Side Plank Rows: How To, Muscles Worked,…

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Combining multiple exercises is often not great but there are exceptions. Find out how to do side plank rows and whether they are any good.

Side plank rows are a side plank variation where you row aka pull some form of resistance with your upper arm.

This resistance is usually from a cable machine or resistance bands but in theory, you could also use a dumbbell or kettlebell.

Side plank rows work your obliques, latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), trapezius (upper back), biceps, balance, and coordination a bit more than the regular version.

That being said, side plank rows are typically not that good for a few different reasons.

First of all, by having to row resistance with your upper arm, you are not really able to do the standard versions of weighted side planks anymore.

This is often needed to get optimal muscle growth and strength progress from doing side planks.

Additionally, you are not able to use that much resistance in side plank rows without losing balance. This also makes your upper back and bicep workout relatively ineffective.

How to do a side plank row

To be able to do side plank rows you need some type of resistance. The most ideal options are a cable machine with a pulley low to the ground or a resistance band anchored close to the ground.

You could also make it work with a dumbbell or kettlebell but these offer somewhat of a different workout. This is not necessarily bad but it is hard to put this in the “row” category.

As an example, take the following steps to do a side plank row with a resistance band:

  1. Anchor a resistance band somewhere sturdy around knee height.
  2. Sit sideways on the ground with your face toward the anchor and with the anchor at about chest height. Lean on the lower arm closest to the ground and keep the upper arm on that side about vertical.
  3. Step away from your upper body with your feet until you are in a straight line from your heels to your shoulders. Grab the resistance band at a point where you already have some tension. Let your arm and shoulder blade follow the resistance for now.
  4. Slowly move your hand back as far as comfortable by pulling your shoulder blade back and folding your arm. Keep your upper arm close to your side.
  5. Return your arm to the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
  6. Complete your set and repeat the same number of repetitions and side plank duration on the other side.
How to do a side plank row

Ideally, you want to give the muscles on each side about the same side plank row workout.

To do this you can time your side plank, mark at what distance from the anchor you did the exercise, and grab the resistance band at the exact same point.

If the don’t like how fast your obliques fatigue you could start with the row version of a side plank regression like the knee side plank.

Side plank rows muscles worked

The main muscles worked in side plank rows are likely still your obliques and hip abductors (outer thighs).

Additionally, the row movement works your latissimus dorsi (middle/upper back), trapezius (upper back), and biceps.

The oblique muscles responsible for upper body rotation will also have to work a bit harder because of this.

That being said, you need to keep in mind that just doing a few side plank rows will likely not be enough to grow and strengthen all these muscles.

More specifically, you still need to do enough repetitions with enough weight. This is where the downsides of side plank rows start to show up.

First of all, because your upper arm needs to hold the sideways resistance, it becomes harder to really challenge your outer thigh and oblique muscles.

You can still wear a good weighted vest or ankle weights on your thighs close to your hips but this is not as convenient as holding something like a heavy backpack.

Secondly, the muscles involved in the rows are very strong. The resistance you need to work these enough would likely make you fall out of the side plank position.

Lastly, side plank rows still work your obliques and outer thigh muscles in static ways. This is generally less effective than dynamic movements.

Side plank row benefits

Everything above still applies but it is still fair to say that side plank rows still offer benefits over doing nothing. Some of these benefits are:

  1. Muscle endurance: Even if you are not able to actually grow your muscles, side plank rows can be enough to improve muscle endurance in a few areas.
  2. May reduce or prevent back pain: If side plank rows improve your muscle endurance, they can also help you reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2).
  3. Extra muscle engagement: By adding the rows you work a few muscles that do not do anything in the regular side plank. Some people will find this a benefit.
  4. Balance and coordination: Side plank rows can be somewhat challenging in terms of balance and coordination. This has its downsides too but can benefit your skills in these areas.

Other exercises can offer these benefits too but if you really like doing side plank rows you can still consider them knowing that they will still do at least something.

Side plank row alternatives

If you don’t necessarily like side plank rows you will likely prefer exercises that offer more benefits in shorter amounts of time. A few side plank row alternatives include:

  • Pallof presses
  • Side bends
  • Ab wheel V roll-outs
  • Hanging sideways knee raises
  • Cross crunches
  • Russian twists
  • Other side plank variations

What side plank row alternatives you prefer depends on details like what muscles you want to work and what equipment you have.

Are side plank rows a good exercise?

Side plank rows can still offer some muscle endurance improvements in your obliques, outer thighs, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and biceps but it is hard to really call them a good exercise.

This is because it is hard to add enough resistance to side plank rows. Your arm is busy so it can’t hold weight on your hips and you can’t row a lot of weight because then you would fall over.

Even if you do like the extra balance and coordination required for side plank rows, you will likely be able to find more effective exercises.

In short, unless you absolutely love doing side plank rows, you want to go for one of the more effective exercise alternatives instead. This applies to most, if not all, training goals.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.