side plank alternative
Exercise Alternative

8 Side Plank Alternatives That Will Work Your Core Like Crazy

The side plank is a variation of the ever-popular standard plank position designed to target the muscles at the sides of the waist. While this exercise will produce a burn in the oblique area, it is not an effective strengthener or builder of the core muscles.

That is because the traditional plank position puts you in place to perform an isometric exercise that does not involve the movement of the target muscles. The only way to develop strength and encourage hypertrophy is to move the muscle through its full range of motion.

In this article, I will lay out 8 side plank alternatives that are more effective at working your waist and keeping your core tight.

1. Twisting Hanging Leg Raise

Why it’s a great alternative

The twisting hanging leg raise allows you to work your obliques through their full range of motion and in their proper biomechanical direction. This is also a very good core stability exercise. 

Muscles worked

Obliques, rectus abdominis

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Hang from a high bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder level in an overhand position.
  2. Pull your knees up toward your chest and then twist them to the left.
  3. Lower and repeat, this tome twisting to the right.
  4. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.

Equipment used 

Pull Up Bar

Tips 

Do not use momentum on this move; avoid swinging.

2. Body Saw

Why it’s a great alternative

The body saw is a modification of the standard plank that provides for dynamic movement. This takes the exercise beyond an isometric contraction to activate the muscles through their range of motion. 

Muscles worked

Obliques

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie face down on the floor in the plank bridge position with your feet on a pair of gliders. Your elbows should be under your shoulders.
  2. Pull your torso forward without moving your forearms.
  3. Push your torso back to the start position.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
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Equipment used 

Gliders

Tips 

Maintain a rigid body position throughout the entire movement.

 3. Straight Leg Sit Up with Twist

Why it’s a great alternative

The straight leg sit-up with twist allows you to get a full range of movement through the sides of the waist as you come upon every rep. 

Muscles worked

Core muscles

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on the floor with legs extended and feet anchored. Place your hands across your chest.
  2. Curl up, straightening your back as you moves beyong a 45-degree angles.
  3. Now twist to the left.
  4. Lower and repeat, this time twisting to the right.
  5. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.

Equipment used 

Foot anchor

Tips

Keep your chest up; use your abs and hip flexors to raise your body; do not round your back.

4. Swiss Ball Crunch with Twist

Why it’s a great alternative

The Swiss Ball Crunch with Twist provides all of the benefits of the twisting crunch along with the instability of the Swiss Ball to activate stability muscles. This is a good move to strengthen a weak core.  

Muscles worked

Obliques, abdominal muscles

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on top of an exercise ball with your feet shoulder width apart, firmly planted on the floor. Place your hands by your ears.
  2. Crunch up towards your hips and then twist to the right.
  3. Lower and repeat on the other side.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Equipment used 

Swiss Ball

Tips 

Push your feet into the floor as you crunch up in a bending forward motion. 

5. Oblique Kickbacks

Why it’s a great alternative

Oblique kickbacks combine an oblique cross action movement with hamstring extension to work both your core and the backs of your upper legs in one action.

Muscles worked

Hamstrings, obliques

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Position yourself face down on an exercise mat in a top push up position, resting on your palms and toes.
  2. Raise your hips to form a ā€˜Vā€™ position with your body. Now bring you left knee down and across to your opposite elbow.
  3. From here kick back the leg to full extension. That is one rep. Perform all of your reps on one leg and then repeat with the other.
  4. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.
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Equipment used 

None

Tips 

Hold the contracted leg position for 2 seconds on every rep; keep your back in a neutral position.

6. V Ups with Twist

Why it’s a great alternative

The V Up Twist is another great dynamic exercise to focus on the sides of the waist. It will strengthen and build your obliques and intercostals.

Muscles worked

Intercostals, obliques

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Lie on an exercise mat on your back with legs extended and arms by your side. Now hinge at your hips to bring your straightened legs up until they are perpendicular with your torso.
  2. Straighten your arms up toward your legs. Now begin pulsing up toward your toes by contracting your abdominals. Twist your body to the left on ne rep and to the right on the next rep. 
  3. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Equipment used 

None

Tips 

Do not round your back; bring your head up on each pulse.

7. Banded Scissor Kicks

Why it’s a great alternative

The banded scissor kick adds the element of resistance to the dynamic movement of the scissor kick which targets the sides of the waist.

Muscles worked

Obliques, intercostals

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Sit on the end of a bench or seat with your hands supporting you behind your body and your feet extended at a 45 degree angle.
  2. Lean back and lift your legs until they are parallel with your torso. Now, without bending your knees, move you legs in a crossover vertical motion to perform scissor kicks. 
  3. Do 3 sets of 15 reps.

Equipment used 

Mini resistance loop band

Tips 

The only movement should be through the hip joint. Do not move your upper body. 

8. Crunch Twist

Why it’s a great alternative

The crunch twist adds the twisting movement to the crunch to work both the rectus abdominis and the sides of the waist. This exercise will strengthen a weak core.

Muscles worked

Abdominals, obliques, intercostals

Step-by-step how-to

  1. Sit on the end of a bench or seat with your hands supporting you behind your body and your feet extended at a 45 degree angle.
  2. Lean back and lift your legs until they are parallel with your torso.
  3. Now, bring your knees up toward your torso as you crunch your abdominals.
  4. Kick your legs back to the start position. Do not round your lower back. That is one rep.
  5. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps.
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Equipment used 

None

Tips 

Keep your lower back down on the floor; contract your entire core on every rep. You can make the exercise harder by holding a weight plate on your chest. 

Conclusion

The plank, along with its variation to the side, is not an effective core strengthener or muscle builder. You now have eleven far better ways to work your obliques and hit your deep core muscles.

Choose two or three of these exercises and combine them into an 8 set core workout. Keep your rep range between 15 and 30. You should work your core muscles once every five days.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are rolling side planks better than regular planks?

A rolling side plank is a better exercise than the standard plank because it involves movement. The isometric nature of the plank means that it cannot develop appreciable strength or muscle size gains. The rolling side plank moves the obliques through their range of motion, making it a far better movement.

Why is it important to have a strong core?

Your core is the center of your body and acts as your power base. Keeping it strong will allow you to be more functionally strong in both the lower and the upper body. A strong core will also ward off injuries, including those to the lower back.

What is better than a plank?

Any exercise that involves moving the target muscles through their full range of motion is better than the plank. When it comes to the plank, the target muscle is the rectus abdominis. The best exercise to work the abs is the seated cable crunch which hits all of your crucial core muscles. When it comes to the side plank, the target is the obliques. The best exercise to move the obliques through their full range of motion is the crunch twist.

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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