This is the seventh in a series of blogs in which we analyse some significant weight training exercises that generally miss the attention of fitness buffs. The exercises are challenging and they look simple – so why do them? But then, the very objective of exercise is to CHALLENGE yourself. Do you not want to increase intensity through exercise variations?

Guwahati based Garima Roy Medhi, GĀYO Master Trainer, physiotherapist with over 15 years of experience and noted personal trainer introduces us to the Side Plank Lateral Raises with Dumbbells.

Side Plank Lateral Raises

Says Garima: “The side plank, on its own, looks basic. In actual fact, it is a killer! It is an ipsilateral exercise that engages your whole body, even on the opposite side. It works the core. You will also strengthen your shoulders, arms, hamstrings and back – when you add the lateral raises.”


Garima suggests you spend some time in mastering the side plank before you add the shoulder exercise. She recommends this procedure.

To do a basic side plank:

  • Lie on your left side and straighten your legs, with the left foot on the right foot. (For a simpler variation, Garima suggests you raise your hips laterally on your bent knees.)
  • Position your elbow directly under your shoulder, with forearm pressed into the floor. As an advanced variation, you could extend your right arm such that your palm is directly beneath the right shoulder – an extended arm will challenge the core stability more and not only this but it will challenge your lateral raises as well.
  • Lift your hip girdle and, at the same time, squeeze your glutes as tightly as you can.
  • Pull your belly button in and toward you spine.
  • There are several other variations – for example, in the side plan position, you laterally abduct your left leg. Or, you could follow up with a torso rotation or a “thread through”.

Garima suggests these reps and sets:

  • Beginner: Hold 10 seconds, three times on each side.
  • Intermediate: Hold 30 seconds, two or three times on each side.
  • Advanced: Hold 60 seconds, once, twice or thrice on each side.
The Muscles

Generally, any strain to the hamstring muscle/s and their tendons or bony attachments will be defined as a “hamstring injury”.  You may be more prone to get a hamstring injury while playing football or soccer, basketball, American football, tennis or any other sport that involves sprinting with sudden accelerations and decelerations. Of course, these injuries can occur in runners and in dancers as well.

Garima points out, the side plank works the obliques, rectus abdominus and the transverse abdominus that constitute the abdominal muscles suite as also the back including the erector spinae. Additionally, the position uses the serratus anterior, lateral deltoids, and Trapezius of the upper body, as also the gluteus maximus and hip flexors of the lower body. Not only does a side plank improve your overall stability, balance, and coordination but it helps prevent lower back ache.

The external oblique is the outer visible layer that runs diagonally on each side of the rectus abdominis. They can be located between the lower rib region and the pelvis. These muscles help with side-to-side bending (lateral flexion), flexion of the spinal column, torso rotation and compression of the abdomen.

Internal oblique muscles lie under the external obliques and run into the lower back or erector spinae. The fibers of the two muscles pass perpendicular to one another and thus are often referred to as “opposite-side rotators”.

Transversus abdominis is the deepest part of the abdominals, which lies flat across the abdominal wall. Its primary role is to assist with breathing. It also helps to stabilize the spine.

Serratus anterior muscle arises from the scapula behind and passes forward around the chest wall to attach to the upper eight ribs. The serrated is a fingerlike projection into the external oblique.

Erector spinae is a group of three muscles, the iliocostalis, the longissimus, and the spinalis, running parallel to each other down the length of the vertebrae, from the sacrum to the neck. The function of the erector spinae is to extend the back and assist with side-to-side rotation.

The hip flexors group of muscles is located along the front side of the body, running from the abdomen through the top of the thigh. They include the psoas major, iliacus, rectus femoris, pectineus and sartorius. The hip flexors are responsible for bringing the legs forward and toward the trunk.

The gluteus maximus muscle is located in the buttocks. It is the strongest muscle in the human body. It is responsible for the movement of the thigh and hip and most daily-life movements like standing up, maintaining erect posture and climbing stairs.

Benefits of the Side Plank
  1. Strengthen the Core and work upper and lower body muscles. In the side plank, you exercise all the muscles that comprise your core. It also exercises the muscles of the upper body (trapezius, rhomboid major and minor, rotator cuff, anterior and medial deltoids, triceps, biceps) and the lower body (quadriceps, gastrocnemius).
  2. Prevent muscle imbalances or hypotonicity. When muscles are equally developed on both sides of the body, the result is better posture, increased spinal support and less lower-back pain.
  3. Improved functional movement. Side planks are relevant when it comes to functional or real life movements. Movements like squatting, bending, running, lifting, jumping and throwing are all actually functional movements initiated in the body’s core!
  4. It is a safe and effective alternative to crunches and sit-ups. Though sit-ups are a functional movement, they are not always the most effective core conditioning choice for everyone. Crunches and sit-ups only work the muscles at the front of the core. It is necessary thus to do side and back strengthening exercises as well. As seen from the above, the side planks work the entire core apart from many other muscles in the body.
  5. Burn calories and fat. What fun! The side plank provides strength and cardiovascular exercise. They help you to burn calories and regulate your weight and fat composition.
Side Plank Dumbbell Lateral Raises

Hey hold on! We are on our way to practice the Side Plank Lateral Raises! Good for not only the core but also the deltoids. More output in lesser time, hence higher intensity.

Once you master the Side Plank, it then becomes the platform for the lateral raises and thus adds functionality through the side plank – lateral raise combo.

The deltoids are the largest suite of muscles in your shoulder. The lateral raises (shoulder joint abductions) exercise target the lateral or medial head of the deltoid. The stronger and larger this portion of the muscle is, the wider a man’s shoulders look. This exercise also engages the trapezius muscle. Remember, we are not talking of just size – strength also increases dramatically.

In doing the Dumbbell Lateral Raises, grasp the dumbbell with the arm medially rotated such that the arm is in a “neutral” position. Throughout the shoulder joint ROM, ensure that your side plank position is stable with hip girdle raised. Do not allow the girdle to sway. Do not allow your arm to travel beyond the point where it is perpendicular to the floor.

Garima points out: “Start with a simpler variation. Execute two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps on each side. Of course, the number of reps and sets as also the rest between sets will depend on your personal fitness goal.”

Watch her execute some Side Plank Lateral Raises variations:

A simple, basic variation with knees bent.

A variation with the knee and feet providing a wider, more stable base.

A variation with that increases instability and therefore challenges the muscle more.

Do let us know your experiences with Dumbbell Lateral Raises in a Side Plank position!

Do let us know! Let’s share the joy of weight training!