by Truth Fry September 06, 2022 7 min read
We've all seen the health and fitness magazine covers that show a ripped guy or gal posing in a swimsuit with the headline reading something like this: "The Secret to Getting 6-Pack Abs!"
I'm sure you have an image in your head of it right now. We all, for the most part, are very familiar with the ab muscle that forms bumps commonly called the "6-pack". The truth is, this is only one of the several muscles that make up your core.
While most people are always pursuing the "6-pack" appearance by doing crunches and sit-ups ... they are leaving a lot on the table when it comes to the strength, appearance, and functionality of their entire core!
I know this is something that I neglected for the longest time ... and simply because I didn't know any better.
One of the more important muscles to strengthen in your core are your obliques. If you're truly looking for a strong, balanced core ... you definitely want to make sure to train your obliques.
In this blog, I'll explain what the obliques are, why they're important, and 10 effective exercises you can do to strengthen your obliques and help you get the lean midsection you're looking for!
If you don't already know what the obliques are, they are the muscles that sit on either side of your core at the sides of your body.
The function of the obliques is mainly to help your body rotate, bend from side to side, and to protect your spine. So, if you really think about it, you use your obliques all the time.
You use your obliques to roll out of bed in the morning, back out of your driveway, turn to talk to somebody, and so much more. You’d be surprised at just how many times you use your obliques throughout the day!
As I mentioned above, your obliques help quite a bit with daily movement. At the same time, your obliques support your spine and overall posture.
So really, the biggest benefits to training your obliques is the protection they offer your back and posture. Strong obliques can also help prevent injuries and pain in the lower back and shoulders.
This may be obvious to you, but having strong obliques can also help with the appearance of your midsection. I mean … who doesn’t want a lean, defined midsection?
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering: “What are some good exercises I can do to train my obliques?”
While these may not be the 10 “best” exercises, they are 10 of my personal favorites, and for good reason! I’ll walk you through each one, and exactly how to perform the exercise correctly.
Now that you’re familiar with what the oblique muscles are … you may have anticipated this exercise. It's a classic and effective way to strengthen your obliques without any equipment!
Start by laying on your side with your feet stacked on top of each other and your hands at your side. Prop your body up using your forearm and brace your core as you lift your hips off the ground. Your body should be in a straight line from head to toe, holding this position.
Hold this position for a set period of time such as 30-60 seconds, then switch sides to repeat. You can make this exercise even harder by lifting your leg toward the ceiling, forming a Y with your legs.
This is another great oblique exercise that you can do with zero equipment! First, put yourself into a push-up position. Then, slowly rotate one arm away from the ground and toward the ceiling. Your body should naturally rotate until you are on your side, feet stacked on top of each other.
Your body will form a natural T position here. Hold this position for 3 seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. Then repeat on the other side.
I tell you what … this exercise is much harder than it seems. I always get a great sweat in when I incorporate rotational tosses. First, you’ll need to start by finding a medicine ball and a sturdy wall or rebounder (exercise trampoline).
Side note: I mention sturdy wall like brick or concrete because a medicine ball will ruin your drywall. So please do not use drywall!
Stand a few feet away from the wall and position yourself in a way where one side of your body faces the wall. Now, grab the medicine ball and push it outward at chest-level, fully extending your arms. This is your starting position.
Next, rotate your upper body 90 degrees opposite of the wall with your arms still fully extended with the medicine ball. From this position, quickly rotate your body 180 degrees towards the wall and release the medicine ball.
With enough rotational strength, the medicine ball should hit the wall and bounce directly back into your arms. Then, return to the starting position. I normally like doing a few sets of 20 reps on each side!
Another classic exercise: the Bicycle Crunch. Heck, maybe you’ve even done it before! Start this exercise by laying face-up and bending your knees and hips 90 degrees like you’re sitting in a chair.
After that, place your hand on either side of your head, bending your elbows. Twist your body to the left and drive your left knee until it touches your right forearm. At the same time, extend your right leg outward.
