By Elizabeth Towe


Last month we worked on a basic plank, with four points of contact (hands and feet). This month we move to a more challenging side plank, with only two points of contact, and add challenge by taking the top leg away from the support and moving it in space. This movement requires advanced support from the shoulder girdle and all lateral musculature. This will train the stability of the pelvis and torso while allowing mobility in the hip joint. You will notice improvement in running, swimming, and cycling as you get stronger in this exercise.


  • Start by lying on your side with your elbow directly under your shoulder. Legs are long and feet in “standing” position (tops of feet pulled toward shins).
  • Draw the belly button toward the spine to engage the transverse abdominals and support musculature of the spine.  
  • Anchor the supporting shoulder blade by bringing the shoulder blade down toward the pelvis and in toward the spine.
  • After engaging these support structures, lift the pelvis off the ground and press the hips forward until the body is in a straight line from the tip of the nose down through the space between the feet. You should be balanced between your forearm and the sides of your feet.
  • When you are in a stable position, lift the top leg about 6 inches away from the supporting leg and begin to slowly move it in front of the body and slowly behind the body. It should be a SLOW but constant, controlled movement.
  • Start with a small number of repetitions that you can control and build up to 10 to 12 reps for two to three sets on each side.
  • Same rules apply from last month’s plank: If your side plank begins to sag or you feel it in your back, stop and rest. It is important that this is not done with momentum or speed because you are teaching the nervous system to take the load into these areas and become stable. Think of it as asking permission and not knocking the door down.

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Elizabeth Towe is a runner and a cyclist and the owner of Balanced Movement Studio in Carrboro. She graduated from East Carolina with a degree in exercise and sports science and has been personal training for over 20 years. Her ultimate goal for all of her clients is to help them realize and achieve the optimal quality in their life – and to remember to have fun doing it.