Side Plank Vs. Regular Plank: Which One Is Better For You?

Planks get a bad reputation as a tough-to-do exercise, and while it's true that they aren't the easiest form to hold, the benefits are huge for overall strength and conditioning, and core-specific stability. When it comes to doing a side plank or a regular plank for optimal core benefits, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that both movements are beneficial. The bad news is that you should be doing both of them regularly! 

A regular plank, done in high push-up position or on your forearms, with your core engaged and your body as straight as possible, will work your transverse abdominis muscle, which goes all the way around your core to keep your body stable. A side plank, done on one hand or one forearm and leaning on one foot, will primarily work your quadratus lumborum, which is found on the back part of your abdominal wall. Both muscle groups are important when it comes to overall strength as well as injury prevention. The two moves actually complement each other, rather than working the same muscles (via In-Shape).

So how should you incorporate planks?

In-Shape Antioch's Fitness Manager and IFBB Pro Tobias Young recommends focusing on core engagement during your plank: Think less about time in the position and more about holding the position properly, with your abdominal muscles contracted. Harvard Health Publishing recommends pressing into the ground with your forearms or hands in order to keep your muscles engaged. Practice shifting between regular and side planks for added challenge, rather than resetting for each repetition.  

Less is more, so don't freak out if you can't stay in the position long. Spine expert Stuart McGill, PhD, explained to Men's Health that ten-second planks done for several repetitions are great for the average person. Harvard Health Publishing recommends aiming for between 10 and 30 seconds per hold, as long as you're not struggling to keep your core engaged and your form correct. Make sure that you're doing a mix of all three plank types: regular, then left and right side planks. 

How often should you do a plank workout? Daily, if possible. You don't need to spend a lot of time on it, but Harvard Health Publishing recommends assuming the position regularly, whether it's daily or alternate days. Incorporate just a few ten-second repetitions of regular and side planks into your regular workout, or make planks part of your morning or evening routine, and you'll likely notice a rapid improvement in your core strength.