Why I DON'T Do Side Planks

Exercises that Destroy your Waistline

Side Planks destroy my waistline - especially if they're pulsed (continued up and down) or weighted. As a woman, I understand that no matter what size you are, a waist that's smaller than you're your chest and hips is a desirable look to achieve. Side planks can build bulk exactly where I like to slim.

What do I do instead?

Russian side twist with kettlebell

No-weight Russian side twists.

I didn't know they were called this when I started doing them, which was back with Denise Austin's Super Stomachs / Rock Hard Tummies.

Whether standing upright or sitting/laying on the floor, the focus is about creating a twist between the upper and lower body. I don't use weights because the more resistance, the more bulk - that's a foundational fitness truth. Instead, I seek to create endurance fatigue. This means that it should be an easy activity that only becomes difficult because I'm doing it for an extended period of time, without a break.

Standing Russian Twist

The image to the right shows the motion of a standing Russian twist with a kettlebell. You can use lightweight if you desire, but I often do the exercise with nothing but my arms. I really like how this image shows the muscles being activated by this simple twisting motion.

Seated Russian Twist

This next image is a basic diagram of the twist performed while seated in a standard "sit-up" position.

Seated Russian Twist - Sit-up Position

Seated Russian Twist Variations

This next image provides a great breakdown of options for the seated Russian Twist, including:

  • Modified Version with the feet on the ground - this is good if you have low back problems, or if you're just starting out.
  • Regular Version with the feet being held in the air - The lower body will do a slight twist as well.
  • Advanced Version with feet off the ground, alternate legs between bent knee and straight legs. Various versions of the Russian Twist

Men vs. Women

This post speaks more to women. Though a tapered waist is considered desirable on a man as well, men usually seek to build that six-pack abs definement that requires additional bulk. With this in mind, men, weights and repetitions are actually encouraged.

Weighted side planks - man and woman

NOTE: I'm not against side planks - they can be very useful for establishing balance and for continuous movement in things like dance and yoga. I simply don't use them for my personal fitness goal of a slimmer waist, as they don't slim - they bulk.

What about you?

What are your favorite waist slimming exercises? Do you have other areas where you want to tighten but not bulk? Share with us your tips and questions.

Cynthia DeWitte commented on 27-Jan-2015 10:18 PM
I do planks several times per week, but I do regular planks, not side planks. Do regular planks have the same impact as side planks? Do you consider regular planks to be a beneficial exercise?
Natasha Renée Hayes commented on 27-Jan-2015 11:29 PM

Great question Cynthia!

No, regular plank exercises don't impact the waist in the same way, and Yes, I do consider them a beneficial exercise. Here's why:

The original planks were designed to strengthen and develop the core muscles - predominately the back and abdominal muscles, though they also engage the glutes and quads. The idea behind strengthening the core is that it helps stabilize the spine both while we're moving and while we're still. The original plank is really a pre-curser to a push-up. When the core is weak, proper form can’t be maintained through the movement, which puts strain on the spine.

Dr. Glenn Wright, associate professor of exercise science at the University of Wisconsin, states,

“The main function of the abs is to stop, not start, motion, and the plank came out of what the abs are asked to do - resist the spine from moving.

There are certainly other uses for the abs - like contraction movements or lifting the legs - that are helped by more specific strength exercises. The first job of the abs, however, is to protect the spine and internal organs. Stability is the prerequisite for mobility.

As I mentioned in my *Note above,

I'm not against side planks - they can be very useful for establishing balance and for continuous movement in things like dance and yoga.

The pulsing side-planks were developed as a way to build the oblique muscles - they're kind of like a side crunch, but with weight (gravity and your own body weight).

I hope this answers your question. Thanks for taking the time to ask. I hope to see more of your thoughts and insights throughout the site. Welcome to the YB Community!

Alisha Donnelley commented on 30-Apr-2018 11:28 PM
Great information. I will check out the rest of your blog. Thanks for this post. I really like your point of view.
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