You can make existing exercises more interesting by adding extra movements. Find out how to do side plank toe taps and whether you should.
Side plank toe taps are a side plank variation where you raise your upper leg and tap with your foot in front and behind the other foot on the ground.
This mainly makes the outer thigh muscles of your lower leg work harder and the inner thigh muscles of your higher leg work less compared to regular side planks.
You can also say side plank toe taps are slightly more challenging in terms of balance, coordination, and engagement of your hip flexor, outer thigh, and glute muscles of the upper leg to a small extent.
If you use enough resistance and do side plank toe taps for long enough, you can grow and strengthen your outer thigh and potentially your oblique muscles.
That being said, due to the isometric (static) muscle engagement, there are also many alternatives that are more effective than side plank toe taps for these purposes.
How to do side plank toe taps
While not necessary, you may prefer doing side plank toe taps on a soft surface for the extra elbow comfort.
That aside, take the following steps to do side plank toe taps:
- Sit sideways on the ground and lean on the forearm closest to the ground. Keep your upper arm on that side about vertical.
- Walk away from your upper body with your feet until you are in about a straight line from your heels to your shoulders.
- Raise the upper leg a small amount.
- Move your upper foot slightly forward and tap on the ground.
- Move your upper foot up and back and tap on the ground behind your support foot.
- Alternate between steps 4 and 5 for a certain number of repetitions or amount of time.
- Repeat the same number of side plank toe tap repetitions and/or duration while leaning on your other arm.
Ideally, you want to time your side plank toe taps on each side so that you make sure you work the muscles on each side to about the same extent.
That aside, it is possible that you currently find full side plank toe taps too challenging. In that case, the toe tap variation of side plank progressions like knee side planks or other exercises can be good options.
Side plank toe taps muscles worked
The main muscles worked in side plank toe taps are the hip abductors (outer thigh muscles) of the lower leg and your obliques.
By raising your upper leg, the hip abductors will have to work a lot harder than in the regular side plank. Additionally, the hip adductors of the upper leg will have to work less too.
Besides that, side plank toe taps also engage the outer thigh muscles of the upper leg slightly more to keep it in the air.
You can also say that your hip flexors, glutes, abs, erector spinae, trapezius, and chest muscles have to work to some extent in this exercise.
It is important to keep in mind that just doing a few side plank toe taps here and there is likely not enough to reach your fitness goals.
More specifically, you want to choose good durations and resistance that align with what you are trying to achieve.
Even if you implement a smart training program, the isometric (static) muscle engagement from side plank toe taps will typically be less effective than more dynamic movements for the same muscles.
Side plank toe taps benefits
The things above still apply but side plank toe taps can still offer valuable benefits over doing nothing. Some of these include:
- Stronger muscles: If you approach them right, side plank toe taps can help you grow and strengthen your hip abductors (outer thigh muscles) and to some extent your obliques.
- No equipment or location required: You likely don’t need any equipment to do side plank toe taps at a challenging resistance. This can save you money and time.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: Doing side plank toe taps can improve oblique endurance which can help reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). Keep in mind that regular side planks are typically better for this benefit.
- Balance and coordination: The extra toe taps will add some amount of challenge in terms of balance and coordination. This can benefit how good you are in these areas.
If you like these benefits and the side plank toe tap exercise itself, you can consider adding this movement to your workouts.
Side plank toe tap alternatives
At the same time, you can also consider side plank toe tap alternatives to get the benefits above in shorter amounts of time. Some examples of these are:
- Weighted standing hip abductions
- Lying side leg raises
- Side plank leg lifts
- Side bends
- Other side plank variations
- Hanging sideways knee raises
To choose between these side plank toe tap alternatives you want to think about what muscles you want to work and what your training goals are.
Are side plank toe taps a good exercise?
You can say side plank toe taps are a good exercise in the sense that doing them in a smart way can help you grow and strengthen your outer thigh muscles and to some extent your obliques.
At the same time, it is important to note that side plank toe taps are an isometric aka static exercise.
This type of exercises can sometimes be more comfortable but also tends to be less effective than more dynamic exercises for growing and strengthening muscles.
In simpler words, while side plank toe taps can offer benefits, there are many exercise alternatives that will give you more results in a shorter amount of time.