Then return back to the starting position and repeat this movement with the other side of your body. Repeat this until you’ve completed this for 20 reps on each side.
For this one, you’ll need a cable machine. Start by setting the cable to be slightly above eye level. If you’re tall, you may want to kneel down to make this possible. Use a single handle attachment for the cable and wrap both hands around it.
Position your body to the side of the cable machine, with your arms still holding onto the handle. Keeping your arms as straight as possible, rotate your midsection in the opposite direction of the cable. You'll eventually move the cable to the other side of your body to roughly hip-level.
At this point, you'll slowly rotate your body back to the starting position and repeat again. Shoot for 10-20 reps on each side. If it's hard to keep your arms straight during this exercise ... lower the weight.
Here’s another great oblique exercise that you can do without equipment. Put yourself in a tabletop position to begin. This is where your hands and toes are planted on the ground with your knees underneath your hips and slightly elevated from the ground.
From this position, rotate your right knee underneath your body and lift your left arm from the ground. When you’ve fully rotated to your side, touch your knee to your elbow. Afterwards, return back to the starting position and repeat this movement with your opposite leg and arm.
This one is another classic, and an exercise you’re probably already familiar with. Nonetheless, it’s a great workout for your obliques! For this exercise, you can use a medicine ball, or no weight at all … it is completely up to you.
Start in a seated position on the floor. While keeping your butt on the ground, raise your torso and legs off the ground, forming a V shape with your body. Your legs can be bent at the knees as long as your feet do not touch the ground.
From this position, and with a medicine ball in your hands or not, twist from side to side tapping the ball or your fingertips to either side of the floor. Russian twists tend to be an exercise you really have to rep out to feel the burn. I personally like doing sets of 40 here, so 20 total rotations on each side of your body.
Get into a tabletop position, this time with your knees planted on the floor. From here, lift your opposing leg and arm off the ground and extend them outward. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds, then return to tabletop.
Repeat this with your other arm and leg and do 5-10 total reps on each side.
This one is fun, and there are also variations of this exercise that can be super fun, too. For this exercise however, you’ll need a swiss ball. Start by placing both of your forearms on top of the swiss ball, extending your body and legs behind you in a plank position.
When you’re in this plank position, use your forearms to slowly rotate the swiss ball in a small circle and keep your core braced. You can repeat this exercise for 30-60 seconds clockwise and counter-clockwise.
If you want to switch it up, try shifting the medicine ball to spell out a word with your forearms. Who knows … you may even make it a game to see how long of a word you can spell!
Have you ever done mountain climbers before? Well, consider this to be a variation that really targets the obliques. Just like a normal mountain climber, you’ll start in a push-up position.
In this position, draw your left knee towards your right elbow underneath your body. Return your left knee to its starting position and repeat this same movement with your right knee and left elbow.
Now, I want to be very clear on this. Just because you train your obliques doesn’t mean you’re going to get "super ripped" abs. Can you? Of course you can! However, training your core muscles is only a small part of what it’s going to take.
So ask yourself … why do you want to start exercising your obliques? Are you looking to target midsection fat and really get your abs to pop? Are you wanting to strengthen all muscles of your core to improve your posture and prevent injury? Or do you have other goals in mind?
No matter what your goal is, we’re here to help! At 1st Phorm, we understand that earning results and maintaining them long-term is going to take a lifestyle change. That’s a change we’d love to help you make!
Because the truth is, you can do all the oblique exercises you want and STILL not see results. This is where your nutrition, overall workout regimen, and lifestyle habits come into play. If you’re looking for more information and one-on-one help … download the 1st Phorm App!
Inside the app, you’ll get access to your very own NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Sports Nutrition Coach to optimize your nutrition and workouts. On top of that, you can track all your food, choose tons of different workout programs, and even measure your progress … all in one place!
If you have any questions, or need anything at all, reach out to us! One of our NASM Certified Personal Trainers is always available to help. Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com.
BS Exercise Science NASM Certified Personal Trainer NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist