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Side Plank Exercise Progressions: Great for your Back and Core

As a Chiropractor, I see a lot of people with lower back problems.  Research has found that both chiropractic manipulation and exercise result in  significant improvements in back pain/injuries.   As my patients improve in their pain and their function I change my focus from passive care to a more active approach.  At some point in time I incorporate a core strengthening program.  One of the exercises that I use is the side plank.

I like the side plank because it works the obliques, quadratus lumborum, and gluteus medius and minimus as well as many of the small stabilizing muscles around the spine. It also challenges those people who have weak scapular stabilizing muscles (rhomboids, trapezius, serratus anterior) as well as rotator cuff muscles which support the shoulder.  The nice thing about the exercise is that it is easy to apply even if you have little to know exercise experience.

Here are some progressions; from easy to hard:

  1.  Half- Side Plank on Elbow- Start by laying on your side with your knees bent to 90 degrees.  Prop yourself up onto your bent elbow. Then, lift your hip up off the floor, pivoting at your knee and holding yourself up with the elbow.  Your torso should be in line with your thighs and your head should be in line with your torso. Shoulders should be perpendicular to the ground.
  2. Full Side Plank on Elbow – Instead of having the knees bent have the legs straight thus pivoting from your feet.  The feet can be staggered in front of each other for better stability or on top of each other for less stability.
  3. Full Side Plank on Elbow with Reach Under – With your free arm reach forward, under your body to touch the ground behind you.  This requires movement from the supporting shoulder. Feet can be staggered or on top of each other.  A small weight can be added to make the exercise more challenging.
  4. Half or Full Side Plank on Elbow with Single Leg Support – This is performed the same way as the half or full plank except the top leg is lifted up off the ground thus you are only supporting yourself with one leg instead of two.
  5. TRX Side Plank –  If my Chiropractic/Athletic therapy patients have a TRX suspension trainer I get them working on this exercise. The concept is the exact same as the full plank except that your feet are suspended in the straps (straddled feet).
  6. Side Planks with Straight Arm Support –  All of the above progressions can be performed the same way by  holding your self up on your straight arm.

A video will be added to my youtube account to show you all these progressions

Do you have any questions? Feel free and ask.

Dr Notley
Winnipeg’s only dual credentialed Chiropractor & Athletic Therapist


Originally posted on May 17, 2022 @ 4:40 pm