Focusing your mind and body on great technique is of utmost importance to properly execute the Pilates Side Plank exercise. While the Side Plank helps improve upper body strength, it can also be the reason for shoulder pain or injury if done improperly. It is imperative to use correct functional shoulder mechanics during the transition to lift up into the Side Plank and even up to lowering the body back down to the mat safely and to avoid unnecessary injuries.


1. Improves Balance to Support the Body
2. Helps Strengthen the Upper Body & Shoulders
3. Improves Lateral Core Control

The Side Plank exercise is one of the original Pilates Matwork exercises that Joseph Pilates describes in his book Return to Life. In Return to Life, the Side Plank exercise is called The Side Bend. Regardless of the name you use for this exercise, here are a few exercise tips to help you improve technique and get the best whole-body health benefits from your workouts.


Starting Position:

• Sit on your right hip with the knees slightly bent. Preferably the legs are stacked on top of each other. Or, place the top leg forward, feet hip width apart, to help keep the hips stacked and assist with balance.
• Support on the right arm, under / inline with the shoulder, with the fingers pointing away from the body.
• Keep the right elbow bent and the shoulder pulling down away from the ear.
• The left arm rests along the left side of the body.
• Eyes look straight ahead.

Executing The Side Plank Exercise:

• Inhale, pull down the shoulder blade and begin lifting the ribcage, hips, and thighs up off the mat. Balance on the right arm and shoulder, and side of the foot.

• The non-supporting arm can assist by reaching up to the ceiling to create a T-shape. Having both arms reach away from the body helps to spread the shoulder blades and activate the serratus and lat muscles to support the lifted position.

• Using the Pelvic Floor will help balance and body control.

• Activate the muscles along the outside of the supporting leg to keep the hips lifted.

• Hold the body lifted up off the mat and breathe.
• To transition out of the exercise, BEND THE ELBOW and PULL THE SHOULDER DOWN first, then with control, begin lowering the hip to the mat. If the arm stays straight and the shoulder goes up while the hips go down, you can create the potential for a serious shoulder injury!


Following the directions in Joseph Pilates’ Return to Life, the Side Plank/Side Bend traditionally is exercise number 28 of the 34 exercises in a Pilates Mat Workout. This means that it is very important to start your workout with other less strenuous and less challenging exercise first before progressing to the Side Plank exercise. Use your Basic Mat exercises as a warm-up before doing the Side Plank exercise. Be sure to do some ab work, arm & shoulder exercises, and hip & leg exercises. Doing push-ups first, or a few regular front planks, along with other exercises to warm-up the whole body, ensures that your body is ready to accept the challenge of performing a safe & effective Side Plank.


Author's Bio: 

Return to Life is the original Pilates Mat exercise book written Joseph H. Pilates. This book contains the concepts and philosophies of the Pilates Method or “Contrology” and the original Matwork exercises. The model featured in this book is Joseph Pilates himself at the age of 60. This book was originally released in 1945. Reprinted in 2003, with great quality photos. Return to Life is a must-read book for all Pilates enthusiasts!
Check out:

Aliesa George is the founder of Centerworks® Pilates. She is an author, workshop presenter, and mind-body health expert with more than 25 years of experience designing solutions for health improvement. Aliesa has created a wide variety of products focused on Pilates, Foot Fitness, the Mind-Body Connection, Stress-Management, and Whole-Body Health. She enjoys helping others discover the connection between thought and action to get positive results and achieve goals for a healthy mind, body and spirit!