Side Plank Rotation – How To, Proper Form & Benefits

Side Plank Rotation

In the health and fitness world, there’s a lot of importance placed on having a strong core. No, I’m not talking about those click-bait ads about how you need to have six-pack abs. I’m talking about how your core plays a vital role in both your fitness journey and your everyday life. According to Harvard Health Publishing, they link your core to good posture and balance, stability, having a strong lower back, and the ability to do everyday tasks like housework, yardwork, playing with your children and more. 

Because of its importance, there are countless exercises that focus on building your core strength, one of which is planks. Planks are a perfect exercise for anyone because there are countless variations. From beginners using a modified kneeling plank to the most advanced, there’s something for everyone. One of my favorite forms of a plank is the side plank rotation. 

Whether you’re beginning a 30 day plank challenge or you’re simply looking for a new way to strengthen your core, the side plank rotation brings so many benefits not just to your core, but also to surrounding muscles. But before we dive into the benefits, let’s look at how to do a side plank rotation properly.

How to Do a Side Plank Rotation

To put it simply, a side plank rotation is a side plank with a twist… literally. Here’s a more detailed explanation of how to do a proper side plank.

  1. Keeping your elbow in line with your shoulder, place your forearm on the ground, making it perpendicular to your body. 
  2. Lift your body off the ground, only allowing your feet and elbow to touch the ground. More often than not, people will stack their feet, one being on top of the other. However, you can stagger them, with one in front of the other. 
  3. Put your opposite arm up in the sky, keeping it in line with your shoulder. Look up towards the arm.
  4. Bring your arm from reaching to the sky and weave it past your torso, lacing it under the open, lifted space from your plank position. Your hand should now point in the opposite direction of your body.
  5. Reverse the movement, bringing your arm back to the starting position in the air.
  6. Repeat for a desired amount of time or reps before moving to the other side.

Side Plank Rotation Modifications

Side Plank Rotation

If you’re familiar with a traditional side plank, then a side plank rotation will be an easy tweak to reach even more muscles. However, if you’re not familiar with side planks, then try out some of these modifications to build your comfort level with the exercise. From there, you can work your way up to a side plank rotation. 

One knee on the ground

Most people are familiar with this type of modification with push-ups or a traditional forward facing plank. But a knee on the ground is also a great modification for a side plank rotation! If keeping your form is proving to be a tad difficult, it’s always best to try the smallest modification first. All you have to do is put the leg that is already closest to the ground down, keeping your body in line, while continuing to keep the leg that is on top straight.

Both knees on the ground

If you find that one knee on the ground is proving to be too difficult, do not fret! Simply try putting both knees on the ground. They will continue to stay stacked as long as this is comfortable for you. If this is not proving comfortable, you could always try to place a towel beneath your knees or try another modification like the one listed below…

Against a wall

Maybe you’re not quite ready to hold your bodyweight in a side plank, and that is okay. Building your core strength takes time and dedication. If you need a bigger modification, you can try leaning against a wall. The move will be very similar to the steps described above. Make sure that you are far enough away from the wall that you can comfortably lean your elbow into the wall at an angle that both creates tension in your abs and keeps your elbow in line with your shoulders. Then, simply follow steps 3-6 as described above. 

Top Tips on Form

Now that you know how to do a side plank rotation properly and any necessary modifications, here are some of the biggest tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of this exercise. 

Tighten your core

Yes, this may sound self-explanatory, but I have to include this! If you’ve ever taken a yoga or pilates class, you may have heard the instructor say, “bring your navel to your spine” or some variation of this sentiment. This is what you should do throughout your side plank rotation! Actively engage your core by tightening your muscles as you perform this movement. 

Be intentional with your breath

Besides tightening your core, you’ll feel even more results if you are intentional with your breaths. Yes, your breathing plays a big role in your core strength. I know it sounds silly, but it’s crucial. For a side plank rotation, you want to inhale as you look up at the sky and exhale as you’re tightening your core and twisting. 

Make sure your shoulders are away from your ears

As I’ll discuss below, your core isn’t the only muscle group working with this exercise. Your shoulders are keeping you up, and it could be very easy to allow them to tense and scrunch up. But this could bring a lot of discomfort. So, as you’re performing your side plank rotation, make sure your shoulders are away from your ears and as relaxed as they can be. 

Don’t let hips sag

My last tip on form is incredibly important for any plank or side plank variation. It can get really tiring holding yourself up, especially on your side. Make sure that you keep your body in a straight, diagonal line. Keep your hips as straight as possible and try not to let them sag low. 

Side Plank Rotation Muscles Worked

Side Plank Rotation

As I’ve mentioned above, the side plank rotation not only focuses on strengthening a great number of your core muscles, it also hits several other muscle groups. It’s a great exercise to get a lot in with just a little bit of time. Here are just a few of the many muscles worked with a side plank rotation…

  • Obliques
  • Lower Abdominals
  • Upper Abdominals
  • Shoulders
  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Lower Back

Side Plank Rotation Benefits

We’ve explored how to do a side plank rotation, what the proper form should be, the muscles worked, and even some modifications. But the question remains…. What are the benefits? Is it worth my time? In short, YES! Of course every body type is unique and you should always consult with a doctor before trying something new. But if you get the green light from your doctor, you should definitely start incorporating side plank rotations into your workout regime! Here are just some of the most important benefits to consider.

No Equipment

For me, I love the simplicity of this exercise. You don’t need ANY equipment. You simply need a space in your home big enough for you to lie down. Even if you don’t have that much space, you could always try the wall modification! Either way, you can do this exercise anywhere! You could even do side plank rotations during the commercials while you’re binging your favorite TV show! Just make sure you alternate sides on each round of commercials! 

Improves Balance

As with many plank exercises, the static nature requires you to hold yourself up, improving your balance with that piece alone. However, with the side plank rotation, you’re incorporating movement within the otherwise static exercise, requiring coordination and balance that will help you in your everyday life. 

Builds Muscles

Mentioned above, the side plank rotation works multiple muscles, allowing you to build and tone your abdominals, obliques, shoulders, lower back, glutes, and more! 

Burns Calories 

Static, traditional planks burn 2-5 calories per minute. While this may not sound like much, this exercise not only burns calories during the actual movements but also during rest and time afterwards. This means it not only burns calories but also boosts your metabolism! Not to mention, that information is just for a traditional plank. With the side plank rotation, your body works even more to balance AND rotate. 

Great for Anyone

As I’ve mentioned throughout this entire piece, side plank rotations can be great for anyone. There are so many variations and modifications that make it more accessible. Even after you’ve mastered the side plank rotation, you can experiment with your number of reps or exercise time, incorporating hand weights, and more to continue challenging yourself further.

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Jessica Meacham

I’m a former college athlete turned marathon-running and outdoor exploring mom of two little ones. From hiking through Iceland to paddle boarding in Lake Tahoe, our family is always up for a fun adventure that incorporates fun and fitness!
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