regular side plank, you keep the forearm you are supporting flat on the floor. You can make the exercise more difficult by lifting your forearm off the floor as well. The arm you are leaning on should therefore be fully extended and only your hand should still touch the ground.

This makes the balance a lot more difficult so that you automatically have to use your abs more to be able to perform the exercise correctly.

side plank with arm reach

When you have the upper arm extended in the air, move it down and then under your body. Suppose you rest on your right arm and have your left arm in the air. In that case, you move your left arm down, under your body, and then back up again. You can repeat this as often as you want.

Starfish variant

One of the most difficult variants of the side plank is the starfish side plank. In this variant, you move the top leg straight into the air, while you continue to perform a regular side plank. You can perform the starfish side plank in two ways.

On the one hand, resting on your elbow, and on the other hand, resting on your hand with an extended arm. In the last variant, you have stretched both arms and legs. This is the most difficult version.

Frequently asked questions about the side plank

We round off this explanation about the side plank with a number of frequently asked questions. Do you still have questions about this exercise after reading? Let us know and maybe we'll add your question to this overview so that we can also help other people with this.

How long should you do a side plank?

You can perform the exercise for as long (or short) as you want. For example, aim to hold it for at least 30 seconds. Doesn't this work? Then work towards this. Will this work? Then you can try holding it for 45 seconds or maybe even a minute.

Why do I get pain in my shoulder?

If you get pain in your shoulder when doing the side plank, it may be due to the positioning of your elbow. Make sure that you have always placed it directly under your shoulder. This ensures that there is no unnecessary tension on your shoulder.

Side planks on your elbow or your hand?

Both are great exercises for the side of your abs. Do you notice that the variant where you lean on your forearm is becoming too easy? Then you can try side planks from your hand. In addition, there are many other ways to make exercise more difficult. You will find it on this page.

Is a side plank difficult?

The side plank is an average exercise in terms of difficulty. The exercise is fairly easy to perform, but it does require a lot of strength from your waist. At first, you'll probably only last a few seconds. If you continue to train the exercise, it will automatically become longer and you can add variations.

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