What Do Side Planks Work: Side planks are a versatile and effective exercise that target a multitude of muscle groups, making them a popular choice among fitness enthusiasts and athletes alike. This deceptively simple yet challenging movement primarily engages the muscles along the sides of the torso, commonly known as the obliques. However, the benefits of side planks extend far beyond the quest for sculpted abs. When performed correctly, side planks work not only the obliques but also the entire core, including the transverse abdominis and lower back muscles, while simultaneously engaging the shoulders, hips, and legs.
The side plank, also known as the side bridge, is a static isometric exercise that involves supporting the body’s weight on one forearm or hand and the side of one foot, while keeping the body in a straight line from head to heels. This foundational pose may appear straightforward at first glance, but it demands significant strength, balance, and endurance, making it an indispensable component of any well-rounded fitness routine.
The primary muscle group that side planks home is the obliques. These are the muscles that run along the sides of your torso, consisting of the external obliques and the internal obliques. By subjecting the obliques to a sustained contraction, side planks aid in tightening and toning these Pilates muscles, ultimately contributing to a more defined waistline. The aesthetic benefits of well-developed obliques are evident, but there’s more to side planks than just looks.
What are the benefits of side planks?
Side planks allow you to simultaneously work on endurance, strength, and stability. Side planks are full-body exercises that work the core, arms, and legs. Planks can also improve balance by requiring you to stabilise your body in an unstable position.
Core Strength: Side planks primarily target the obliques, but they also engage the transverse abdominis and lower back muscles. This comprehensive core engagement leads to increased core strength, stability, and endurance.
Toned Obliques: Side planks are particularly effective at sculpting and toning the oblique muscles, which contribute to a more defined waistline and a trimmer appearance.
Improved Posture: Strengthening the core muscles through side planks helps in maintaining proper posture. A strong core provides essential support to the spine, reducing the risk of slouching or poor alignment.
Lower Back Health: Side planks target the quadratus lumborum, a muscle responsible for stabilising the spine. Strengthening this muscle can alleviate lower back pain and reduce the risk of injury.
Enhanced Balance and Stability: Side planks require you to balance on one arm or hand and the side of one foot, which significantly enhances your overall balance and stability.
Do side planks help to get a smaller waist?
Strengthening this area of the abdominal wall actually decreases the risk of back pain and makes for a stronger, more stable core. From an aesthetic perspective, side planks will tone your obliques, “whittling” your waist and helping you lose inches, if that is your goal.
Oblique Toning: Side planks primarily target the oblique muscles, both the external and internal obliques. Consistent engagement of these muscles through side plank exercises can lead to a more toned and sculpted appearance along the sides of your torso. While it won’t directly reduce fat, it can make the waistline appear more defined as the muscles become more prominent.
Caloric Burn: Although not a high-intensity calorie-burning exercise, side planks do expend some energy. Incorporating them into your workout routine contributes to your overall daily calorie expenditure. Over time, this can help in reducing body fat, which, when combined with a healthy diet and other forms of exercise, can result in a smaller waist.
Core Strengthening: A strong core, including the obliques, contributes to better posture and spinal alignment. When you maintain an upright and balanced posture, your waistline appears smaller and more streamlined. The improved posture, courtesy of side planks, can create the illusion of a smaller waist.
Nutritional Support: While side planks themselves don’t directly lead to a smaller waist through dietary changes, they can indirectly promote a healthier lifestyle. Regular exercise often acts as a motivator for individuals to make better dietary choices, which is a crucial aspect of losing body fat and achieving a smaller waist.
Enhanced Self-Esteem: Achieving a toned and strong core through exercises like side planks can boost self-confidence and body image. When you feel good about yourself, you’re more likely to embrace a positive approach to your body and overall health.
What muscles do side planks work out?
The main side plank muscles worked are the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, external obliques, and quadratus lumborum. This exercise also challenges your stabilizer muscles, which helps improve your balance and coordination.
Transverse Abdominis: This muscle, often referred to as the “corset muscle,” is the deepest layer of the abdominal muscles. It plays a crucial role in stabilizing the spine and maintaining core strength. Side planks activate the transverse abdominis, which enhances core stability.
Quadratus Lumborum: The quadratus lumborum is a muscle in the lower back that connects the spine and pelvis. It’s responsible for maintaining spinal stability and helps protect against lower back pain. Side planks work the quadratus lumborum, promoting lower back health.
Shoulders: To maintain the side plank position, your shoulders and arms must bear your body weight. This engagement works the shoulder muscles, particularly the deltoids, which are responsible for shoulder stability and strength.
Hips and Glutes: To keep your body in a straight line from head to heels during a side plank, you must engage your hip and glute muscles. These muscles contribute to overall stability and balance during the exercise.
Legs: The leg muscles, particularly the quadriceps, play a supporting role in maintaining the side plank position. They help keep your body elevated and your legs in a straight line.
Does side plank reduce side belly fat?
Many wonder if side planks can help to reduce belly fat. Yes, it can because it works up your abdominal muscles. The yoga pose might seem easy to ace, but when you try to hold the position, you will experience a mildly painful stretch around your abdomen.
Caloric Deficit: To lose fat, including the fat around your midsection, you need to consume fewer calories than you expend. Creating a caloric deficit through a balanced diet and regular physical activity is crucial for overall fat loss.
Cardiovascular Exercise: Engaging in cardiovascular activities like running, cycling, or swimming helps burn calories and is effective for reducing body fat, including the fat stored around your abdomen.
Strength Training: While side planks and other core-strengthening exercises are valuable for building muscle, increasing muscle mass can help boost your metabolism and assist in fat loss.
