How to Perform the TRX Side Plank

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Woman doing suspended elbow side plank with trx

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Also Known As: Suspended Side Planks

Targets: Obliques, Abs, Core

Equipment Needed: TRX Suspension Trainer

Level: Advanced

The TRX side plank is an alternative way to work oblique muscles using suspension straps and your own bodyweight. The exercise targets your obliques but also challenges the abs, core, and shoulders as you are suspended from an anchor point.

Performing a suspended side plank challenges your body in conditions of instability. This forces you to constantly engage your core and stabilizing muscles to perform the movement. Instead of a basic side plank on the floor, you are suspended at the feet and supporting the rest of your body weight on your hand or forearm. 

The exercise not only works your obliques but helps to improve your balance, stability, and overall strength. Adjusting the level of difficulty for this exercise is an easy shift of your body position. The adjustable bands are suitable for the novice exerciser to the advanced athlete and can be modified to fit every fitness level.

TRX training claims to provide an effective full-body workout with simple equipment. This is one of the many popular reasons people are trying suspension training. It’s also a great way to add variety and challenge to an existing abdominal routine or training program.

If you’re new to this exercise and TRX training, it’s recommended to perform workouts in stable conditions before adding the instability of suspension straps. It may also be a good idea to enlist the guidance of a qualified personal trainer or TRX coach.

Benefits

The TRX side plank is an alternative way to work the oblique muscles. This exercise targets the obliques but also challenges your core, especially the quadratus lumborum (low back muscles), and shoulders during the movement.

The balance component of this exercise forces you to engage your core to maintain proper body position throughout the movement. Developing a strong core can help improve posture, balance, and relieve low back pain. It also improves the neuromuscular response (reflexes) and stability which can come in handy if you take a misstep off a curb or need to react quickly to a falling object.

Performing the TRX side plank, like all suspension exercises involves multiple muscle groups making it a fast and effective way to get in a full-body workout. Quick and challenging workouts are just one of the many benefits of suspension training.

The TRX side plank and other suspension exercises are shown to have numerous positive benefits and studies have indicated the following: 

  • Lean mass gains
  • Improved strength
  • Improved stability/balance
  • Increased core strength
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Decreased body fat
  • Improved blood pressure
  • Corrected body imbalance
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Reduced fall risk
  • Better gait (walking)
  • Improved functional fitness (day-to-day activities)
  • Practical and effective exercise alternative
  • Increased exercise confidence

Step-by-Step Instructions

The great thing about TRX training is portable cables that offer the ability to workout anywhere. It just requires an area where they can be securely attached and you are ready to exercise.

Before attempting this suspended version of a side plank, you should be very comfortable performing a side forearm plank without suspension. Once you have mastered that move with good form, then move on this advanced variation.

Follow these simple steps to perform the TRX side plank:

  1. Attach cables to an anchor point above your head adjusting the straps to hang down mid-calf level or about one foot from the floor/ground.
  2. Lie on one side aligning the hip to the anchor point.
  3. Place your feet securely in the foot cradles. The leg closest to the anchor will be directly in front of your back leg.
  4. Place your elbow or hand directly below your shoulder.
  5. Tighten your core, flex your feet together, exhale, and raise into a side plank position. Maintain a neutral spine not allowing your hips to sag.
  6. Rest the non-active hand on your hip or raise it toward the ceiling forming a suspended side “T” with your body.
  7. Hold the side plank for 8 to 10 seconds or a predetermined amount of time.
  8. Slowly lower your body to start position maintaining a tight core and neutral spine.
  9. Repeat the exercise for a preferred amount of repetitions.

Common Mistakes

The TRX side plank is performed in unstable conditions and special attention is required for proper form and technique. The following are common mistakes to avoid during this exercise:

Incorrect Body Position

Incorrect body position can cause jerky movements that can increase the risk of low back discomfort/injury. Before starting the exercise ensure the suspension straps are properly adjusted and your body position is correct to perform the movement.

Sagging Your Hips

Allowing the hips to sag could be an indicator of exercise fatigue or unreadiness to perform the TRX version of this exercise. You should be able to maintain a tight core in order to stabilize the low back (lumbar spine) throughout the exercise. The important thing is to be aware of your body mechanics at all times for exercise effectiveness and safety.

Physical Unreadiness

This exercise requires a high level of low back and core strength to perform safely and effectively. Be aware of your fitness level before performing the TRX side plank and avoid doing intermediate exercise too soon.

Modifications and Variations

The TRX side plank can be performed in a variety of ways to accommodate your fitness level.

Need a Modification?

If you're new to performing a suspended side plank and TRX training, you may want to apply a few modifications as follows:

  • Master the basic side plank in stable conditions on the floor before progressing to the TRX version. This will increase exercise confidence and overall strength before adding the instability of suspension straps.
  • Perform the TRX front plank where you are supported on both forearms or hands before progressing to a side version.
  • Perform the suspended side plank on your forearm instead of the hand. This still provides an increased challenge to your obliques and core in unstable conditions.
  • Provide a spot to help balance your body weight by placing your non-active hand on the floor in front of you during the exercise.

Up for a Challenge?

TRX training is a progressive exercise method suitable for all fitness levels. This means you can increase the intensity of your workout as you become stronger.

The following applied modifications make the TRX side plank more advanced:

  • Perform the exercise on your hand instead of the forearm. This will increase instability, forcing more oblique and core engagement.
  • Increase the time holding the side plank to really feel the burn. Maintain the hold for a length of time that allows the exercise to be completed in good form.
  • Add a hip abduction to the side plank creating a two-part exercise challenge. This will build hip stability, core strength, and improve exercise endurance.
  • Wear a weighted vest to increase exercise difficulty and add weight resistance during the movement.

Safety and Precautions

The TRX side plank is performed in unstable conditions and requires keen body awareness during the exercise. Because of this instability, it’s important to pay attention to your body position and movement at all times.

The following tips will help you perform the TRX side plank correctly and reduce the risk of injury:

  • Take the time to properly adjust your suspension straps to mid-calf length, or one foot from the floor, and ensure that both straps are at equal lengths.
  • Maintain a tight core and straight back at all times during the exercise to reduce the risk of low back discomfort/injury.
  • Be aware of any sag in your hips during the exercise. This could be an indicator of tiredness, fatigue, or a lack of core strength to perform the movement.
  • Use correct body mechanics to avoid jerky movement during the exercise and to effectively execute the side plank without risking injury to your low back.
  • Work at your fitness level for this exercise to increase overall strength and balance before adding more challenge.
  • Use an exercise mat if performing the exercise on your forearm to avoid skin chaffing/bruising.
  • If you experience pain or discomfort that doesn’t feel right during the TRX crunch, discontinue the exercise.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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Article Sources
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