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Get Your Core Strong Enough to Plank in 3 Easy Steps

Updated: Jul 16, 2021

plank exercise & core strength

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Side planking is a great way to strengthen not only your core but your glutes as well! It is important to maintain proper positioning so that you do not strain your back or shoulder, so often a plank progression is needed to build proper muscle strength.

You want to start a position that you can control and hold using the correct core muscles. So, no matter what your fitness level, you can start here and work your way up! Let’s look at a 3 step progression of the side plank:

For those that may have sensitive elbows, knees, or shoulders, a thicker floor mat such as this one can be very helpful in reducing any discomfort through these joints.

1. Modified Side Plank Push Up

Start by lying on your right side, propped up on your right elbow. Bend your knees and push your feet behind you. Without using your hand, push your hips off the floor and slowly lower down. Repeat this for 12 repetitions on each side.

2. Modified Side Plank Hold (Knees Bent)

Once you can comfortably do 12 push ups on each side, you want to begin to add hold times. You will be in the same position as above, but instead of doing a push up and down, you will hold the plank for 10 seconds, then slowly lower down. Do not hold your breath!

Once you can comfortably hold this plank for 10 seconds, then you want to increase your hold time by 5 seconds until you can hold for 30 seconds without holding your breath. One 30 second hold is considered 1 rep and you want to build up to 3 reps on each side.

side plank & core strength

3. Full Side Plank

Now that you can do the modified side plank with your knees bent, you are going to progress to a full side plank. Start on your right side, propped up on your elbow once again, but now your knees will be straight. Push your body away from your shoulder so that you are not collapsed down into your shoulder joint. This will help you from getting soreness in your shoulder, which can happen when you first begin to plank. This also helps to engage your core muscles more effectively.

Keeping your body pushed away from your shoulder, lift your hip off the floor and hold. Don’t forget to breathe. Hold for 3 to 10 seconds (based on how you can maintain your form and breathe). Progress up from here until you can hold the full plank for 30 seconds to a minute. Again, build up to doing this 3 times on each side.

side plank & core strength


If you want to really up your game, once you have mastered the full side plank for 1 minute with proper form (and continuing to breathe), then you can give this one a go.

4. Side Plank with Leg Lift

Get into your full side plank position (as in #3), holding this, lift your top leg up towards the ceiling about 6 to 8 inches. Make sure that you keep your knee straight and continue to breathe. Work up to 12 repetitions of the leg lift and then flip over and do 12 reps on the other side-build up to 3 reps on each side.

side plank & core strength

There you go! You have worked yourself up to a full side plank and built up your core muscle strength. This can help support your lower back, as well as improve your ability to do more advanced physical activities that you may enjoy.

Remember, you should never feel pain while doing these exercises and you want to be sure that you master one position before moving onto the more advanced one.

Enjoy and keep up the great work!

Stay Well & Feel Good,

online strength programs

Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

Dr. Kim MacDonald, physical therapist

Hi! I am Dr. Kim MacDonald. I am a physical therapist who specializes in empowering my patients to optimize how they move their bodies and improve their ability to do the things they love regardless of age, experience, or capabilities.

My experience in the health care field allows me to teach the tools you need to ensure that you are working safely to improve your pain and maximize your physical potential.

If you would like to know more about how you can help yourself be healthier and live a more active lifestyle, join me here

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