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Side planks

8 Exercises for the Obliques

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When we think of our obliques, we think of the sides of our abdomen. That's somewhat true, but they are also integral to your core musculature in that they help support your core balance.

The obliques work together to help you to bend side-to-side, rotate your torso from left to right, and assist with spinal flexion (associated with movements like crunches and sit-ups that target those six-pack muscles).

The obliques also actively resist against rotation to help stabilize and protect your spine. The obliques act as stabilizers, the muscle group that gets attacked when you twist and turn, and when you brace in those positions.

Working the obliques can be fun and varied. You'll feel stronger and be able to "go with the punches" after you've integrated them into your weekly workouts.

Try these on for size! (and stability).

  1. Single-arm overhead press: Grab a dumbbell with one hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your glutes and brace your core, like you’re about to be punched in the gut, and press the dumbbell overhead. Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Go for 10 repetitions on one side, switch hands and repeat. Do two to three sets.
  2. Kettlebell Swings: Grab a kettlebell in two hands and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Once again, squeeze your glutes and brace your core (always!), and swing the kettlebell by thrusting from your hips to your shoulders and back. Go for 10 repetitions for two to three sets.
  3. Kneeling Wood Chop: Take a kneeling position on a pad on the floor and grab a medicine ball (6 to 10 pounds). With both hands, bring the medicine ball overhead. With two hands, bring the ball down to the opposite hip and bring back up to the top for one rep; complete 10 reps on one side, then switch sides at the top and do the other side. Shoot for two to three sets of 10 reps.
  4.  Ball Slams Side to Side: Take a soft oversized ball (begin with 6-8 pounds in weight). Grab the ball and lift overhead; twist the body to the side and slam the ball down. Catch the ball up at your front and twist to the other side and slam on the other side. That's one repetition. Continue for 10 reps at two to three sets.
  5. Bicycles: Take a mat to the floor and lie on your back. Yes, the old standard bicycle is a classic oblique exercise. With hands behind your head and elbows extended out to your sides, cross your elbow to the opposite knee to bicycle and switch sides. Try for 20 bicycles.
  6. Russian Twists: Come into boat pose or seated with legs bent out in front of you. Grab a medicine ball in front of you. Take the ball and twist side to side. To increase the challenge, take one foot off the ground and lift bent knee up a few inches. Alternate foot raises, or if you’re stronger, lift both feet up and twist.
  7. Side Planks: Lie on your side and either stack one foot on top of another or cross the top leg over the other. You can also cross a leg over the bottom leg and use this as a stabilizer as you gain core strength. Lift hips off the ground and hold that position for an allotted  time, such as 15-20 seconds to start. As you get stronger, you can go for 30 seconds. Switch sides and do the other side.
  8. Dead Bug Pullover: Lying on your back, bring both legs to the ceiling and both arms to the top while holding a medicine ball. Bring your legs to your center while you bring the medicine ball from behind your head into a pullover motion. Perform two to three sets of 10 repetitions.

There are endless variations for oblique exercises. Make them fun, and soon you'll grow to love them. Also, you'll be ready to roll with the punches!

Get more expert advice at Ochsner Fitness Center.

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