When it comes to creating a lean, strong midsection, developing your obliques — the muscles that run along the sides of your core — is paramount.
This particular muscle group refers to the internal and external oblique muscles; when they’re covered with a layer of fat, they are politely known as “love handles.”
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Ripped “side abs” look great in a swimsuit, but strengthening your obliques has a practical function, too. The obliques’ main job is to stabilize the torso and reinforce core stability, which is why they play an important role in preventing sports injuries. By enhancing stability, they allow the body to optimize movements that require maintaining a stable pelvis and spinal position, such as running, swinging a bat, jumping, landing, etc. Weak oblique muscles lead to excessive stress on the hamstrings and external hip rotators, as well as unnecessary stress on the spine, which may cause lower back pain.
Here are 6 of our favourite obliques exercises to incorporate into your workouts.
Start by lying down on an exercise mat on one side of your body (right or left). Keep one leg on the other, your bottom arm in a comfortable position, and your other arm behind your head. Begin the exercise by lifting your top leg to meet your elbow, so that they make a ‘V’ shape. Hold the position and squeeze for one second before returning to starting position. For added challenge, use ankle weights.
Dumbbell Side Bends
You can use dumbbells or a barbell to perform this exercise. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, with either a barbell placed on the back of your shoulders, or a dumbbell in each hand with a grip such that your palms face your body. Keeping your back straight and head facing forward, bend sideways towards the right, so that your dumbbell reaches your knees. Hold the bent position and squeeze for a second, then slowly return to the upright position and repeat the movement on the opposite side. If you have lower back problems, ask a trainer before you proceed to do this exercise.
Begin by sitting down on an exercise mat with your legs extended and your upper body upright. Hold a heavy plate with both hands and keep it in front of your chest with your arms bent. Keeping the weight stable, bend your knees as you lift your legs off the ground and lift your shoulders up off the floor. You should now be balanced on your glutes. Now rotate your torso to one side so that you can touch the weight almost to the ground. Return to the centre and rotate in the opposite direction to complete one repetition. Keep your movement slow and smooth.
You will need a long-bar for this exercise, and a landmine or a corner. Fix the bar into the landmine, or anchor it into a corner and load the opposite end of the bar with an appropriate weight. Lift the bar to shoulder height with both hands and hold it with your palms facing the ground. Extend your arms in front of you and stand in a wide stance to support the weight. Begin by rotating your torso and hips as you swing the bar all the way to one side as your arms remain extended. Reverse the motion and swing to the opposite side to complete one repetition. Keep your feet firmly rooted to the ground as you rotate from side to side.
You will need a cable pulley for this exercise. Start by standing beside the pulley with your lower body turned away from it, and your feet wide apart. You will need to bend your knees slightly. Your hands should be grasping a stirrup at shoulder or chest height and your arms should remain straight and horizontal. Keeping your arms in a fixed position, rotate your torso away from the pulley until the cable touches your shoulder. Return to the starting position and repeat the motion for the desired number of reps and then turn around, face the opposite way and repeat the entire movement.
Stability Ball Plank Twist
This exercise requires a stability ball and will challenge your balance immensely. Start with your palms on the ground in a push-up position, with your thighs on the stability ball and your knees bent so that the soles of your feet face upwards. Try to keep your body straight, forming a horizontal line (don’t sag down into the push-up). Begin the exercise by rotating your hips to one side by rolling over the ball such that the side of your thigh now rests on the ball while your upper body remains planted on the ground. You will be in a full twist. Rotate your hips to the other side and repeat the motion to perform an entire repetition.