Side planks engage and strengthen the entire core.

Jillian Michaels Side Plank Exercise

by Dana Tuffelmire

Fitness expert Jillian Michaels gained fame as a tough, non-nonsense trainer on NBC's hit show, "The Biggest Loser" and fans are listening intently to her fitness advice. According to Michaels, to flatten your abs you must burn calories, eat a nutritious diet and do exercises that target the abs. Michaels' side plank exercises tighten and flatten the entire core.

1. Side Plank

The side plank engages all of your abdominal muscles as you stabilize your core by pulling your belly button in toward your spine. Begin in plank, or push-up, position with your hands planted firmly below your shoulders to form a straight line from your toes to your head. Keep your neck in line with your spine as you roll onto one arm, extending the opposite arm toward the ceiling. Keep your hips lifted and check that your body is forming a diagonal line from your toes to your shoulders. Modify side plank by lowering your bottom knee to support your weight on the floor. Hold side plank for several deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.

2. Plank with Leg Raise

Michaels puts a spin on the traditional side plank exercise by incorporating other muscle groups. Adding a leg raise to the side plank engages the hip flexor muscles that connect your hips to your thighs. To perform the side plank with a leg raise, get into a traditional side plank pose, resting your bottom leg slightly in front of your top leg. Slowly extend your bottom leg out in front of your body as far as possible. Reach your upper arm toward the toes of your extended leg to tap the toes if possible. Return your bottom leg to the starting position and repeat the leg extension with your top leg to complete one repetition. Continue for 15 reps and then switch sides.

3. Side Plank Crunch

Incorporating a crunch into the side plank targets the oblique muscles on the sides of your torso. Perform a side plank crunch beginning in a traditional side plank position, with your upper arm resting on the back of your head instead of reaching toward the ceiling. Rest your top leg on the floor in front of your bottom leg for stability. Twist your upper body forward and down so your upper elbow point meets the elbow of your supporting arm. Repeat 10 times and then switch sides to complete the set.

4. Plank with Inner Thigh Raise

Michaels recommends adding an inner thigh raise to the side plank exercise to engage the abs along with the inner thigh muscles. Begin in side plank position with your bottom leg slightly in front of your top leg. Reach your upper arm toward the ceiling. Let your gaze follow your hand or leave your head in a neutral position. Lift your bottom leg off the floor as high as you can, flexing your foot to engage the inner thigh. Repeat the lift as many times as you can in 30 seconds while maintaining proper form, or aim for 10 to 15 repetitions on each side. Switch sides and repeat.

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