You might have the moves to hit your upper-and-lower abs, but a carved core is nothing without strong sides. In everyday life, a strong core can enhance balance, help prevent lower back pain, and even improve posture, helping you kick the days of slouching at your desk goodbye. “Working the obliques is extremely important when training the core,” says Aaptiv trainer Jaime McFaden. “The external oblique muscles are the biggest of the abdominal muscles. They help our torso bend to the right or left. They also help resist the torso from rotating which protects the spine.”
Aside from the aesthetics of a summer-time six-pack, firm obliques help with rotational force, aiding in strength development and improved power in sports (such as the wind-up motion behind throwing a baseball or swinging a golf club). Engaging your core can also help you improve strength gains by giving you a more stable base to work from for pushing and pulling movements. Even when you’re under external pressure, as in weight training, a strong core can help by keeping your torso braced and upright. Whether you’re looking to improve performance or just perfect posture, target your obliques with these six expert-recommended exercises.
Side planks are isometric movements that work to target your core by challenging you to contract and hold. This unilateral movement hits one side of the body at a time, so don’t forget to change sides.
- Start on the ground in a low plank position. Your elbows should be under your shoulders and your back should be flat.
- Roll over to your side, stacking your feet on top of each other. Make sure your hips stay elevated. Hold for 30-60 seconds per side.
Hit your internal and external obliques with this variation of a traditional sit-up.
- Start in a standing position with your right arm reaching towards the ceiling. Place the hand of your left arm on your hip.
- Lower your right elbow towards your core as you simultaneously lift your right leg.
- Focus on exhaling as your crunch by bringing your elbow towards your knee. Aim for 15.
The twisting motion of this side-to-side motion really engages the obliques. Looking for an extra challenge? Increase the resistance by adding a medicine ball into the mix.
The external oblique muscles help our torso bend to the right or left and help resist the torso from rotating. This protects the spine.
- In a seated position, gently lean back to a 45-degree angle to activate your core muscles. Your legs should be bent, torso elevated, and body in a v-shape.
- With your hands together, twist to one side until your arms are parallel to the floor. Hold the contraction for a second before twisting in the opposite direction. Repeat for 25 reps.
No core-focused workout would be complete without bicycle crunches, which the American Council on Exercises name one of the most effective ab movements. You’ll work your external obliques with bodyweight alone.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet lifted off the ground. Place your hands behind your head.
- With your legs in a 90-degree angle, draw your right elbow towards your left knee. Lower, and repeat on the other side. Aim for 25 reps.
Hanging Oblique Raises
Hang loose and work your core with this movement that hits your abs, hip flexors, and obliques.
- Hang from a pull-up bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart and arms fairly straight and extended. Flex your hips to bring your legs up straight.
- Slightly twist your legs to the left, then bring them down and back to center. Repeat on the right. Need a modification? Bend at the knees to make things slightly easier. Aim for 12- 15 reps on each side.
Twisting Mountain Climbers
This twist on traditional mountain climbers will elevate your heart rate while working your core, with a focus on the obliques.
- Start in a high plank position. In a pattern similar to a mountain climber, cross your knee to the opposite side of the body.
- Pick up the pace as possible. Repeat for 50 reps.
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