Having a strong, shredded midsection is great for a photoshoot or for the beach, having a strong core but it goes beyond just simple aesthetics. Being able to stabilize yourself while standing to perform a barbell curl or working towards a strong, heavy squat requires a strong, functional core.
When many of us think about the abdominal area of our bodies, we tend to focus on the upper and lower areas of the rectus abdominus and can forget about the obliques, which run up and down the sides of the midsection.
Working your obliques is just as important as doing upper and lower ab work because your obliques serve as stabilizers for your body. Your obliques are engaged in most compound lifting movements and help stabilize your body in everyday physical activity.
Incorporating oblique training into your training scheme can help you strengthen your performance in the gym or on the field, depending on your goals. For example, stronger obliques can lead to a stronger squat or perfecting that golf swing you’ve been working on.
These eight exercises are great for strengthening your oblique muscles at different angles, speeds, and intensities. Incorporating a combination of 3 or 4 of these oblique strengthening exercises within your normal training routine is a great way to transform your core into a strong, functional, and aesthetic midsection.
#1 ELBOW-TO-KNEE MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS
Similar to a regular mountain climber ab exercise, you will get into a push-up position. With a normal mountain climber movement you would move your legs up to your chest and back to the ground. With this movement, you are going to twist your core slightly to the left and right on the up portion of the movement. You want to try and bring your right knee up to your left elbow and do the same with your other leg.
#2 SIDE PLANKS
Lie on your side with one foot on top of the other and push yourself up so your body resembles a right triangle. Your body will be supported by your forearm on the ground at a 90 degree angle. Hold the position for 30-45 seconds, keeping your core flexed and tight while holding this position. Repeat on the other side. To make the exercise more difficult, raise your other arm up from your body and point it straight up.
#3 RUSSIAN TWISTS
Sit down on a mat with your legs together straight out in front of you and your upper body straight up at a 90 degree angle. Now, bend your legs slightly up at the hip and knee. Lean your body back so that your feet are slightly off the ground and your back is at about a 70-75 degree angle. Put your hands together in the middle of your body close to your chest and move your upper torso to the left and down, touching the ground with your grasped hands. Move your hands and upper body from the ground up and over to the right side of your body; that’s one rep. You want to try and keep your lower body as stabilized as possible as you twist your upper body to the left and right. For added resistance you can perform this exercise while holding a light dumbbell or medicine ball.
#4 DECLINE OBLIQUE CRUNCHES
Just as you would use a decline bench for traditional decline crunches, set the bench at a high decline, lock your feet in, and put your hands behind your head. When coming up, turn your torso to the left or right, trying to touch your elbow to your knee. On the negative movement when lowering back down don’t lower yourself all the way down. Lower yourself about 70% of the way down, keeping constant tension on your abdominal region.
#5 HANGING OBLIQUE LEG RAISES
Hanging oblique leg raises can be performed in a pull-up position or by using hanging bar straps attached to the pull-up bar. Depending on your experience and strength level, I’d recommend using the strap attachments when performing this movement. To perform this exercise you will raise your knees up, keeping them together, towards your chest and twist your core, activating the obliques, to the left or right as if you were trying to bring your right knee to your left armpit. Lower your legs down slowly and repeat on the other side.
#6 MEDICINE BALL THROW
This oblique targeting exercise is great for building power and strength in your obliques, while getting your heart rate up. While holding a medicine ball, stand next to a wall with your shoulder facing the wall. Twist your torso quickly, tossing the ball against the wall and catch it as it bounces back. If you are unable to catch the ball on the bounce back then stand closer to the wall.
#7 ELBOW TO KNEE CRUNCH
Laying on your back, place your right hand behind your head and your left hand on your stomach. Keeping your right leg straight down, bring your left leg up towards your chest as if you were performing a crunch. At the same time, bring your right elbow up, with a slight twist, touching your right elbow to your left knee. After completing your repetitions with your right elbow and left leg, repeat the same movement with your left elbow and right leg.
#8 SEATED BARBELL TWIST
Grab a straight bar curl bar or straight barbell and place it behind your neck on your shoulders as if you were performing a squat. Sit down on a bench and twist your torso to the left, breathing out on the turning movement and keeping your abs tight. Turn back to the starting position, breathing in, and repeat to the right side, breathing out. This is a great exercise for targeting the lower oblique’s and creating that desired ‘V-taper’.