Help make that six-pack pop with sculpted obliques.
When we picture a perfectly sculpted mid-section, we think of that washboard six-pack that stands front and center. But your obliques are equally as important as that shredded core. Not only do sculpted obliques make you look good, but they can provide great benefits to your overall physical health in terms of preventing lower back pain and offering great overall support. For the strongest, most sculpted looking core, your obliques need as much work as the rest of your abs.
Everyone is guilty of skipping an oblique exercise here and there in order to squeeze one more exercise in for those front and center abs. While your main core is equated to a building, your obliques are the support system that holds that building in place. The building only looks good if its able to stand for all to see.
So, while the argument can be made that your mid-section gets all the attention because that is what people see, think again. Every chiseled part of your abs matter for that toned physique and stellar V-shape taper. As the largest ab muscles, your obliques should never be neglected and with strong, stable oblique muscles, your lifts and ab workouts will be more effective and efficient.
What Are Your Obliques?
Located on either side of your abs, your obliques sit between your hip flexors and lats. As an important muscle and source of connection for your abs and lower back, these muscles are responsible for bridging two of the largest and most important muscles in the body. Otherwise known as your transverse abdominis, your obliques are responsible for assisting with rotational exercises and core stabilization.
Not only will strong obliques help with overall core function with other ab exercises, but they provide a source of balance and support for big lifts like the squat (1). For help in your total body transformation, your oblique muscles deserve as much love as everything else.
Benefits of Strong Obliques
The benefits of strong obliques are also reasons to make sure you do not skip over these muscles during your ab routine. That more toned appearance you desperately want will come as a result of working these obliques more and more. As the bridge between your abs and lats, this muscle can truly make both pop and show off those hard-earned wings and washboard abs. Working your obliques will not make you bulky or overly muscular, but will in fact totally change your appearance into one of a sculpted athlete, bodybuilder, or gym fanatic.
Aside from the benefit of a sculpted appearance, strong obliques can work to prevent injuries and assist in lower back pain. In order to compensate for weak obliques, your lower back takes much more strain than it actually wants, leading to tightness and added stress with the unfortunate side effect of potential injury (2).
Working to your overall performance benefit, strong obliques can help strengthen your entire mid-section, so whether it’s a big powerlifting exercise, like the squat, bench press, or deadlift, high-intensity interval circuit, or a bodyweight routine, your entire body will be balance and stable for a great athletic boost (3).
Top Oblique Exercises
As a widely used ab exercise by people of all fitness levels, Russian twists are great for working the obliques. As a great exercise for control, Russian twists work to build balance and rotational strength as well as isometric core strength, since your body maintains rigid form throughout the exercise. These can be done with no equipment or modified to use a med ball, plate, or dumbbell.
How to: Start seated with your knees bent and feet slightly elevated. Keeping a long spine and an engaged core, lean back slightly as you rotate from one side to the other. If you are holding a weight of some kind, hold it out in front of you.
Side planks are a classic core exercise that really work the obliques for balance and stabilization. The added benefit is that your glutes, hips, and shoulders also feel this workout. Side planks will help with good posture and better movement by really working to build your core.
How to: Laying on your side, raise your hips so only one elbow and your feet are touching the ground. Make sure your body is in a straight line from your head to your feet and really engage your core to stay balanced and firm.
Single Leg Toe Touches
Single leg toe touches work for overall balance and strength and work your obliques while also hitting your hamstrings and hips. As a simple movement, this is a convenient exercise to target your obliques and really ensure great growth in strength, balance, and coordination.
How to: Lie on your back and engage your core. Lift one leg and the opposite arm and bend upwards to touch them. Lower back down and repeat the same motion with the opposite arm previously used and the opposite leg as well.
Bicycle crunches are one ab workout that really works for body movement. Combined with a healthy diet and cardio, these can aid in weight loss and work to build muscles in your abs and obliques. By strengthening these muscles, you will work to add better movement to a host of other activities.
How to: Lying on your back, bend your knees at a 90-degree angle and put your arms on your head with your elbows out. Engage your core and twist upwards touching one elbow to the opposite knee. Straighten out your legs and repeat this movement with the other arm and leg.
Dumbbell Side Bend
Side bends in general are great for working your mind-muscle connection, as well as overall core strength and spinal mobility. Adding a dumbbell or a plate will only strengthen your obliques even more and for those who struggle to get up and down from the floor easily, these are a great standing oblique exercise.
How to: Stand tall with your shoulders back and core engaged. Holding the weight in one arm, slowly tilt downward toward the side with the dumbbell. Slowly return to standing straight and repeat for your desired number of reps.
While our obliques are often overlooked, they provide great benefit for our overall core strength and toned physique. As a large abdominal muscle and bridge between our abs, hips, and back, it is important to work this muscle as equally as the others to avoid unwanted pain and to improve balance and stability. Don’t neglect this powerful muscle and see your overall growth and physique shine by working your sometimes overlooked yet always important obliques.
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*Images courtesy of Envato