woman-doing-side-plank

How to Do a Side Star Plank: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a side star plank to help with total body strength and endurance, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

Published Date: Sep 18, 2023
woman-doing-side-plank

You may be familiar with the popular plank exercise, and you may have even tried some variation of it — like the side plank or plank on knees. But have you tried the side star plank? It’s a more challenging variation of the standard plank that offers big benefits for total body strength. By engaging not only your core muscles but also your shoulders, hips, and legs, this plank variation provides a holistic challenge that can help your overall stability and power. Plus, by strengthening the muscles surrounding your joints, the side star plank can play a pivotal role in alleviating muscle imbalances that often contribute to joint pain.

Here, learn more about the benefits of the side star plank and how to perform it — and how to modify it to be easier or more challenging. 

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Is a Side Star Plank?

A side star plank is an advanced variation of the side plank exercise that emphasizes core strength and balance. It involves raising your top-side arm and leg while performing a side plank, which targets the obliques while also engaging multiple other muscles throughout the body. 

What Muscles Does Side Star Plank Work? 

The side star plank primarily targets your shoulder, back, core, and hip muscles. Specifically, it engages the: 

  • Obliques, which are the primary stabilizers in this exercise. They help keep your body lifted and straight in the side plank position. 

  • Transverse abdominis, which is a deep core muscle that wraps around the spine and acts like a corset, stabilizing the lower back and pelvis.

  • Rectus abdominis, commonly known as the "six-pack" muscle, which assists in stabilizing the core during the side star plank.

  • Glutes, located on the outer side of the hip. Lifting your leg in the star position particularly targets these muscles, promoting hip abduction.

  • Quadratus lumborum, a deep muscle in the lower back that’s essential for side bending and spinal stabilization.

  • Rotator cuff muscles, which are stabilizing muscles around the scapula (shoulder blade). They work hard to maintain the side plank position, especially because you're bearing weight on one arm.

  • Erector spinae, which are muscles that run vertically along the spine and assist in back extension and stabilization.

Benefits of Side Star Plank

The side star plank targets several muscles in the body, especially in the core, hips, and shoulders. By strengthening these muscles, the side star plank can support various daily activities, such as: 

  • Improving balance, whether it’s needed for standing on one foot, walking on uneven terrain, or quickly changing directions.

  • Lifting and carrying items like boxes or laundry baskets. The side star plank is especially helpful if you have to carry something on one side of your body, like holding a child on your hip, because it engages your obliques. 

  • Twisting and turning to do things like grab something from the backseat of your car. 

  • Pushing and pulling movements, like opening heavy doors or pushing a shopping cart or lawnmower. 

  • Finding a comfortable posture. There’s no such thing as perfect posture, but strengthening your core muscles can help you maintain a comfortable upright position, whether you're sitting at a desk or standing.

  • Reducing back pain. Contrary to what many believe, lack of core strength doesn’t cause back back. But there is a connection between improving core strength and reducing back pain, which is why the side star plank can be a helpful exercise for those prone to back pain and injuries.

  • Climbing stairs. Strong hips and glutes, which are engaged in the side star plank, are crucial for activities like climbing stairs.

  • Improved breathing. By strengthening the intercostal muscles (muscles between the ribs), this plank variation can also support the act of breathing, especially during physical activity.

  • Getting up and down, whether you’re transitioning from sitting to standing or from lying down to sitting up. 

Side Star Plank: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Side Star Plank

Side Star Plank

Side Star Plank

Side Star Plank

To do a side star plank: 

  • Lie on your side with your legs straight and your feet stacked on top of each other. 

  • Place your forearm on the floor, under your shoulder. 

  • Push through your feet and forearm to lift your hips up toward the ceiling while also raising your top-side leg and top-side arm toward the ceiling. 

  • Focus on squeezing your core muscles as you hold this position. 

  • Relax your arm and leg back down and drop your hips toward the floor to return to your starting position. 

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify this exercise to meet your needs. 

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Side Star Plank Modifications

Side Star Plank Modifications

Side Star Plank Modifications

Side Star Plank Modifications

To make the side star plank easier:  

  • Place more padding under your forearm and elbow if you are having discomfort during the exercise.  

  • Raise only your arm or your leg toward the ceiling, instead of raising both. Or, don’t raise either your arm or leg and perform a standard side plank. 

  • You can also drop your bottom knee to the floor for additional support. 

To make the side star plank harder: 

  • Move your top arm and leg up and down a few times while you hold the side plank position, then return to your starting position. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Cho, H., Kim, E., & Kim, J. (2014). Effects of the CORE Exercise Program on Pain and Active Range of Motion in Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. doi:10.1589/jpts.26.1237

  2. Koumantakis, G. A., Watson, P. J., & Oldham, J. A. (2005). Supplementation of general endurance exercise with stabilisation training versus general exercise only: physiological and functional outcomes of a randomised controlled trial of patients with recurrent low back pain. Clinical biomechanics, 20(5). 474-482. doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2004.12.006

  3.  Hampton, L., Ashraf, L., Jackson, K., Nasr, A., & Costa, J. (n.d.). Plank Exercise. Physiopedia. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Plank_exercise