It’s common sense by now that no muscle should be ignored while exercising, especially the oblique muscles. Yes, a strong core means strong abs and lower back, but the obliques play a great part in how strong your core is. Adding some exercises, specifically tailored to developing the obliques, into your workout will take your physique and oblique muscle strength to a whole other level.
When the subject of core muscles arises, most people’s first thought is of either the abs area or the lower back muscles, and yes both are extremely important, not only for aesthetic purposes – like as an amazing six pack, but for health benefits such as a healthy posture and spine protection.
A surprising amount of people often forget or just flat out don’t know about the fact that there is another, a third part of the core muscle group and that is the oblique muscles.
What are obliques ?
This group of muscles is often considered as part of your abdominal muscles, since they are located on the front side of your torso. Two types of oblique muscles exist: the large, thin external obliques, and the triangle shaped internal obliques.
What are obliques used for ?
The oblique muscles play a crucial role in your movement as a whole, without them you would not be able to twist turn or even bend. They require as much strengthening as do your abs and lower back, and focusing on targeting them during training is important for developing a strong and injury resistant core.
The best oblique exercises
To aid you in working out and developing your obliques, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best oblique exercises that specifically target your critical core muscles. They will not only help to reinforce the so called twisting muscles on your sides, but by building strong obliques you can tighten up the sides of your stomach and by doing that you reduce the “muffin top” effect that so many people despise.
If you manage to include these oblique exercises into your weekly workout plan, whether as part of an ab workout, or even have a special day devoted to that area, you’ll be on your way to building a rock-hard core that will keep you moving with ease for the rest of your life!
Let’s start off by introducing bicycle crunches. Although it’s an easy exercise, it’s one of the best oblique exercises. These crunches will hit the abdominal muscles, however thanks to the twisting unilateral movement – on one side only, you give extra special attention to your oblique muscles. While it’s an incredibly simple exercise that almost anyone can do, it is hard enough that you’ll feel the burning sensation in your muscles almost immediately!
To do this exercise you start off by lying on your back on the floor, or on a mat to provide cushioning for the tailbone. Afterwards interlace your fingers behind your head to provide a sort of support for your neck, but be careful to not pull your head forward with force.
By using your core muscles, lift your torso and legs off the mat until only your butt and lower back are touching it. Then twist to the right, and pull your right knee inward until you can touch it with your opposite elbow. Now twist to the left and pull your left knee inward until you can touch it with your right elbow. Repeat the exercise 15-20 times on each side then rest.
Cross – Body Mountain Climbers
This exercise has a famous, or rather infamous love-hate relationship with people in the fitness community. It takes the already present challenge of the Mountain Climber exercise and practically doubles it by adding a twisting motion that activates your oblique muscles like it’s nobody’s business!
It is both an incredible exercise for strength-building and amazing for high-cardio training, implementing a few sets of these in your workout will leave you drenched in sweat, but satisfied!
Begin in the High Plank position, with your legs extended, your feet together and your hands flat on the floor directly beneath your shoulders. Then instead of bringing your left knee up to your left elbow such as you would a classic Mountain climber, you twist your torso to bring your left knee up to your right elbow and then return to the plank position.
Repeat on the opposite sides by bringing your right knee up to your left elbow. Try to move a slowly as you need to, because focusing on smooth, consistent movements is key here, not speed. Perform 10-20 reps on each side and then take a break.
At first glance this exercise seems simple, and in truth it really is, however the unilateral movement doubles its effectiveness by shredding your core along with your abs! Basically, it’s the same as doing a classic side crunch, but with far less strain on your neck and in a comfortable position lying on your back.
Starting position is lying flat on your back with both arms flat on your sides, your knees should be bent and your feet should be planted on the floor. Using your core muscles to lift your head and shoulders off the ground, your lower back should still make contact with the ground.
You want your entire upper body elevated. Now without twisting, reach out to touch your right heel with your right hand, you’ll need to swivel your upper body around your core to reach your foot. Finish by swiveling to the left touching your left hand to your left heel. Continue reps by swiveling left and right, tapping your heels with your hands. Do 15-30 reps on each side.
This is a great weighted exercise that you can very easily do with a dumbbell, a kettlebell, a cable machine, or virtually any weight disk or heavy object you have. The movement of this exercise mimics the actual real life motion of chopping wood (the twisting up and down motion), and with that it will strengthen you for the actual activities you’d be doing on a daily bases.
