You can change the regular side plank exercise in many ways. Find out how you can do single-leg side planks and what the effects are.
There are two ways you can do single-leg side planks.
First of all, you can raise the lower leg off the ground. This option is also called an adductor side plank since it targets the adductors (inner thigh muscles) of the top leg.
Secondly, you can raise your upper leg so that most of your body weight rests on the lower leg. This article will focus on this second way to do single-leg side planks.
Compared to regular side planks, this version of single-leg side planks will work the outer thigh muscles in the lower leg harder and the inner thigh muscles of the upper leg less.
If you can still reach the recommended plank sets and reps for your training goals, single-leg side planks are a good variation that offers more training results without investing in exercise equipment.
That being said, single-leg side planks still work your muscles in an isometric (static) way. More dynamic movements tend to be more effective.
How to do a single-leg side plank
You can use something like a yoga mat to make single-leg side planks more comfortable for your elbows.
That aside, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Sit sideways and lean on the forearm closest to the ground. Keep the upper arm of this side about vertical throughout the exercise.
- Step away from your upper body with your feet until you are in a straight line from your heels to your shoulders.
- Raise your upper leg so that all of your body weight rests on the lower leg and your forearm.
- Hold this position for a certain amount of time.
- Repeat the same duration single-leg side plank on the other side.
It can be smart to set a timer for your single-leg side planks so that you work each side to about the same extent. This is important for avoiding muscle imbalances.
Additionally, you can do a variety of movements with your upper leg. Some examples include leg lifts, toe taps, and leg circles.
These can work some additional muscles, especially if you are wearing ankle weights.
Besides that, you want to know that single-leg side planks are relatively challenging. Many people want to start with regular side planks instead.
Single-leg side planks muscles worked
The main muscles worked with single-leg side planks are your hip abductors (outer thigh muscles) and obliques.
Besides these, your ab, erector spinae, chest, deltoid, and trapezius muscles have to work a certain amount to keep your body in a straight line and in position.
Compared to two-legged side planks, the outer thigh muscles of your lower leg will have to work harder. Additionally, the inner thigh muscles of your upper leg will have to work less.
This can be a good thing if regular side planks are too easy on your outer thigh muscles to offer the training results you want.
On the flip side, there is also such a thing as getting suboptimal results because an exercise is too hard. Single-leg side planks tend to be an exercise for relatively advanced individuals.
Even for these people, more dynamic hip abductor and oblique exercises tend to be more effective than single-leg side plank.
Isometric (static) exercises like this are mostly for people who find more dynamic movements uncomfortable.
Single-leg side planks benefits
The single-leg variation does change your muscle engagement to some extent but you can expect positive effects that are similar to the benefits of regular side planks.
Some of these benefits are:
- Stronger muscles: If you use a good exercise routine, single-leg side planks can help you grow and strengthen your outer thigh muscles.
- No equipment or location required: Especially with the extra challenge of using only one leg, many people will not have to invest in fitness equipment or go to the local gym to do single-leg side planks.
- May reduce or prevent back pain: If single-leg side planks still improve your oblique muscle endurance, they could reduce or prevent back pain (1, 2). Do keep in mind that the regular version is typically better for this benefit.
- Balance and coordination: Single-leg side planks are just a bit more challenging in terms of balance and coordination. This can potentially improve your skills in these areas.
- Could feel more comfortable: Some people find dynamic exercises uncomfortable. These individuals could like the isometric (static) aspect of single-leg side planks.
- Helps you avoid muscle asymmetries: Single-leg side planks work the muscles on one side at a time. If you time your planks well, this could make it easier to keep your muscle strength balanced.
If these benefits align with your training goals, personal preferences, and strength level, you can definitely add single-leg side planks to your routine.
Single-leg side plank alternatives
At the same time, you may conclude that you are also comfortable with more dynamic exercises and/or want to focus more on certain muscles.
In that case, some of these single-leg side plank alternatives could align more with your training goals.
- Weighted leg abductions
- Side bends
- Hanging sideways knee raises
- Lying side leg raises
- Fire hydrants
- Other side plank variations
- Bicycle crunches
What single-leg side planks alternatives are better for you depends on details like what you are trying to achieve and what fitness equipment you have.
Are single-leg side planks a good exercise?
Single-leg side planks can be a good exercise for working your outer thigh muscles and to some extent obliques in an isometric (static) way.
By putting all of your weight on one leg at a time it becomes easier to challenge your muscles a lot without exercise equipment.
One thing you do want to keep in mind is that you also want to be able to do your single-leg side planks for certain minimum amounts of time for certain fitness goals.
Resistance training beginners and even intermediates may want to stick to the regular version or other types of side planks for this reason.
Additionally, it is worth mentioning that isometric (static) exercises tend to be less effective for growing and strengthening muscles.
The main benefit of isometric exercises like single-leg side planks is that they can be more comfortable for individuals who find dynamic movements uncomfortable.
If this does not apply to you, these more dynamic movements will typically offer more training results in shorter amounts of time.
What is a single-leg side plank?
A single-leg side plank is simply a side plank variation where you lift one of your two legs. This will either work your inner thigh muscles or outer thigh muscles a lot harder.