Obliques are often overlooked muscles even though they are key to maintaining proper posture and spine stability.
That's probably because traditional oblique exercises often get boring real quick — something I often hear from my clients.
So, I scoured the fitness world and experimented with different techniques to bring you the most effective exercises.
Grab a mat, and let's get started.
- The best exercises for obliques include side plank, farmer’s carry, Pallof press, and Russian twists.
- Obliques are muscles that run diagonally down the sides of your abdomen and produce twisting movements.
- According to Live Science, the obliques assist in side-bending the body, rotating and flexing the trunk, and forcing exhaled air out of the lungs.
- We recommend supplementing your oblique workout with a protein powder to promote muscle growth and aid recovery.
Best Oblique Exercises
Before we dive into our list of exercises, I want us to first take a look at what the obliques are.
What Are the Obliques?
The obliques are a pair of muscles (internal and external obliques) running diagonally from the rib cage to the pelvis and are responsible for rotating and flexing the trunk .
According to an article from Live Science, the obliques assist in side-bending the body, rotating and flexing the trunk, and forcing exhaled air out of the lungs .
Now that we have a rudimentary understanding of the obliques, let’s get into the exercises.
7 Best Oblique Exercises
Here’s our list of the seven best exercises for your obliques.
1. Side Planks
This core exercise involves lying in a side plank position to create a straight line from head to toe.
It can also be modified to a single-leg side plank, which can help with burning fat.
To perform a side plank:
- Lie on your right side and support your upper body with a right arm/forearm plank position.
- Bend your knees at a 45-degree angle and stack your left leg on your right leg.
- Use your obliques to lift your left hip towards the sky while keeping your feet touching.
- Hold for the desired time and switch sides.
2. Russian Twists
This exercise requires lower rectus abdominis engagement to stabilize your body, followed by the involvement of your obliques.
Here’s how to perform this exercise:
- Begin by sitting on the ground with knees bent and feet flat.
- Lean back and elevate your feet off the ground, balancing on your tailbone.
- Keep your arms extended and rotate your upper body to drop them towards your right side.
- Rotate back and twist your torso to drop your arms towards your left side.
3. Farmer’s Carry
The exercise engages the lower abs to stabilize the body in the starting position and then the obliques to maintain balance and prevent the weights from swaying.
To perform the farmer's carry:
- Stand between objects with handles like farmer carry bars, kettlebells, or dumbbells.
- Bend to grab them and position your body as in a trap bar deadlift.
- Stand up while keeping good form.
- Maintain an erect spine and walk in a controlled manner.
- Keep your head up and shoulders pulled back to prevent your body from slouching.
- Carry for a set time or distance.
Also Read: Farmer's Carry Workout Guide
4. Pallof Press
The Pallof press, named after physical therapist John Pallof, is an anti-rotation exercise that challenges your stability as you resist the temptation to sway from side to side.
To perform the exercise:
- Set up the cable pulley system, medicine ball, or resistance band.
- Stand away from the attachment point to remove tension.
- Pull the handle towards your chest with shoulders turned parallel to the line.
- Begin pressing your arms straight out.
- Keep your hands at the same height.
- Fully extend your arms and pause.
- Slowly bring your hands back to your chest.
5. Barbell Rollouts
Barbell rollouts are an advanced core exercise where you roll a barbell forward from behind your head while maintaining a stable core.
To do this exercise:
- Grip the barbell overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Let the barbell roll out before you as your body comes forward.
- Keep going until your hips extend and your shoulders align with your torso as the barbell rolls out before your head.
- Flex your core and pull your body back up.
6. Half-kneeling Woodchoppers
The half-kneeling wood chopper is an anti-rotational exercise for enhancing the strength of the anterior core muscles and improving hip mobility.
To perform them:
- Begin in a half-kneeling position with one knee on the ground and the other foot flat in front.
- Hold a weight close to your chest with both hands.
- Rotate your torso and bring the weight diagonally across your body towards your opposite hip.
- Pause briefly at the end before returning to the standing position.
7. Side Crunches
Side crunches involve lifting your body laterally while bringing your elbow towards your head.
This exercise counterbalances side bends.
Here’s how to perform a side crunch:
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and position your left hand close to the left ear.
- Lift your left knee towards your side while bringing down the left elbow to meet it.
- Return to the starting position by straightening the left thigh and raising the left arm back in the air.
- Lower the left foot back down to the ground.
- Repeat on the opposite side with your right knee and right elbow.
What Are the Functions of the Obliques?
The functions of the obliques include torso rotation, lateral flexion, and trunk stabilization. They're also crucial in maintaining posture and balance during movement, assisting with breathing, and supporting the abdominal organs.
Benefits of Working This Muscle
Working the obliques improves posture, offers greater spinal stability, and enhances athletic performance.
“It is so important to train oblique muscles to help us perform better in exercise, sports, and everyday functional movements.”
- Danielle Burrell, NASM-Certified Personal Trainer
Strong obliques can also improve rotational movements, increase core strength, and reduce the risk of lower back pain or injury .
Here are some safety precautions to consider when performing an oblique exercise:
- Start with light resistance and gradually increase the intensity as your strength improves.
- Keep your movements controlled to avoid sudden jerks that could strain your muscles or stress your spine.
- If you have a history of lower back pain, consult your doctor before performing oblique exercises.
Do Oblique Workouts Slim Your Waist?
No, oblique workouts do not slim down your waist. However, they tone and strengthen the muscles around your waist.
What Is the Single Best Exercise for Obliques?
There is no single best exercise for obliques as they require various movements to fully target the muscles. However, some effective ones include side planks, Russian twists, barbell rollouts, and side crunches.
Are Obliques Abs or Back?
Obliques are a part of the abdominal muscles (abs) and not the back since they are located on the sides of the abdomen.
Why Is It So Hard To Build Obliques?
It is hard to build obliques because they’re composed of slow-twitch muscle fibers, which require a lot of endurance training to build mass.
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