Side Plank (Vasisthasana): Build Arm and Core Strength

Side plank is such a telling exercise. In one moment, you get so much information about your form and alignment. Perhaps that’s why Joseph Pilates borrowed this exercise from yoga. In yoga, it’s called Vasisthasana. Just like in Pilates, there are many ways to modify this exercise so you can build your strength and find perfect alignment.

Side plank form

Let’s take a moment to talk about form for this. Whether you are doing a prep or the full exercise, you will need to have correct form. Your hand should be flat on the ground with your fingers spread. Make sure your hand is directly beneath your shoulder. This will take some practice because as you lift up, your shoulder will shift forward. As you lift, push the floor away from you to prevent sinking into your shoulder.

Next, check that your abdominals are engaged. Particularly, you want to make sure that your rib cage and hips are aligned and the pelvis is neutral. You want to avoid dropping your hips and bottom rib or over-arching and opening the ribs and hips to the sky. Make sure everything is lined up so that your torso feels like a cylinder.

Side plank preps

side plank modification set up
Triangle Set-up
  1. Knees together. Begin seated with your knees on top of each other and in line with your supporting hand. On your exhale, lift your hips to form a long line from the top of your head through your knees. Reach your top arm away from the supporting arm.
  2. Triangle set-up. Your supporting hand should be in line with your hips and the foot of your top leg. The bottom leg is curled underneath. On your exhale, lift from your waist and press with your top leg’s foot. Bring the bottom leg so that the knee is in line with your supporting hand and the top leg’s foot. You can leave the top leg bent, or you can straighten it and bring it in line with the bottom leg’s knee. Reach the top arm away from the supporting arm.¬†side plank prep
  3. Triangle set-up, straight leg. Follow the directions for the Triangle set-up but, instead of keeping your bottom leg bent, straighten it. Place the outside edge of the foot onto the mat. Your top leg still stays bent with the foot on the mat in front of your straight leg. Reach the top arm away from the supporting arm.
  4. Triangle set-up, straight leg, with the supporting foot behind the straight leg. Follow the directions for the other Triangle set-ups and, instead of having your supporting foot in front of your straight leg, bring it behind your straight leg.

Side plank

Side plank, Vasisthasana

In my opinion, there are two wonderful ways to get into Side plank. The first is to come into Plank. The second is to be seated in triangle set-up, which is described above.

To come into Side plank from Plank:

  1. Bring one hand toward the midline of the body.
  2. Recruit extra help from the abs as you push the floor away and rotate your body open to the side.
  3. As you rotate open, be sure to keep your legs zippered together.
  4. You should end up on the outside edge of your bottom foot with the top foot stacked on top.
  5. Reach the top arm away from the bottom arm, which is still pushing the floor away.
  6. Hold for several breaths, using either Pilates breathing or yogic breathing.

To come into Side plank from triangle set-up:

  1. Press through your top leg’s foot to help you lift your hips off the ground.
  2. Push the floor away with your bottom arm.
  3. Slide your bottom leg out straight. Make sure you are on the outside edge of your bottom foot.
  4. Engage the adductors (inner thighs) to bring the top leg up to match the bottom leg.
  5. Reach the top arm away from the bottom arm, which is still pushing the floor away.
  6. Hold for several breaths, using either Pilates breathing or yogic breathing.

Side plank video

Here is a video of how to do Side plank and its modifications.

When you do Side plank, where do you feel it most? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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