The side plank helps strengthen the core, particularly the obliques, erector muscles of the spine, and the deep muscles of the core. To perform the basic movement, lie on your right side and prop yourself up on your elbow and forearm, your elbow aligned under your shoulder, your forearm perpendicular to your body. Stack your feet on top of each other, using the outer edge of your right foot for support. Tighten your core, and in a single movement, press through your right foot and supporting forearm as you lift your hips from the floor. Check to make sure your body's forming a straight line from heels to head. Hold for 25 seconds, then switch sides.
- Circuit 1: Basic side plank
- Circuit 2: Extended side plank. Instead of balancing on your forearm, add to the balance challenge by supporting yourself on your palm, your supporting arm fully extended, your palm directly under your shoulder. Place your other hand on your hip or extend it up toward the sky.
- Circuit 3: Side plank and reach. From the extended side-plank position, reach your non-supporting hand up to the sky and look up toward your extended palm. After finding your balance, bring your non-supporting arm down and reach it under your lifted body, following the movement with your eyes. Reach as far as you comfortably can without losing your balance, then reverse the movement and extend the arm back to the sky.
Skaters engage your core and work your entire lower body as you move laterally, which helps target the adductors, abductors, and stabilizing muscles of your hips. Start by performing a step-out skater to master the movement, then make it plyometric by hopping from side to side.
Start standing, feet hip-distance apart, knees slightly bent. Shift your weight to your right foot and step your left leg behind and across your body in a diagonal motion, touching the ball of your left foot to the ground as you simultaneously sweep your left arm across your body, reaching toward your right foot. After touching the ground to the inside of your right foot, reverse the movement and step your left foot laterally to the left, planting it on the ground. Shift your weight to your left foot and step your right leg behind and across your body in a diagonal motion. Touch the ball of your right foot to the ground as you simultaneously sweep your right arm across your body, reaching toward your left foot. Continue this back-and-forth, skater-like motion.
- Circuit 1: Step out skaters
- Circuit 2: Speed skaters. Rather than stepping from side to side, make the movement plyometric by adding a hop from one leg to the other as you switch sides.
- Circuit 3: Speed skaters (again)
Tighten your core and work the stabilizing muscles of your shoulders and hips by trying plank variations. The basic plank is simple. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, then lower your forearms to the floor, your elbows under your shoulders. Step your legs behind you, planting the balls of your feet. Check to make sure your body forms a straight line from heels to head, your hips steady. Hold this position.
- Circuit 1: Basic plank
- Circuit 2: High plank. Rather than supporting your body with your forearms, plant your palms on the ground under your shoulders, as if setting up to do a push-up. Hold this position.
- Circuit 3: Plank up-downs. During the plank up-downs, you switch from a high plank to a basic plank position throughout the exercise. Start in a high plank, arms extended, body straight, core tight. Lower yourself into a basic plank by placing one forearm on the ground, followed by the other forearm. Once you're in the basic plank position, reverse the movement and shift back into a high-plank position by planting one palm on the ground, followed by the other palm. Continue this movement, alternating which forearm and palm you lead with to change position.
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Laura Williams is an exercise physiologist and fitness writer who swears by quick, equipment-free workouts. Share your favorite exercises on Twitter: @girlsgonesporty.