There are many ways you can make your side planks more interesting. Discover how to do side plank twists and whether they are a good idea.
Side plank twists are a side plank variation where you twist your upper body so that your upper shoulder moves downward to a certain extent.
This works the oblique muscles responsible for upper body rotation and your abs slightly harder but also works your obliques responsible for upper body tilting and outer thigh muscles less.
On top of the extra breaks in between these “reps”, side plank twists still work many of the muscles above in an isometric way. This is generally less effective than more dynamic movements.
In simpler words, side plank twists are actually not that good. The extra movement does not help that much more but you do make the rest of the exercise less effective.
How to do a side plank twist
You can do side plank twists while leaning on something like a yoga mat to make the exercise more comfortable for your elbows.
That aside, take the following steps to do a side plank twist:
- Sit sideways on the ground and lean on the forearm closest to the ground. Keep the upper arm of this side about vertical.
- Step away from your upper body with your feet until you are in a straight line from your heels to your shoulders. Point your highest arm in the.
- Slowly rotate your upper body as far as comfortable or until your highest upper arm is about horizontal. Keep the rest of your body in a straight line.
- Move back to the position of step 2 in a controlled motion.
- Complete your set and do the same number of repetitions and duration while leaning on your other arm.
You likely want to set a timer to make sure you do the side plank twists for about equal durations on each side. This can help you avoid muscle imbalances.
Besides that, it is possible that resistance training beginners need to start with side plank progressions like knee planks or simply other exercises before being able to do the full version of the movement.
Side plank twists muscles worked
The main muscles worked with side plank twists are your obliques, hip abductors (outer thighs), and abs.
Besides these, muscles like your deltoids (shoulders), trapezius (upper back), and chest will have to work to some extents too.
By adding the twist, you work the oblique muscles responsible for upper body rotation and your abs slightly harder.
On the flip side, you also work the oblique muscles that tilt your upper body sideways and your outer thigh muscles less.
Additionally, you work all these muscles in short isometric repetitions.
The result of all these things is that side plank twists are not that great when it comes to growing, strengthening, or improving endurance in the muscles above.
It is still worth mentioning that you can still positive results from this exercise.
To do this, you may need to do side plank twists with weights like a weighted vest, ankle weights, or hand-held weights like a dumbbell.
Side plank twist benefits
The extra twist will likely reduce to what extent you get the regular side plank benefits but doing the movement will likely still be better than doing nothing.
Some of the benefits of side plank twists are:
- Better muscle endurance: Doing side plank twists can still improve muscle endurance in a variety of areas. More experienced individuals can consider adding weights to get this benefit to a larger extent.
- Balance and coordination: The extra twist makes the regular side plank a bit harder in terms of balance and coordination. This could lead to improvements in these fitness components.
- May prevent back pain: Improving muscle endurance in areas like your core can help you prevent back pain (1, 2).
- No equipment or location required: While some weights could be helpful, you can theoretically do side plank twists without investing in weights or driving to your local gym.
If you really like side plank twists and the benefits align with your training goals, you could consider doing this exercise more often.
Side plank twist alternatives
By now it should be clear that side plank twists are typically not ideal. To get more results in a shorter amount of time you can consider some of these alternatives:
- Pallof presses
- Side bends
- Ab wheel V roll-outs
- Hanging sideways knee raises
- Standing Russian twists with a cable machine or resistance bands
- Other side plank variations
What side plank twist alternatives are the best for your situation depends a lot on details like what muscles you want to work, what your body is comfortable with, and what fitness equipment you have.
Are side plank twists a good exercise?
While they are likely better than doing nothing, you can not really say that side plank twists are a good exercise.
The main issues with this movement are that you work your muscles in an isometric (static) way and that you only do this for very short amounts of time before twisting into a position where you work different muscles.
If you really like side plank twists you could still add them to your exercise routine.
However, even then, you want to consider some of the more effective alternatives to really get a lot of results.
What do side plank twists do?
Side plank twists work a few oblique muscle fibers extra but also make the exercise less effective for the standard side plank muscles. In turn, side plank twists are typically not recommended.