You can get fitter and healthier with many movements. Find out what specific benefits side planks offer and whether they are for you.
It is important to keep in mind that while doing side planks can make positive differences, there are also more effective exercises out there.
More specifically, people who don’t have issues with tilting their upper body sideways likely want to turn more dynamic movements instead.
1. Side planks can strengthen muscles
Side planks do not look the most impressive but if you give them a try, you will notice that they work your muscles to a nice extent.
In combination with the right resistance and duration, this can actually lead to muscle growth or at least improvements in muscle endurance.
This extra muscle (endurance) offers a variety of health and potentially visual positive effects.
The main muscles you work with side planks include:
- Obliques (sides)
- Hip abductors (outer thighs)
Some of the secondary muscles you work out with side planks include:
- Erector spinae (lower back)
- Deltoids (shoulders)
- Trapezius (upper back)
How long you should hold a side plank and with what weight depends on your training goals.
For example, to grow your oblique muscles, you would do side planks of 3 to 30 seconds per set and more than 80 to 150 seconds per workout with a resistance that makes these durations very challenging.
If you are somewhat more experienced with core training, you may need to turn to weighted side planks to do this.
That being said, something important to note is that side planks work your muscles in an isometric aka static way.
This is generally less effective for growth and strength progress than more dynamic side plank alternatives like side plank dips.
2. May reduce back pain
In modern life, aches and pains are somewhat common. Especially in the lower back area.
Luckily, there are still a few ways to reduce your risk, prevent, and lessen the extent of these things.
More specifically, one review of multiple studies concluded that core strength training exercises like side planks can be effective for reducing low back pain (1).
In one specific study with 120 participants with lower back pain, a core stabilization exercise program was more effective than routine physical therapy exercises for a similar duration for reducing pain (2).
3. Side planks could be more comfortable than alternatives
As briefly mentioned, the static aspect of side planks makes them less effective for growing and strengthening muscles than their more dynamic counterparts.
That being said, there are still benefits to isometric exercises.
Side planks can be a good choice for people who (currently) find more dynamic oblique and hip abductor exercises uncomfortable for their spines and hips.
If this applies to you, you can start with side planks to strengthen your body.
Over time, you may be able to switch to the more effective dynamic exercises to get the benefits of side planks to a larger extent.
4. You can do side planks almost anywhere
There are many examples where you need to be in certain locations or use exercise equipment you likely can’t fit in your home to be able to do a good workout.
This is a downside because every time you want to exercise you have to spend extra time to get to this location.
Even if this is just 10 minutes per workout, these minutes can really add up if you take into account how often you will make this trip.
A benefit of side planks is that you don’t have to worry about this and save yourself some time because you can do this exercise basically anywhere.
All that is left for you to do is free up a few minutes throughout the day to do your side plank workout.
5. Side planks can improve balance
Side planks are still very doable for most people but it is fair to say that they require a bit of balance. At least the first few times you do this exercise.
Similar to many other areas of your body, you can improve your balance by challenging yourself in safe amounts.
In turn, you can say that side planks can benefit your balance at least slightly.
One question is how useful better balance in this position is for activities besides your side plank workouts.
There will likely be less carry-over to other areas of your life than something like training your balance with lunges.
6. Side planks are budget-friendly
Even if you have the space to put exercise equipment in your house, these things still require an investment.
Investing in your health can be great but sometimes you can also get nice benefits with a smaller or no budget.
One example of this is the side plank exercise. Theoretically, you don’t need any equipment if you are fine with just improving muscle endurance.
And even if you want to actually grow the muscles you work by adding resistance, a heavy backpack with books or water bottles can help a nice amount with this.
7. Side planks can help avoid muscle asymmetries
Side planks are a unilateral resistance training exercise. In simpler words, this means that you work the muscles on one side at a time.
This is somewhat more common for oblique and hip abductor exercises but it is worth briefly mentioning this benefit anyway.
In exercises where you work muscles on both sides at a time, it is possible to use one side more than the other.
Doing this can lead to muscle imbalances and the injury risks and suboptimal visuals that come with that.
On the flip side, side planks allow you to work each side to the same extent. At least if you time the duration of your sets well.
Something you do want to keep in mind is that unilateral exercises also tend to take up more time since you have to work each side separately.