Move of the Week: Side Plank With Leg Lift

January 7, 2013 Updated: April 3, 2013

The side plank with leg lift is a fantastic challenge for your core strength. I won’t sugar coat it in any way—it is difficult to perform and will take some practice before you start feeling strong and confident performing this exercise.

Any type of plank exercise provides a deep core workout because planks require the recruitment of all the abdominal muscles. A lot of ab exercises will focus on training a specific area of the abdominals. For example, crunches primarily target the rectus abdominis (the “six pack” muscles).

By practicing the plank, you will not only strengthen the rectus abdominis, but also the obliques, transverse abdominis, and muscles of the lower back.

Planks also promote shoulder stability, which is important for building strength and stamina in the smaller muscles and tendons that support your shoulder girdle.

Getting Started

1. Position your body on its side. Place your elbow directly underneath your shoulder. Your feet are stacked on top of each other. Have your feet in line with your body and your knees slightly bent.

2. Inhale to prepare as you engage your deep core muscles by gently lifting your pelvic floor.

3. Exhale as you lift your hips up off the floor. Keep your weight evenly balanced between you elbow and feet.

4. Hold this position for 10 seconds and continue to breathe.

5. Lift your top leg up to hip height and aim to hold it there for 10 seconds.

6. Lower back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

7. Aim to work up to holding the plank with the leg lift for 30 seconds.

Focus Points

The key to all exercise is good form and technique. Keep the underneath side of your body lifted when you are up in the plank. Your hips shouldn’t sag toward the floor.

If you feel strain through your shoulder, make sure you are putting an even amount of weight on your feet, rather then bearing down on your shoulder girdle.

Due to the difficult nature of this exercise, stay focused on maintaining a consistent breath pattern.


A good variation on the exercise is to lower and lift the leg throughout the plank rather than keeping the lifted leg held in a stationary position.

Get into the plank position, and then lower and lift your leg 10 times. You’ll feel the difference because now your stability will get challenged even more.

To modify this exercise, balance on forearm and knees, instead of your feet. If you have never performed a plank before, I highly recommend starting out on your knees. You can still perform the leg lift.  

To increase the intensity, hold the plank for 60 to 90 seconds.

Emma-Kate Stampton certifies Pilates instructors and is a certified personal trainer. She is based in Brisbane, Australia.