Adding upper body rotations to side planks influences a few details. Discover exactly how to do this and what the benefits are.
Side plank rotations are a variation of side planks where you reach under your body with your free arm by rotating your upper body and move back after that.
This extra movement works the oblique muscles responsible for upper body rotation and your abs a bit more.
At the same time, side plank rotations still work your outer thigh muscles and other oblique muscle fibers in isometric (static) ways.
In general, more dynamic exercises tend to be more effective for goals like muscle growth and strength progress.
One of the potential benefits of isometric exercises like side planks is that some people find them more comfortable.
However, by adding the rotation you undo this effect but you don’t get that many extra training results.
In simpler words, while side plank rotations can still offer benefits, they are typically not a great exercise compared to the alternatives available.
On top of that, all the turning and twisting make it hard to do side plank rotations with weights in effective ways.
How to do a side plank rotation
First of all, you can make side plank rotations more comfortable for your elbows by putting a soft surface below your elbows.
With that in mind, take the following steps to do this exercise:
- Sit sideways on the ground and lean on your lowest forearm. Keep the upper arm of this side about vertical.
- Step away from your upper arm with your feet until you are in a straight line from your heels to your shoulders. Point the upper arm of the highest arm in the air and keep the elbow at about a 90-degree angle.
- Rotate your upper body “inward” as far as comfortable in a controlled motion. You can reach under your body with your free arm to increase your range of motion. Try to keep your body in more or less a straight line.
- Slowly rotate your upper body back until you are in the position of step 2.
- Complete your set and do the same number of rotations and hold the same side plank duration on the other side.
How far you can twist in side plank rotations depends a lot on your personal capabilities.
Besides that, try to keep your body more or less in one straight line throughout the exercise.
If you want to add rotation to this type of movement but find the full side plank too hard you can start with a modification.
More specifically, the rotation variation of side plank progressions like a knee side plank is more beginner-friendly.
Muscles worked with side plank rotations
The main muscles worked with side plank rotations are still your hip abductors (outer thigh muscles) and obliques responsible for tilting your upper body sideways.
That being said, the extra rotations do work your obliques responsible for upper body rotation and abs a nice amount more.
Besides that, your deltoids (shoulders), trapezius (upper back), erector spinae (lower back), and chest muscles are still at work in side plank rotations to keep your body in the right positions.
It is worth noting that side plank rotations will still work the main muscles of the exercise in isometric (static) ways.
This is important because isometric exercises tend to be less effective than more dynamic movements for growing and strengthening muscles.
Doing side plank rotations with enough pressure and repetitions can still help you achieve these fitness goals too. However, you may prefer to get more results in shorter amounts of time with alternatives.
More advanced lifters who do decide to do more side plank rotations may need to do them with weights to see the desired results.
You can do this by wearing ankle weights close to your hips and/or holding some form of oblique exercise equipment like a dumbbell with your upper arm.
Side plank rotation benefits
Even if there are more effective alternatives, doing side plank rotations with a good workout plan can still offer benefits. A few of these include:
- Stronger muscles: Doing side plank rotations with the right resistance, sets, and repetitions can still help you grow and strengthen your obliques, outer thighs, and abs.
- Balance and coordination: Adding rotations makes the side plank exercise harder in terms of balance and coordination. This can benefit your skills in these areas.
- May prevent back pain: By strengthening your core muscles with side planks you can reduce your risk of back pain (1, 2).
- No equipment or location required: While some individuals need extra weights, many people will be able to see nice results from side plank rotations without investing in fitness equipment or going to the gym.
- Adds extra muscle engagement: The extra rotations make it so you engage your abs and a variety of oblique muscle fibers that would not have to work as much in regular side planks.
If these benefits align with your training goals and you like doing side plank rotations you could consider doing this exercise more often.
Side plank rotation alternatives
If you don’t necessarily love side plank rotations you likely want to know what movements you can do to get more results in shorter amounts of time.
Additionally, you may simply want to focus on different muscles.
Some examples of side plank rotation alternatives include:
- Side bends
- Standing Russian twists with a cable machine or resistance band
- Lying side leg raises
- Bicycle crunches
- Ab wheel V roll-outs
- Hanging sideways knee raises
- Weighted leg abductions
Details like your training goals, preferences, and body strength will influence what side plank rotation alternatives are the best options for you.
Are side plank rotations a good exercise?
Side plank rotations can be a good exercise if you want to work different parts of your obliques, outer thigh muscles, and abs in one movement.
That being said, it is important to keep in mind that there are many exercise alternatives that will be more effective than side plank rotations for growing and strengthening these muscles.
This is due to reasons like the isometric (static) muscle engagement and how challenging it is to add weights to side plank rotations in effective ways.
It is still worth mentioning that liking the workouts you do can benefit consistency.
In simpler words, if you like doing side plank rotations, you could still find somewhat beneficial ways to add them to your routine.