For a truly strong core, you need to tone so much more than just your six-pack abs muscles—known as your rectus abdominus. While these give the front of your body definition, working your glutes, back, and chest too in order to maintain a strong center and avoid injury. One of those crucial areas is none other than your obliques, those muscles on the sides of your torso.
They’re essential for virtually every daily activity, like walking, reaching for your phone in the morning, or even picking up grocery bags because your obliques assist with stabilizing your body, coordinating breathing, and supporting your lower back. Plus, strengthening them will help you lift heavier loads—hello, fitness progress.
While you’re unlikely to see major changes from training your obliquesalone, they help contribute to a tight and strong-looking midsection. In fact, I recommend including one to two oblique exercises in your warm-up every time you exercise. If you’re ready to start seeing the impact, try a few of the best obliques exercises below. Each one is fit for beginner or advanced exercisers, but no matter which level you fall into, focus on getting your form perfect over cranking out reps.
Most of these moves only require your bodyweight, while others use a medicine ball, dumbbell, or kettlebell for a little extra challenge. You can swap in full water bottles or canned goods for the free weights, fyi, if you want to do an obliques workout at home—no stress! Other ways to work these moves into your training is by adding one or two of them to the beginning of your a core routine or creating a more focused oblique workout using my instructions below. .
Time: 15 minutes
Equipment: Medicine ball, dumbbell, kettlebell (all optional)
Good for: Obliques
Instructions: Choose three to four exercises to create a circuit. Start with one exercise and do as many reps as you can in 45 to 60 seconds then continue to the next move without breaking. Go through that full cycle three times, resting for 60 seconds between sets. Add this to your training plan two to three times per week.
How to: Start lying on back with legs in the air, heels over hips, knees soft, and arms by sides. Squeeze legs together and lift hips off mat and toes toward ceiling, while turning knees to face your right shoulder. Reverse motion to return to start with control and alternate sides. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
How to: Start lying on back with hands by sides and legs extended straight on floor. Explosively sit up, bringing right knee toward chest, right arm back, and left arm forward at a 90-degree angles. Reverse the motion with control and repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
Cross-Body Mountain Climber
How to: Start in a plank position with shoulders over wrists and legs straight. Drive right knee to left elbow, return to plank, and quickly repeat on opposite, so that only one foot is on the ground at a time. That’s one rep.Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
How to: Start by lying on right side with right forearm on the ground parallel to top of mat, elbow under shoulder, left hand on hip, knees bent at 90 degrees with heels in line with glutes. Lift hips off mat to extend legs to straight until body forms long line from head to heels. Hold for 45 to 60 seconds.
How to: Start in a forearm plank position, shoulders over wrists. Keeping navel drawn toward spine, dip hips to left side, then bring them in a low arc through center to the right side. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
How to: Start lying on outside or right glute with right arm on the floor at 45-degree angle from body, palm down, legs together and lifted in air at 45 degrees, and left arm extended straight overhead. Push right palm into floor to rise up onto right forearm as you fold at waist, lifting legs and lowering left arm to touch forming a “V” shape with body. Lower back down without touching shoulders or feet to the floor. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
Cross-Body Iso Deadbug
How to: Start by lying on back with hands at sides and legs straight, feet flexed. Bring left knee and right hand together at hip level and actively push them into each other until abs begin to tremble. Hold for 10 seconds, then switch sides. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
Plank Knee Taps
How to: Start in a forearm plank with shoulders over elbows. Lower left knee until it taps the floor, return to start, and repeat with right knee. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
How to: Start by lying on back with legs bent, feet flat on the floor, head and shoulders curled up off of mat, and arms extended in air at sides, palms up. Then reach right pinky towards the same-side heel, come back to center and repeat on the left side. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
How to: Start in a half-kneeling position with left leg forward and right leg back, both bent at 90 degrees, holding a kettlebell in left hand at shoulder height, right hand in fist resting on handle. In one motion, straighten left arm to bring the weight toward ceiling, while folding at waist to bring right palm to the ground outside left foot. (Gaze at weight while overhead.) Reverse movement to return to start. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
Forward Lunge And Twist
How to: Start in a standing position at back of mat, holding a medicine ball at chest. Take a big step forward with left foot and lower into a lunge until both legs are bent to 90 degrees while extended arms to straight at shoulder height. Then, twist arms and torso over left leg, return to center, then step back to start. Repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
Standing Oblique Crunch
How to: Stand in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart and hands behind head, elbows wide. Lift left knee to hip level and twist torso toward it bringing right elbow across body in a crunch. Return to start, then repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
How to: Start standing with feet under hips, hands behind head, elbows wide. Step right foot forward to top right corner of mat, rotating body in same direction, and lowering into a lunge until both legs to 90 degrees. Then, push through front foot to return to the start position. Repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds.
Offset Front Squat
How to: Start in a standing position with feet under shoulders, right arm extended at side for balance, and left arm bent in front of body holding a kettlebell at shoulder height. Bend knees, keep chest up, and lower down into a squat. Push through heels to return to standing. That’s one rep. Complete as many reps as possible for 45 to 60 seconds, switching hands halfway through.
Source: Women’s Health
Author: Kristie Larson