It is easy to add some extra movements to the standard side plank. Find out how to do side plank lateral raises and whether they are worth it.
Side plank lateral raises are a side plank variation where you combine a regular side plank with raising your free arm sideways. Potentially while holding some type of weight.
This extra arm movement adds some extent of middle deltoid (shoulder muscle) engagement.
At the same time, side plank lateral raises will still work your outer thigh muscles and obliques a lot.
On the flip side, the extra muscle engagement in side plank lateral raises can be welcome but is not that great either due to the relatively small range of motion under tension.
Additionally, side plank lateral raises still work the more standard muscles in isometric (static) ways. This is suboptimal for growing and strengthening these.
If you really want to work your obliques and outer thigh muscles in an isometric way and want to add some extra deltoid muscle engagement, side plank lateral raises can be a good choice.
That being said, most people will prefer the more effective exercise alternatives available.
How to do a side plank lateral raise
To make side plank lateral raises more comfortable for your elbows you can do the exercise while leaning on a soft surface.
Additionally, you likely want some type of one-handed resistance like a dumbbell to make the movement hard enough.
With these things in mind, take the following steps to do a side plank lateral raise:
- Put something like a dumbbell on the ground.
- Sit sideways on the ground next to the dumbbells and lean on the forearm of your lowest arm. Keep the upper arm on this side vertical throughout the exercise.
- Step away from your arm until your body is in a straight line from your heels to your shoulders.
- Pick up the weight and hold it right above your body with your arm slightly less than stretched.
- Slowly raise your arm with the dumbbell until it is about vertical.
- Lower your upper arm back to the position of step 4 in a controlled motion.
- Complete your set of repetitions and do the same amount and duration of side plank lateral raises on the other side.
There are a few things you can do if full side plank lateral raises are currently too hard for you.
If you struggle with balance you can put both of your feet on the ground.
Besides that, you can start with side plank progressions like knee side plank lateral raises or simply other exercises if your muscles are not strong enough for the full version
Side plank lateral raises muscles worked
The main muscles worked in side plank lateral raises are your obliques, hip abductors (outer thighs), and middle deltoids (shoulder muscle).
Besides that, your abs, erector spinae (lower back), chest, and trapezius (upper back) muscles have to work to some extent to keep your body in the side plank position.
Side plank lateral raises mainly work your deltoids more than regular side planks. You can also say the shoulder stabilization muscles of the upper arm have to work a bit harder.
To actually grow and strengthen all these muscles there are a few downsides to side plank lateral raises.
First of all, the lateral raises in side planks have a smaller range of motion under tension than the standing version. This is typically suboptimal for training your muscles.
Additionally, similar to regular side planks, the lateral raise variation works your obliques and outer thigh muscles in an isometric (static).
This can be good if you find dynamic movements uncomfortable.
However, from an effectiveness perspective, these dynamic resistance training exercises tend to be better than side plank lateral raises.
That being said, you can still see some results from doing side plank lateral raises if you use enough resistance and do enough repetitions.
Side plank lateral raise benefits
From the things above you should understand that side plank lateral raises still offer positive effects. Most of these are similar to the benefits of regular side planks but you can add a more unique one to the list too.
- Stronger muscles: If you approach side plank lateral raises the right way, they can help you grow and strengthen a few muscles.
- Helps you avoid muscle asymmetries: When doing side plank lateral raises you mainly work the muscles on one side at a time. This can be helpful for avoiding muscle imbalances.
- Works different muscles: By adding a lateral raise to the side plank you work your deltoid muscles too.
- Balance and coordination: The extra lateral raises make the side plank just a bit more challenging in terms of balance and coordination. This can make your skills in these areas better.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: It is possible to strengthen your obliques with side plank lateral raises. In turn, this can help you reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2).
Side plank lateral raises are not unique or even the best in these benefits but they can help. If you like doing this exercise, you could consider doing it more often.
Side plank lateral raise alternatives
At the same time, many people are more interested in the benefits of the exercise and not necessarily the side plank lateral raises themselves.
In that case, you can consider a variety of side plank lateral raise alternatives:
- Standing lateral raises
- Side leg raises
- Side bends
- Upright rows
- Hanging sideways knee raises
- Other side plank variations
To choose between these side plank lateral raise alternatives you want to consider what muscles you want to work and in what ways.
Are side plank lateral raises a good exercise?
Side plank lateral raises do add some extra shoulder muscle engagement to the standard version of the movement but that does not necessarily make them a good exercise.
Two downsides of side plank lateral raises are that the lateral raises involve a relatively small range of motion and that you still work your obliques and outer thigh muscles in an isometric way.
If you find dynamic exercises for these muscles uncomfortable and want to add some shoulder muscle engagement to the side plank, the lateral raise variation can be a good choice.
However, most people will prefer the results of the dynamic and more effective exercise options for these muscles.