Side Plank for Beginners

Do you struggle with side plank?

If you do, you are NOT alone.

There’s a reason it’s become the “unofficial” exercise of The Balanced Life Sisterhood and why we see so many side plank photos from members sharing their excitement when they finally reach their goal of doing a full side plank!

Side plank is a challenging exercise that requires your whole body and a lot of strength – which is why you’ll find it in many of my workouts. It’s so efficient!

It’s an exercise that many people who are new to Pilates struggle with in the beginning and work towards building up to – so be patient with yourself, trust the process, and you will get stronger the more you do it.

Also, remember that modifying is NOT CHEATING. Modifying is a way of working with your body where it’s at and building strength.

To be honest, there are days I modify as well – and I’m definitely not a Pilates beginner. So no guilt if you aren’t a beginner and choose to modify when doing side plank. It’s an amazing exercise in every progression and sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics!

So let’s dive in…

How to do a side plank

To get started, prop yourself up on your forearm, making sure your shoulder is right over your elbow. You want to create a base of support for your shoulder so be careful to not draw your arm in too close. Then lift your rib cage away from your mat to lengthen and align your spine.

how to do a side plank

To take it to the next level, straightening your top leg, but keeping your bottom leg bent for support. In both positions you’ll get great work for your full body, with an extra focus on the core!

side plank for beginners

Once you feel strong in this position, the next step is to take both legs up and into a full side plank! Continue to keep your shoulder stacked right over your elbow, lifting from the underside of your body, and pushing down into your bottom leg to keep your legs active and strong!

pilates side plank

Feeling really strong and ready for more? For an extra challenge, take that top left and LIFT!

pilates side plank how to

The side plank is a true full body exercise, you’ll work your entire body just by holding it for 10 seconds – no matter which level you are at!

Remember, wherever you are in your Pilates journey and which ever version of side plank you choose today, you’re right where you need to be.

Be patient with yourself, remember to breathe, modify when you need to (some days you’re going to feel stronger than others and that’s totally normal), and trust the process.

And if you have any questions about the side plank, leave them for me below!

xo,

PS – Looking for more Pilates modifications and progressions? Check out my Pilates exercise breakdowns for more details on popular Pilates exercises!

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30 Comments
  1. Patricia 5 months ago

    I find this very stressful on my ankle joints (which have had various injuries), so I never do a complete side plank.

    • Yes, always modify or skip exercises as needed, Patricia – while certain exercises can be challenging/lead to slight muscle soreness, we don’t want you to experience any pain! ❤️

  2. Mairi Gebbie 5 months ago

    Over the months my side plank had improved. I less wobbly. I’m also better on one side than the other. Can’t lift the top leg yet 😀.

  3. Monique Cocanougher 5 months ago

    I do a modified plank with one leg bent and I always feel my bottom leg sliding…drives me nuts! I feel l am doing something wrong, but can’t figure out what it is.

  4. Dawn Grondin 5 months ago

    I do a modified or too much pressure or i don’t hold it as long. it puts too much pressure on my shoulder or wrist depending on which we do. i am working on getting stronger but due to arthritis somethings just won’t work

  5. Andrea 5 months ago

    Are side planks safe to do with Diastasis recti?

  6. Mary 5 months ago

    My feet tend to slip while doing the side plank. Any ideas.

  7. REGINA Musselman 5 months ago

    The side plank is very hard on my forearm and shoulder. I can do a side plank if my support is the palm of my hand, not the forearm, especially the right side. And if I try to lift the leg, I need to keep the hips down.

  8. Anita Stugelmeyer 5 months ago

    My side plank has really improved and I have come to like them. I can life the one leg but not as many times as Robin otherwise my form suffers. Thank you!!

  9. Brenda 5 months ago

    I have weak wrists and have trouble with regular side planks. Any advice?

  10. Andreina 5 months ago

    I feel I have improved with my side plank. I can do it with both legs straight! I end up a little shaky but I’ll keep working on it! Thanks for this breakdown! I will keep it in mind to check I’m doing it right!

  11. Diane 5 months ago

    Is there an accommodation for wrist arthritis?

  12. purnima mishra 4 months ago

    Side plank is really very difficult, but after going through this article, i think, i will try it. Very informative, thank you for sharing.

  13. Tania 4 months ago

    Great post. thank you

  14. Ros 4 months ago

    I struggle at the ankle. I broke one a few years ago and have had several accidents which caused severe tissue damage at the time. I keep trying side plank as I think it will help strengthen my ankles but it isn’t pretty! Thanks for modifications – they’ll help; better to do a mix than just full plank badly I guess.

  15. Lesley 4 months ago

    Awesome! Never been able to side plank, shoulders always hurt too much. These modifications I’ve never seen before, I can manage 1 & 2 already! Thank you 😊

  16. Sheila Forgham 4 months ago

    I do a full arm side plank but with bent leg modification. Is this an ok way to do the side plank. Bizarrely I find using my forearm difficult!

  17. Ahsen Ayyaz 4 months ago

    I have tried the straight plank but never did a side plank. I’ll try this surely.

  18. Amy M. 3 months ago

    This is such a great exercise for strengthening the obliques, Robin! You make it look easy!

  19. Nicky Rees 3 months ago

    Awesome exercise. I’ve struggled with this my whole life. Thanks for the pointers.

  20. xmartial 3 months ago

    Any kind of plank is my least favourite exercise but yet I do it because I know it will be beneficial. I am always battling should I still do it even though I don’t like it so much. Would do you think?

    • You’re always welcome to modify or skip exercises based on your needs and comfort level – however, we encourage you to keep at it knowing that it is beneficial! We are cheering for you!

  21. Kerri 2 months ago

    Robin or admin, is it OK to do the plank with a full straight arm, with weight on the hand – not elbow? I posted a photo and now wanting to make sure I did it correctly-
    Thank you in advance.
    Kerri

    • Hi Kerri! Yes, there are many variations of side planks, including an extended arm version like you are describing. 🙂

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