Who’s looking for a great, easy exercise to tone up the obliques (aka the ❤️handle area)? 🙋♀️ This is one of our favorite exercises for the obliques —the SIDE Plank! It’s the side variation of the best ab exercise ever—which in case you missed, you can check it out here.
What’s great about the side plank is that you 1) can do it anywhere, any time 🎉 2) can do many variations to suit what works for your body and your oblique training level.
Here’s how to do the side plank (and variations):
- Start on your side with your feet together and one forearm directly below your shoulder. (Note, we started on our hands in this photo just so you could see what we were doing more clearly, but typically we start the exercise on our forearms and then move up to our hands after doing a set or two on our forearms first!)
- Tighten your abs and your core and lift your hips until your body is in a straight line from your head to your toes. (Imagine a yardstick connecting your head to your toes in one straight line.)
- Be sure that you don’t let your hips drop as you hold the side plank. If it’s your first time, try holding it for 20 seconds. Then repeat on the other side. Try two sets at first and then gradually work your way up to three sets and try holding it for longer.
If you are new to the side plank, don’t lift your top foot into the air, simply allow it to rest on top of the other foot.
If you’d like an easier variation, start with…
Kneeling side plank
If the oblique tightening exercise (also known as the side plank) is too tough to hold for longer than a few seconds, then build up your oblique strength with practice by starting with this less challenging variation of the exercise. Start just as you did for the side plank, lying on your side, supporting yourself on your forearm, but this time support yourself on your knees, rather than your feet. Tighten your abs and keep your core engaged as you lift yourself up and hold your body in a straight line from your head to your knees. Pay close attention not to let your hips sag.
If you’re looking for a greater challenge…
Try the side plank with your foot in the air. To challenge your obliques even further, try this exercise with your hand (or forearm) supporting you on a bosu ball. Or you can try putting your feet on the bosu ball and keeping your forearm or hand on the floor. If this is still too easy, hold a light weight in your top arm and work on improving your co-ordination as you tighten your obliques (love handles) by slowly lifting and lowering the weight.
Also, try holding the plank for longer. Work your way up to a minute or even two.
You can also make the exercise harder by straightening your supporting arm with the palm flat on the mat or ground (like the photo above).
Another variation for a greater challenge:
Side plank crunch
You can really work those obliques with a side plank crunch. This move will allow you to test your abs’ ability to create power while also testing their static stability by adding a vertical hip drive to the side plank. Once you’re in the side plank, lower your hips until they almost touch the floor, and then lift them as far as high as you can. You can try 20 to each side and increase the reps as you get even stronger.
Good plank form is critical. Avoid plank form mistakes:
- Make sure that you’re balancing on the side of your foot. You may accidentally balance on the sole of your foot, but this will prevent your plank from being stable for a prolonged period of time.
- Keep your abs tight and engaged throughout the entire time that you start the side plank until when you finish holding the plank. If your abs go loosey goosey, it won’t keep your body rigid. If you’re abs aren’t contracted it’s likely your body will sag and you won’t be able to hold the plank for long.
- Try to keep your head and neck straight. (Admittedly, this is our biggest challenge). We try to find a spot in the distance (when we are outside) or on the wall and keep our eyes locked on it.