You can add movements to existing exercises to work more muscles. Discover how to do side plank leg lifts and what their benefits are.
Side plank leg lifts are a side plank variation where you also move your upper leg up and down.
First of all, this works the hip abductors (outer thigh muscles) in the lower leg a harder isometric (static) workout.
Additionally, you work the outer thigh muscles of your upper leg which you don’t do in the regular side plank. Your obliques still get a good isometric workout too.
The first thing to note about side plank leg lifts is that isometric muscle engagement tends to be less effective than more dynamic engagement.
Besides that, side plank leg lifts can also get challenging in terms of balance which can interfere with your workout.
In simpler words, you can likely make your workouts more effective by keeping your dynamic oblique and outer thigh exercises separate.
At the same time, the isometric oblique and outer thigh muscle engagement of side plank leg lifts can still offer nice results. If you like this exercise, you can still consider it.
How to do a side plank leg lift
If you find side plank leg lifts uncomfortable on your elbows, you can put something like a yoga mat below them. That aside, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Sit sideways on the ground and lean on the lowest forearm. Keep your upper arm vertical.
- Step away with your feet until your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your heels.
- Slowly raise your upper leg as far as comfortable while keeping your hips at the same angle. Keep the rest of your body in more or less a straight line.
- Lower your upper leg back to the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
- Complete your set and repeat the same number of repetitions and duration on the other side.
The main thing to keep in mind during side plank leg lifts is that only your upper leg should move. Your hips should stay in the same position and at the same angle.
Additionally, you want to do more or less the same number of side plank leg lift repetitions and durations on each side. Otherwise, you could get muscle imbalances.
Technique and training tips aside, if this exercise is currently too hard you can start with side plank progressions like regular side planks or even knee side planks.
In theory, you could also do a side plank leg raise hold but since isometric exercises tend to be less effective you likely don’t want to choose this over the dynamic version.
Muscles worked with side plank leg lifts
The main muscles worked with side plank leg lifts are your hip abductors (outer thigh muscles) and obliques.
If you want to get more detailed, your hip abductors include your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae.
Besides that, your deltoids (shoulders), trapezius, and chest muscles have to work to a small extent to keep your body in the side plank position.
It is worth noting that side plank leg lifts are still an isometric (static) exercise for your obliques and the outer thigh muscles of the lower leg.
This is not ideal since more dynamic exercises tend to be more effective for muscle growth and strength progress.
That being said, even if they are not the number one option in terms of effectiveness, side plank leg lifts can still help you see muscle-related results.
Stronger individuals can wear a good weighted vest or ankle weights close to their hips or hold a weight on their hips to work the lower obliques and hip abductors harder.
To challenge the muscles that lift your leg more, you can do side plank leg lifts while wearing an ankle weight on your upper leg or looping a resistance band around your legs.
Side plank leg lift benefits
Doing side plank leg lifts enough times with enough pressure can offer nice benefits. A few of these include:
- Stronger muscles: Side plank leg lifts work a few muscles to nice extents. If you approach it right, this can lead to bigger and stronger muscles.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Making your obliques stronger with side plank leg lifts can help you reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). Something similar applies to the muscles, joints, and tendons around your hips.
- Adds more muscle engagement: Adding leg lifts to side planks works the muscles on the lowest side harder and adds muscle engagement to the upper outer thigh muscles which you would usually not have.
- No equipment or location required: Most people will be able to see nice results from bodyweight side plank leg lifts. In turn, this makes it so you don’t have to invest in fitness equipment or go to a gym to get in a nice workout.
- Balance and coordination: The extra leg lifts in side planks will require some balance and coordination. This can be a benefit in the sense that it can improve your skills in these areas.
You don’t have to stick to side plank leg lifts to get these benefits but this exercise does help.
Side plank leg lift alternatives
At this point, you may wonder what some of these more effective alternatives to side plank leg lifts are. Some examples include:
- Side bends
- Side leg raises
- Ab wheel V roll-outs
- Hanging sideways knee raises
- Weighted leg abductions
- Oblique crunches
To choose between these side plank leg lift alternatives you want to think about what muscles you want to work in what ways.
Additionally, the exercise equipment you have available will influence your decision to some extent.
Are side plank leg lifts a good exercise?
Side plank leg lifts can be a decent/good exercise for working your obliques and outer thigh muscles at the same time.
The extra leg movement works the typical side plank muscles to a larger extent and adds extra muscle engagement in the outer thigh muscles of the upper leg.
That being said, you still need to know that side plank leg lifts will mainly be challenging in the muscles they work isometrically (in a static way).
This is relevant because isotonic (more dynamic) exercises are generally more effective for training results.
So if you don’t have a specific preference for side plank leg lifts, you likely want to implement dynamic oblique and outer thigh muscle exercises instead.
At the same time, people who enjoy doing side plank leg lifts can still consider them since they do offer positive results if you do them in a smart exercise routine.