Diet: A healthy, balanced diet that includes whole foods, lean protein, fiber, and controlled portions is essential for losing belly fat. Reducing the consumption of sugary and high-calorie foods can make a significant difference.
Consistency: Consistency in both exercise and dietary choices is key. Sustainable, long-term changes are more likely to lead to lasting fat loss.
Which plank is most beneficial?
The straight-arm plank engages the triceps and the core, being the most preferred plank drill for those who are willing to strengthen their upper body. Meanwhile, the forearm plank helps you strengthen the transverse abdominis muscle and works better for people who target their abs.
Standard Plank: The traditional forearm plank is a great starting point for developing core strength. It primarily targets the rectus abdominis (the “six-pack” muscles) and the transverse abdominis. It’s excellent for core stability and can help improve posture.
Side Plank: As discussed earlier, side planks are superb for engaging the oblique muscles, which run along the sides of your abdomen. They are particularly effective for toning and strengthening the obliques and enhancing core stability.
Plank with Leg Lift: Elevating one leg while in a standard plank position adds an element of balance and requires extra engagement of the glutes and hamstrings. This variation can help improve overall lower body strength and core stability.
Plank with Shoulder Taps: In this variation, you alternate tapping your shoulders with your hands while in a plank position. It challenges your core and shoulder stability, helping to develop both upper body and core strength.
Dolphin Plank: The dolphin plank is similar to the standard plank, but it’s performed on your forearms with your hips lifted. This variation engages the core, shoulders, and upper back, providing a full-body workout with an emphasis on the shoulders and upper body.
Which is better plank or side plank?
The side plank will have a stronger emphasis on the quadratus lumborum – the part of the back side of the abdominal wall that plays a major role in preventing back pain.
Core Strengthening: The standard plank primarily targets the rectus abdominis and the transverse abdominis, working to strengthen the front and deep core muscles. It’s a great choice if you’re looking to develop overall core strength.
Posture Improvement: Engaging the core muscles in the standard plank can help improve posture by supporting the spine and reducing the risk of slouching.
Versatility: The standard plank is a foundational exercise that can be modified to increase or decrease the difficulty level. It serves as an excellent starting point for individuals at various fitness levels.
Oblique Toning: The side plank is particularly effective for engaging the oblique muscles, which run along the sides of your abdomen. It’s an excellent choice if you’re aiming for more sculpted and toned obliques.
Core Stability: Side planks are known for enhancing core stability, which is beneficial for balance and preventing lower back pain.
Full-Body Engagement: While primarily focused on the obliques, side planks also engage the shoulders, hips, and legs, offering a more comprehensive full-body workout compared to the standard plank.
How many side planks a day?
How Many Sets Of Side Planks Should I Do? There is no correct number of sets to do side planks for. 2-3 sets is a good place to start, however even adding just 1 set to your workouts will help with core strength.
Frequency: You can perform side planks every day if you wish, as they are an isometric exercise that doesn’t typically lead to muscle fatigue or soreness as quickly as other exercises. However, it’s essential to balance your workouts with variety to avoid overuse injuries and promote overall muscle development.
Sets and Duration: A common approach is to start with 2-3 sets of side planks per side, holding each plank for 20-30 seconds. As your strength improves, you can gradually increase the duration or the number of sets.
Progression: If your goal is to strengthen your core and obliques, it’s often better to focus on quality rather than quantity. Ensure your form is correct and that you can maintain good posture throughout the exercise. Once you can comfortably hold a side plank for 30 seconds to a minute, you can progress to more challenging variations.
Variety: To avoid overuse and promote balanced development, consider incorporating different plank variations into your routine. This can include different types of side planks, standard planks, and dynamic core exercises.
What happens if I do side planks everyday?
Side planks work the deep spinal stabilizing muscle quadratus lumborum . Keeping this muscle strong can help reduce your risk of a back injury. Strengthens your core without stressing your back. Unlike crunches and situps, side planks don’t put pressure on your lower back.
Core Strength: Daily side plank practice can lead to significant improvements in core strength, particularly the obliques. You may notice increased muscle definition and endurance in your core muscles.
Core Stability: Frequent side planks can enhance core stability and balance, which can be beneficial for daily activities and sports performance.
Better Posture: Strengthening your core muscles through daily side plank exercises can help maintain a more upright and balanced posture.
Overuse Injuries: Excessive, daily side plank practice can lead to overuse injuries, particularly in the shoulders, wrists, or lower back. It’s crucial to maintain proper form and avoid excessive strain to prevent injuries.
Plateau: Doing the same exercise daily may lead to a plateau in your progress. After a while, your body may adapt to the workout, and the exercise may become less effective for building strength or toning your muscles.
Imbalance: Focusing solely on side planks may create muscle imbalances, as they primarily target the obliques and core. A well-rounded fitness routine should include exercises targeting other muscle groups for overall body strength.
The primary focus of side planks is the oblique muscles, which, when developed, contribute to a more sculpted and toned waistline. The aesthetic appeal of well-defined obliques is a significant motivator for many, but it’s vital to understand that the benefits of side planks go far deeper. Strengthening the obliques through side planks enhances core stability and balance, leading to better posture and a reduced risk of lower back pain.
The engagement of the transverse abdominis, the deepest layer of the abdominal muscles, is a hidden gem of the side plank. This muscle acts as a natural corset, providing spinal and organ support. A stronger transverse abdominis can lead to a more robust core, ultimately safeguarding your spine and making everyday activities less taxing on your lower back.
Speaking of the lower back, side planks also target the quadratus lumborum, which is responsible for stabilizing the spine. A well-conditioned quadratus lumborum not only reduces the risk of lower back injuries but also improves overall back health. This is invaluable for anyone, whether you’re an athlete, someone with a physically demanding job, or simply looking to maintain a pain-free back as you age.