Accelerate Physical Therapy

Side Planks to Strengthen the Obliques

Planks are an exercise commonly known for strengthening the core muscle group, as well as helping to improve posture and diminish back pain. It’s a great exercise that is often used by physical therapists and trainers to help people gain back their strength and overall health after an injury, or before starting a sports season.

Side planks are a popular choice for strengthening the obliques, which are the outer abdominal muscles and assist the body in turning from side to side. By adding side planks 2 to 3 times to your weekly routine, you could notice an overall improvement to the core muscle group.

Which Muscles will Benefit most from Planks and Side Planks?

The rectus abdominis, otherwise known as the six-pack when developed, helps to move your spine forward, as well as side to side. Deep inside the core is the transverse abdominis, and is lying under the abdominal muscles and helps to stabilize your torso, especially throughout isometric contractions, such as when you are planking.

Side planks will focus more on the obliques, which are the muscles that run on the outer and upper part of the abdomen, and the quadratus lumborum, which are the outer lower muscles in the abdomen. They all help with assisting in the rotation and stabilization of the torso.

The result of creating a strong core is reducing the risk of lower back issues, such as injury or chronic pain. It can also help athletes become better at their sport, and in general, help people look more toned and fit.

So, now that we know what basic planks and side planks target and how they can benefit you, let’s take a look at how to do them properly.

The Mechanics of a Basic Plank and Side Plank

In order to get a good idea of a side plank, let’s first take a look at a basic plank and how it’s done. Working to further develop your core and build strength, the transverse abdominis is targeted with basic planking. However, if not done properly, it’s not going to provide optimum benefit, and could also lead to injury. Take a look on the proper steps…

• Lay down on the floor or mat, facing down
• Keep your feet together
• Raise the hips off the floor by supporting yourself on your toes and forearms
• Keep your body completely straight and not dip your hips or back
• Maintain this position for about 30 seconds, lower and repeat

Now, in addition to the transverse abdominis, the side plank also works on both the inner and outer obliques. Do the following steps for a proper side plank…

• Lay down on your side, on the floor or a mat
• Place your forearm out in front of you
• Put your opposite hand either on your hip or on the floor in front of you for balance
• Keeping your leg on top of the other, making sure they are parallel
• Inhale while contracting your abdominal muscles
• Slowly exhale while you use your elbow, forearm, and foot to lift your body
• Keep your body straight and rigid during the lift
• Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat 8 – 12 times
• Repeat these steps on the other side

Both the basic plank and the side plank should be slowly introduced to your daily routine. If you are working with a physical therapist or trainer they can help you not only achieve the proper technique and positioning, but also how many repetitions you should start with and work up to in time.