You need to be in a squat position to begin with, with both your feet spread apart shoulder width length while gripping a weight or the handle of a cable machine firmly in both hands. Then start the exercise by rotating to the right and squatting slightly, while lowering the weight until it’s between the level of your knee and your calf.
While straightening up from your squat, bring the weight upward until it is above your left shoulder, akin to the backswing of a woodcutter’s axe. Then swivel from your right toe slightly so you feel the twist in your core, while your lower body is moving with the motion similar to how a boxer moves with each punch they throw. Finish the rep and repeat 10-15 on each side.
Let’s be honest, this will be no easy feat but it will make you feel the burn in your core as well as rewarding you with great development for your shoulders, arms AND legs. This type of full-body workout will develop your core to be rock-hard but fully mobile!
Having some concerns about your lower back, or are you feeling extra stiffness in your hips after a long day sitting down? Then this is the perfect exercise that can give your obliques an amazing workout while being a static – no movement exercise! Being a static exercise, it poses less risk of lower back strain or sprain, but because you engage your muscles to hold a certain position, you get a great workout in the same amount of time.
To do this exercise you start off in the High Plank position, your legs need to be extended, while your feet are together and hands flat on the floor a shoulder width apart. Then shift all your weight on to the right hand and twist your body to raise your left hand up high into the air above your head. The main mass of the weight should be resting on your right leg as well, while holding the position for 10 up to 20 seconds. Rest and repeat.
Side planks are a totally safe and incredibly simple exercise that can easily be adapted to increase or even decrease its difficulty. A quick example being if you raise one leg off the ground it doubles the challenge of the oblique workout, meanwhile placing your upper foot on the ground adds extra support and makes the exercise a little bit easier for the beginner trainees trying this move out.
In whatever way you decide to do it, it’s an amazingly effective exercise that targets your core, mostly your oblique muscles but also your hips, glutes, lower back and abs as well.
Hanging Oblique Raise
Hanging oblique raises are one of the best oblique exercises for those already experienced in resistance training and are looking for a push on their core strength! It poses an incredible challenge by hitting multiple areas at once!
Starting off with the shoulder muscles and arms that get an amazing workout as you hand from the pull up bar, your oblique muscles and abs are involved in moving your legs smoothly through the entire motion, while your other core muscles work together with your legs in keeping your body stable and reducing swinging. Try this exercise out and be rewarded with a totally developed muscle strength on a whole other level and increased mobility all at once!
To perform this exercise you need to hang from a pull up bar using an overhand grip. Bend your knees to your chest all the while keeping your movements tightly controlled, pivoting at the top of the motion to twist toward your left side. Afterwards lower your legs, but be careful not to swing, then bring your legs up again with a twist to the right side. Finish and repeat 10-15 times on each side.
With this exercise you will feel the burn not only in your hands and forearms, because hanging for longer periods of time take some serious grip strength, but your obliques, hips and abs! Although it’s more of an advanced or intermediate exercise, the benefits from it are amazing!
Unlike various other exercises that are complex, side bends are generally really simple and virtually anyone can do them! Even if you are new to training and this is your first workout, using just your bodyweight will be enough to do this exercise. On the other hand, if you’re experienced in resistance training, adding a bit more, or a lot more weight will increase the challenge significantly. The crux of it though is that no matter the difficulty, it’s effective in any way you do it!
Starting off by standing with your feet spread more than a shoulder width apart. It’s recommended that your hips shouldn’t feel too tight with the bend, however a wider hip stance will help to target your oblique muscles and increase your flexibility thoroughly. Then let your hands hang down by your sides, and If you’re doing this with weights – either dumbbells or kettlebells, hold the weights in a comfortable and neutral grip.
Without moving your lower body at all, bend to the right as far as you can possibly go, and then engage your oblique muscles to return to the original position. If you plan to do this with weights, then hold just one weight in your right hand, this in turn will practically force your obliques to work extra hard to lift the added weight, using the absence of weight on the left side as a sort of counterbalance to it. Finish and repeat 15 bends on each side.
By incorporating these oblique exercises in your weekly workout you’ll watch yourself transform into a stronger, more mobile person with some serious core resistance that will in turn reduce the risk of injury or lower back strain.
It would be invaluable to these oblique targeting exercises in your training plan to ensure your body is fortified and able to keep up with the stress and various activities of your day to day life. Not only will you have a rock hard core, but as an added benefit your body will burn the extra abdominal fat and improve its overall shape!