Mixing exercises is not always a good idea but there are exceptions. Find out how to do side plank crunches and whether they are good.
Side plank crunches, also known as side plank knee to elbows, are a side plank variation where you crunch your body together either sideways or forward.
This version offers your abs and balance a slightly more challenging workout but to what extent you work your obliques and outer thigh muscles will be relatively similar.
Besides that, side plank crunches will also feel less comfortable on your spine due to the extra moving involved.
On top of these things, it is hard to do side plank crunches with weights. This is a downside because many people will need this to grow and strengthen their muscles with this exercise.
In short, side plank crunches can still offer benefits but they are typically not recommended. There are either more effective or more comfortable exercise options available.
How to do a side plank crunch
Being able to put your forearm on something soft can make side plank crunches a nice amount more comfortable. That aside, take the following steps to do a side plank crunch:
- Sit down sideways and lean on the forearm closest to the ground. Keep the upper arm of this side about vertical.
- Step away from your vertical upper arm with your feet until your body is in a straight line from your heels to your head.
- Move your shoulders to your hips. Sideways if you want to train oblique muscles more, forward if you want to train ab muscles more. At the same time move your upper knee a small amount to your shoulder.
- Return to the position of step 2.
- Complete your set and repeat the same number of repetitions and time on the other side.
If regular side plank crunches are currently too hard, you can start with side plank progressions like the “modified” version (on your knee instead of your foot).
Other options include exercises like a knee side plank, regular side planks, or other core exercises.
Side plank crunches muscles worked
The main muscles worked during side plank crunches are your obliques and outer thigh muscles. Your abs have to work to a decent extent too.
Additionally, you can say your shoulder, upper back, and chest muscles have to work to some extent to stop you from losing balance.
Compared to a regular side plank you work your abs or oblique muscles to a slightly larger extent. This can benefit your training results in these areas slightly.
On the flip side, it is worth mentioning that one of the main benefits of side planks is engaging your muscles in an isometric (static) way.
Some people will need this because they find more dynamic compound core exercises uncomfortable on their spines.
Additionally, side plank crunches are not that great for growing and strengthening your core muscles either. Partly because it is so hard to add resistance to the movement.
The result of all of these things is that side plank crunches are not ideal for most situations. You can find either something more comfortable or something more effective.
Side plank crunch benefits
Everything above still applies but it is fair to say that side plank crunches still offer a few benefits. Some of these benefits are:
- Better muscle endurance: Even if you don’t actually see any muscle growth, side plank crunches can improve endurance in your obliques and outer thighs.
- May prevent back pain: Because side plank crunches can improve muscle endurance, they can also prevent back pain (1, 2).
- No equipment or location required: Side plank crunches are a bodyweight exercise that only requires you to have some space to lie down. This means you don’t have to spend any money on fitness equipment or travel to your local gym to be able to train your core.
- Balance and coordination: Side plank crunches require a good amount of balance and coordination. Challenging yourself in these areas can improve your skills in them.
If you really like doing side plank crunches more than the alternatives you can still consider adding it to your workout routine.
As you can see, side plank crunches can still offer nice benefits.
Side plank crunch alternatives
As mentioned, there are a variety of side plank crunch alternatives to choose from too.
These can be more comfortable, work your muscles in more effective ways, and/or focus on different areas.
- Bicycle crunches
- Side plank dips
- Side leg raises
- Ab wheel V roll-outs
- Hanging sideways knee raises
- Weighted leg abductions
- Side bends
What side plank crunch alternatives are the best options for you depends on details like what you are trying to achieve, your personal preferences, and what exercise equipment you can use.
Are side plank crunches a good exercise?
Side plank crunches do offer positive effects like improving oblique, outer thigh, and ab muscle endurance but it is hard to call them a good exercise.
One reason is that making the side plank a crunch variation too removes the isometric (static) aspect which some people find helpful.
Additionally, the extra crunch movement is not enough to make side plank crunches a great option for working your obliques, outer thigh muscles, and abs.
In simpler words, you will likely find one of the alternatives to side plank crunches more comfortable or effective.
On top of that, it is really hard to add weights to side plank crunches in an effective way. Many people need this to see optimal results from this exercise.
If you really like doing side plank crunches, you can still consider adding this exercise to your routine.
Enjoying your workouts is useful and the movement will still offer some muscle endurance improvements and the benefits that come with that.