Here’s a little secret that not every coach may tell you: Trainers will program side planks for their clients but rarely do it themselves, and I’m living proof.  Excuse me while I run and hide from all the coaches with pitchforks who want my head on a stake.

Anyhow, when side planks are on the menu, and there is no avoiding it, Copenhagen side planks are my go-to. Why? Most lifters know the standard side plank strengthens shoulder and lateral stability and gives you love handles of steel. Still, the Copenhagen side plank strengthens a vital yet neglected body part: the adductors.

The adductors are also known as the inner thighs or the groin muscles. These names will be used interchangeably, so pay attention. When you’re ready and able to enhance your side plank, join us as we take a mini-deep dive into this challenging exercise variation.

What is the Copenhagen Side Plank?

Everything about the Copenhagen side plank is similar to the standard side plank except for one of the most critical factors: the majority of the emphasis of this side plank variation is on the adductors. In a side plank position, you will immediately feel the adductor magic by placing the top foot on a weight bench and lifting your hips and bottom foot off the ground.

How to Do the Copenhagen Side Plank

Note: There are many ways to perform this; this is the standard variation

  1.  Lie on your side with a weight bench within reach of your feet.
  2.  Get your body in the bottom of the side plank position with your feet together and elbow underneath your shoulder.
  3.  Place your top foot on the bench, prop yourself up in the side plank, and take your bottom foot off the ground.
  4.  Feel the adductor magic and hold for time or breaths.
  5.  Repeat on the other side and then collapse.

Benefits of the Copenhagen Side Plank

No matter the variation, the Copenhagen side plank is no joke and is challenging to perform.  But with that challenge comes fantastic benefits, and here they are.

Trains More Muscle

Copenhagen side planks strengthen the shoulders, obliques, glutes, adductors, and abductors, strengthening the entire spine/pelvis area and protecting it from injury. More importantly, they strengthen the quadratus lumborum, a muscle near the obliques that prevents lower back pain.

Reduced Injury Risk

If you have experienced a groin strain, it’s a pain you never want to return. Training the adductors directly will better prevent groin strains. One study on professional ice hockey players found they were 17 times more likely to sustain a groin injury if their adductor strength was less than 80% of their abductor (outer hips) strength.

Improved Movement

The glutes flex and extend during jumping, sprinting, squatting, and deadlifting. Strong hip extension is one of the differences between a good and a great athlete. Although your glutes and hamstrings are prime movers in hip extension, the adductor magnus (the most significant adductor muscle) assists with hip extension, and its mobility and strength directly affect hip flexion and extension. If your adductors are sore after leg day, now you know why.

Form Tips and Common Mistakes

All the cues for a solid side plank also hold with the Copenhagen variation: elbow underneath the shoulder, body in a straight line, no hip sagging, and squeeze the glutes. Ensuring you take the time to set up correctly goes a long way to performing the exercise well.

Besides hip sagging, a common mistake with this variation is the non-working shoulder area rotating toward the ground. Doing this removes the benefit and makes the exercise easier, and you don’t want that. Instead, imagine your heels, butt, and back of your head are all touching a wall, and your body forms a straight line. If you cannot imagine, perform it in front of a mirror to get a reference point.

Some find performing the Copenhagen variation with a straight leg tough, so shortening the lever (knee or ankle on the bench) makes it easier to still benefit from it. Furthermore, because it is tough to look at a stopwatch here, performing it for breaths on both sides will give you all you can handle.

Programming Suggestions

There are two primary ways to program Copenhagen and benefit from it. First, insert it in your warmup or core routine before hitting the iron to prepare your body for what’s to come and to shore up any weakness. For example,

1A.  Deadbug:  6 reps per side

1B.  Copenhagen Side Plank: 3 to 5 deep breaths per side

1C.  Med Ball Rotational Throw: 6 to 8 reps per side

Or make it part of your regular strength training workout by pairing this side plank with an exercise that requires lateral stability or adductor strength. For example,

1A. Goblet Cossack Squat 6 to 12 reps per side

1B. Copenhagen Side Plank 3 to 5 breaths per side