You can add movements to the regular side plank to get different effects. Discover how to do side plank reaches and what they do.
First of all, there are different movements you can consider to be side plank reaches. In this article, I will consider this to be a side plank variation where you add a side reach stretch to the regular stance.
There are also “side plank reaches” where you rotate your shoulder and reach under your upper body. These are also called side plank rotations and will not be part of this article.
With that in mind, side plank reaches are similar to the regular version in terms of the outer thigh and oblique muscle engagement.
On top of this, you get a bit of latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back muscle) stretching.
Similar to the regular version, side plank reaches can be suboptimal for growing and strengthening the main muscles due to the isometric (static) muscle engagement.
Additionally, there are better ways to stretch your latissimus dorsi muscles and it becomes harder to add resistance in the right places.
In simpler words, side plank reaches are mostly good for people who find more dynamic exercises uncomfortable and want to stretch their lats to some extent.
How to do a side plank reach
Warming up your upper back muscles before doing side plank reaches tends to be helpful. Even something like moving your arms sideways up and down for a minute or two can be good.
After that, take the following steps to do a side plank reach:
- Side sideways on the ground and lean on the lower arm closest to the ground. Keep your upper arm about vertical.
- Step away from this arm with your feet until you are in a straight line from your heels to your shoulders.
- Reach sideways above your head with your free arm. Keep the rest of your body in more or less the same position.
- Hold this position for some amount of time.
- Repeat the same duration side plank reach on the other side.
You preferably want to time your side plank reaches in one way or another.
This can help you work each side to about the same extent which is helpful for avoiding strength and flexibility imbalances.
That aside, if you find the standard version of side plank reaches too hard (for not), you can start with knee side plank reaches instead.
Side plank reaches muscles worked
The main muscles worked in side plank reaches are still your hip abductors (outer thigh muscles) and obliques like in the standard version of the exercise.
You also stretch your latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back muscle) to some extent by doing the arm reach.
Besides that, your abs, erector spinae, deltoids, chest, and trapezius muscles have to work to some extent to keep your body in the side plank reach position.
Keep in mind that you still need to work the main muscles with enough repetitions and for long enough to grow and strengthen them.
This becomes harder to do in side plank reaches because a typical way to do weighted side planks is to hold some form of weight on your hips.
Because your free arm is reaching above your head, this modification is not an option.
Additionally, side plank reaches still work the main muscles in an isometric (static) way. More dynamic resistance training exercises tend to be more effective.
Side plank reach benefits
While there are definitely also downsides to this exercise, you can still say that side plank reaches offer positive effects.
These will be very similar to the benefits of regular side planks but also include a more unique aspect. A few examples of these positive effects are:
- Better muscle endurance: If you can make side plank reaches challenging enough, they can help you improve muscle endurance in your hip abductors and obliques.
- Flexibility and mobility: By stretching your latissimus dorsi and moving your shoulder joint far enough, side plank reaches could benefit your flexibility and mobility in these areas.
- Balance and coordination: Adding the arm reach to side planks makes the movement just a bit harder in terms of balance and coordination. This could help you improve in these areas.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Improving the muscle endurance in your obliques with side plank reaches can help reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2).
- You could this exercise more comfortable: More dynamic core and outer thigh exercises tend to be more effective but some people find these uncomfortable. These individuals could prefer side plank reaches in this aspect.
Side plank reaches are likely not the number one option if you want to get these benefits in a short amount of time.
That being said, they do still help which makes it so you can consider adding them to your exercise routine.
Side plank reach alternatives
By now, you likely want to know what some of these more effective side plank reaches are. Some examples include:
- Standing side reaches
- Side bends
- Weighted standing leg abductions
- Other side plank variations
- Ab wheel V roll-outs
- Hanging sideways knee raises
- Lying leg abductions
To choose between these side plank reach alternatives you want to think about what you are trying to achieve and find out what types of muscle engagement your body can deal with.
Are side plank reaches a good exercise?
Side plank reaches can offer nice benefits for resistance training beginners but it is hard to call this a good exercise.
The two main reasons for this are that the latissimus dorsi stretching is likely not that effective and that this makes it harder to add weights to the side plank exercise.
Additionally, side plank reaches also have the downside of working your muscles in an isometric (static) way. This is generally less effective for growing and strengthening your muscles.
In short, you will likely prefer the results of one of the more effective side plank reaches.
One potential exception is if you find more dynamic exercises uncomfortable, don’t need much resistance to make the side plank hard enough, and want to add some latissimus dorsi stretching to the movement.
What is a side plank reach?
While there are other versions too, this article considers side plank reaches to be an exercise where you reach above your head with your free arm in the standard side plank. This adds some stretching but is generally not a good exercise overall.