Doing a Tripod Side Plank Gives You The Same Core Benefits as the OG—But With Less Shoulder Burn

IDK about you, but the only time I really, truly pay attention to my posture is when I'm working out (or when someone tells me to stop slouching). So you can imagine how garbage mine is the rest of the time. (Hint: I'm writing this while sitting on the couch, computer on my lap, shoulders and neck hunched over.)

Perhaps it’s not entirely surprising to hear that lousy posture’s linked to a host of health problems, ranging from chronic pain to poor circulation. Which is why having a strong core is important for everyone, and that requires training your trunk regularly.

To this end, you're likely familiar with the OG side plank. This move helps strengthen the obliques (side abs) and postural muscles (deep core and back muscles) that support and stabilize your spine, says Andrea Speir, founder of Speir Pilates; however, there's a down side the OG side plank—it requires a lot of shoulder stability and strength. Without both, you're unlikely to perform the move properly and reap all of its benefits.

Experts In This Article
  • Andrea Speir, Andrea Speir is a pilates instructor and the founder of Speir Pilates.

"I often see clients whose form suffers in a side plank because it's so freakin hard!," says Speir. A common mistake people make when doing this movement is that they "dump down into the stabilizing shoulder, which brings weight and tension into the neck," she says. "When performing any version of a side plank, think about actively drawing the bottom shoulder in toward the body to ensure it doesn't round, and lift up from the bottom waistline and obliques," Speir says. Also, think about lengthening the top of your head away from your feet to make your body as long as possible—you want to look like a straight line—to prevent you from collapsing your shape. Proper form makes this movement is incredibly beneficial for building core strength, and it also deepens the connection between shoulder girdle and postural muscles so that they work better together.

If struggle to keep good form in a full side plank, Speir recommends opting for a side plank variation where your bottom knee is down in a modified tripod. This version of the move still targets your core and obliques, but doesn't require the same shoulder stability as the regular side plank. "Having the proper form and working for the endurance is what matters when working toward effective physical change,” she says.

Here's how to do a tripod side plank

1. Lie down on your side with your elbow underneath your shoulder, forearm parallel to top of mat, palm pressed into floor. (You can also do this with your arm extended, wrist under shoulder.) Bend your knees so they are in line with your hips and your feet are behind you, all resting on the floor. Keep your bottom knee bent, then extend your top leg straight so the inside blade of your foot is resting on the floor.

2. From there, push down into your bottom arm and leg to lift your upper body and hips into the air—you should be balancing on your elbow, forearm, knee, and the inner arch of your extended leg. Your body should look like one straight line (but just with one knee and lower leg resting on the floor). "Think about drawing the bottom shoulder in toward the body, then lifting the rib cage up," Speir says.

3. Hold this position. “I always think holding a side plank with the proper form for 30 seconds, then building up over time to a two minute plank is very effective," says Speir.

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