Does your shoulder talk to you when you do the side plank exercise?  That’s a red flag that the core muscle that should be working during the exercise isn’t.  Here’s why you feel the side plank exercise in your shoulder.

Side Plank Muscles Worked

The side plank specifically targets the Quadratus Lumborum (QL, pictured below) and Obliques.  These muscles bend your spine sideways, but in the side plank are resisting that lateral movement and stabilizing the core.

You may do the side plank as a way to target your love handles, but know that improving your diet is the effective way to truly reduce your love handles!

Even if you do the level one variation, many people feel the exercise in their shoulder.  But, you should feel the side plank on the side of your torso that’s closest to the ground.  That’s when you know the QL on that side is working.

Shoulder Case Studies

Chances are good that the QL is offline if your shoulder hurts.  And the underlying problem can vary between people.  So let’s look at a couple cases.

Client #1
This client is almost 50 and does the basic version of the side plank and regularly felt it in her shoulder.  I tested her muscles and discovered that her deep spinal muscles were overworking.  They were doing the job of the QL.  So that’s why she didn’t feel the exercise on the side of her torso.  The little muscles in her shoulder were screaming about why they had to work so hard when it wasn’t their job!  After a nice stretch of her deep spinal muscles, she could do the side plank without feeling it in her shoulder.

Client #2
This client is 21, super strong, and does advanced versions of the side plank, yet has pain in her shoulder when she does it, but only on one side.  After muscle testing, we discovered her right QL was overworking for her left QL.  Her left QL was underactive and her shoulder announced it couldn’t do the QLs job.  I had her massage her right QL to get it to calm down.  Then, bingo:  shoulder pain gone!


It doesn’t matter how old or fit you are.  Muscle imbalances happen and can be addressed.  This is a nice point that just because there is pain in one area, it doesn’t necessarily mean the root cause of the problem is where the pain is.

It takes some detective work to flush out the muscular dysfunction.  So see a professional (like me) who can discover the underlying issues.

Further Reading

I’ve written about how an overactive QL can lead to headaches.  Read that blog here.

Here’s a video blog about where you should feel an exercise. Read here.