Sculpt Your Core With These Oblique Exercises

The core is aptly named, as it's an important component of a total body workout. Having a strong, defined core can actually help improve your ability to perform other exercises. Plus, it can give you some rock-hard abs.

But your abs aren’t the only component of core exercises. Your obliques, or the muscles on the sides of your abdomen, are often forgotten in the sea of crunches and sit-ups.

One of the easiest ways to work your obliques is by incorporating a twisting motion to exercises that you already know. Let’s walk through some examples so you can get even more out of your core.

What Do Obliques Do?

We know that your biceps help you lift heavy objects, and a strong back can help with posture. But the reason that many people don’t even bother working out the obliques is that it’s not entirely clear what they’re even for.

Your obliques have three main functions:

  • Lateral flexion: Ever need to tilt your body to the side in order to avoid an incoming dodgeball? You can thank your obliques for letting you bend your torso sideways.
  • Rotation: It’d be pretty inconvenient if we had to take a few steps to position our entire body backward if we ever wanted to see what’s behind us. Luckily, your obliques let you twist your spine easily.
  • Forward flexion: Your obliques help you round the spine, like during a sit-up or when you bend down to pick something up.

  • Having strong obliques is important because, as you can see, they work to protect your lower back and make its movements a bit easier. Your spine is a very delicate and vital structural component of your body, so doing everything you can to help it out is essential.

    Strengthen and Tone Your Obliques

    To make your core more sculpted and contoured, you’ll want to focus on some exercises that build strength in your obliques. You’ve probably done some of these exercises before and never realized what part of the body you were working on.

    Russian Twists

    Perhaps the most classic oblique exercise is the Russian twist. This is a workout that focuses on the obliques but helps work the rest of the core as well. Here’s how to do one:

    1. Sit on the floor and cross your legs so that they are slightly bent. Keep your feet hanging off the ground in front of you, about two to three inches.
    2. Create a triangle with your hands and touch the ground to one side of your body. Keeping your hips straight, rotate your torso, and touch the ground on the other side.
    3. Repeat.
    4. For an added challenge: Hold a dumbbell or medicine ball in your hands and touch that to the ground instead of just your hands.

    Adding weight can build up your obliques and help sculpt a more ideal figure. If you’re using high weight, you’ll want to make sure your movements are slow and controlled. However, you can make this an explosive cardio workout by removing the weights and rapidly tapping the floor with your hands.

    Side Planks

    Everyone loves a good plank every now and then. They’re a great way to stabilize your abdomen. But let’s take things a step further by bringing the planks to your side. By slightly changing the movement, your obliques will be forced to stabilize your body, making this a great workout to help strengthen them.

    Here’s what you’ll do:

    1. Lie on your left side with the elbow of your left arm directly under your shoulder, legs extended and stacked from hip to feet.
    2. Keeping your right arm at your side, engage your abdominal muscles, and lift your hips and knees from the mat. Your torso should be straight in line with no sagging or bending to ensure that you’re properly working your obliques.
    3. Hold for 60 seconds, then switch sides.
    4. For an added challenge: You can add a rotation to side planks to really strengthen that core. Extend your free arm up to the sky and bring it back down, touching your arm that’s on the floor. And for the toughest challenge: try lifting your upper-most leg up as far as you can while in the side plank position.

    Cross Body Mountain Climbers

    Mountain climbers are powerful and explosive cardio exercises that work your core while also adding some boost to your chest and arms. You can make this a great oblique workout by making a small change to the normal form:

    1. Get into a high plank position.
    2. Bring your left knee up towards the right arm. The goal is to try to touch your arm with your knee, bringing it up as far as you can. When doing this, be sure to twist your abdomen while keeping your torso and shoulders steady.
    3. For an added challenge: You can do this with slow, controlled movements to really tone your obliques. But you can also make this an explosive cardio workout by trying to maintain a fast pace.

    You can do a similar movement with something called a spider-man plank. Essentially, you’ll go into a low plank position and bring your knees up to the same arm as your leg. So your goal is to get close to your right elbow with your right knee.

    Bicycle Crunches

    You’ve been working hard, so how about taking a little break by lying down on the ground? Comfy? Well, that was actually a trick to get you ready for this next explosive oblique workout: the bicycle crunch.

    These take your everyday crunch to the next level. To do them:

    1. If you’re not already lying down, let’s drop it down so that your back is flat against the ground.
    2. Extend both of your legs in front of you so they are elevated about a foot off the floor.
    3. Bring your left leg in towards your chest as far as you can go while keeping the other leg extended. Swap legs, kind of like you’re pedaling a bike.
    4. Extend the opposite arm out in front of you. So if your left leg is up by your chest, pump out your right arm.
    5. For an added challenge: You can do a chest press if you have free weights at your disposal. Hold them at the sides of your chest and push upward with the arm opposite your curled in leg. So if your left leg is by your chest, you should be pumping the weight towards the sky with your right arm.

    Working Your Obliques with the Gorilla Bow

    Resistance training offers up some new possibilities when it comes to achieving your perfect body. But for your obliques, resistance bands by themselves don’t offer much help. This is where the Gorilla Bow swoops in to save the day.

    Bow Twist

    The bow twist is an exercise that is unattainable without something as unique as the Gorilla Bow, but it’s a great way to strengthen your obliques without any of the explosive cardio. It’s great as a warm-up or during your conditioning exercises. Here’s how it’s done:

    1. With feet shoulder-width apart, stand on the resistance band.
    2. Bring the bow up to your chest, holding it steady with elbows bent.
    3. Twist your body left and right slowly.
    4. For an added challenge: Add more resistance, or try putting the bow on the back of your neck on top of your shoulders, getting in a modified squat position.

    This is one of the few oblique exercises you can do while standing. But it’s not the only one…

    Side Bends

    To practice strengthening your obliques so you can dodge that next high-flying dodgeball, a side bend is a great exercise that uses a bending motion rather than a twist.

    Side bends work like this: 

    1. Feet shoulder-width apart. Bring the Gorilla Bow up to the top of your chest near your neck. Alternatively, you can put it on the back of your neck on top of your shoulders.
    2. On your chest, cross your arms and tightly hold the center of the bow to keep it in place.
    3. Gently tilt your body to the left at a 45-degree angle. After around ten reps, switch to the right.
    4. For an added challenge: You can incorporate a squat into this movement by placing the bow on your back. At the top of your squat, do a side bend, straighten your body, and do another squat.

    The Cool Down

    Obliques are important core muscles that can keep you safe and healthy. Not to mention, having toned obliques can help you obtain that V-shape on your abs that everyone aspires to.

    There are tons of different core workouts, like Russian twists, side planks, or bicycle crunches. But you can also take these movements to the max by throwing in the Gorilla Bow.

    For live and on-demand classes that will show you even more ways to work those obliques, sign up for Gorilla Bow’s All-Access Membership. You’ll get maximum results from your Gorilla Bow while learning more about your health and wellness in general.

     

    Sources:

    Core exercises: Why you should strengthen your core muscles | The Mayo Clinic

    To Flex or Not to Flex? Is There a Relationship Between Lumbar Spine Flexion During Lifting and Low Back Pain? A Systematic Review With Meta-analysis | Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy

    Abdominal Training | University of New Mexico