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The Best Exercises To Strengthen Oblique Muscles

Our forum members shared their best tips for strengthening oblique muscles. Here are the exercises that rose to the top.

A lot of focus is placed on training abdominals with crunches and planks, but many people forget the neighboring oblique muscles. Move beyond the same old side planks and bicycle crunches! These tips from Bodyspace members show you how to train your whole core.

Best Oblique Exercises for Strength, Power, and Function

Dumbbell or Barbell Side Bend

Stand up straight holding a weight in one hand or a barbell behind your shoulders. Bend only at the waist to the side as far as possible. Hold for a second and come back up to the starting position.

Medicine Ball Rotational Throw

Stand a few feet away from a wall with your shoulder facing the wall. Holding a medicine ball, twist your torso powerfully in order to throw it against the wall. Catch it when it comes back to you and repeat.

Decline Oblique Crunches

Lay back on a decline bench. Raise your upper body and put one hand beside your head and the other on your thigh. Continue to raise your upper body while turning your torso to the side. Lower back down. Do all the reps for one side, then switch sides.

Plate Twist

Sit with your legs slightly bent, crossed near the ankles and lifted off the ground. Hold a plate in front of your abdominals with your arms bent. Move the plate to the side and touch the floor with it. Come back up and repeat on the other side.

Best Oblique Exercises For Strengthening Your Core & Maintaining A Small Waist

Push-Up to Side Plank

Do a push-up. At the top, twist into a side plank, raising the top arm. Lower your arm and do another push-up, then twist up to a side plank on the other side.

Seated Barbell Twist

Sit at the end of a flat bench. Rest a barbell behind your head along the base of your neck. While keeping your feet and head stationary, twist your waist from side to side.

Side Jackknife

Lying on your side, clasp your upper hand behind your head. Bring your torso and upper leg toward each other, pulling with your obliques. Squeeze for a moment at the top and return to the starting position. Do all the reps for one side, then switch sides.

Training Tips from the Winners

1st place

When people think of abs, they think of the rectus abdominus, the muscle that, in combination with dieting and resistance training, creates the six-pack. The oblique muscles, which run up and down our sides, are usually overlooked. These muscles serve as stabilizers, and are engaged in almost every compound lifting movement, and almost every physical activity. It is extremely important that they are strong.

Many bodybuilders on the other hand have small waists tapered down from their lats. This achieves the appearance of a "V" shape and it is sought after in the bodybuilding world. While bodybuilders have strong obliques, focusing on strengthening exercises will not cause you to add muscle to the point point where you ruin your V-taper. In fact, building stronger obliques can be immensely beneficial to your training and overall health.

Many people who lift seriously might assume that they hit their obliques hard enough when they do heavy deadlifts or squats. Additional training, could, however, work to improve the form of your lift, and even help to increase the amount of weight you can lift.

Rules for oblique training:

  • Do not do abs or obliques before heavy lifting, because it could compromise your form on the big lifts.
  • Oblique exercises that require more weight should be done for fewer reps, while movements like crunches do not require weight are suitable for higher reps.
Beginnericon
1

Push Up to Side Plank

2 sets of 1 minute each side
Push Up to Side Plank Push Up to Side Plank

2

Oblique Crunches

3 sets of 12 reps
Oblique Crunches Oblique Crunches

Intermediateicon
1

Backward Medicine Ball Throw

2 sets of 10 reps
Backward Medicine Ball Throw Backward Medicine Ball Throw

2

Side Jackknife

1 sets of 30 reps
Side Jackknife Side Jackknife

3

Decline Oblique Crunch

2 sets of 6-8 reps
Decline Oblique Crunch Decline Oblique Crunch

Very Advancedicon
1

Seated Barbell Twist

2 sets of 25 reps
Seated Barbell Twist Seated Barbell Twist

2

Backward Medicine Ball Throw

2 sets of 10 reps
Backward Medicine Ball Throw Backward Medicine Ball Throw

3

Decline Oblique Crunch

2 sets of 6-8 reps
Decline Oblique Crunch Decline Oblique Crunch

4

Russian Twist

1 set of 20 reps each side
Russian Twist Russian Twist

2nd Place

Other than perhaps "Arnold," the two syllables most frequently associated with being in excellent shape are "six-pack."

Often, beginners are lured into the gym with dreams of arms and abs, and some can be so obsessed with maintaining a visible set of abdominal muscles that they fail to make progress anywhere else. But even with this ab obsession, many still fail to train their obliques effectively, which not only holds back their quest for attractive abs, but their overall strength and physique.

Probably the biggest misconception about ab training in general, is that the key to success is volume. Sadly, people fail to understand that abs are muscles just like all the others you train in the gym, and the same rules apply. You wouldn't do 300 sets of bench press and try to train your chest every day, so why should you do that many crunches?

Well here's the secret: You shouldn’t. For this reason, I do direct ab training at most twice per week. If you're performing compound lifts such as deadlifts and squats, your abdominals and obliques are already getting plenty of stimulation from those as well. You'll find greater success relying on weighted ab work performed just a few times per week rather than unweighted ab work performed daily.

Here is a routine I've used that has resulted in significant oblique development.

Circuiticon
1

Air Bike

1 set of 25 reps
Air Bike Air Bike

2

Mountain Climbers

1 set of 25 reps
Mountain Climbers Mountain Climbers

3

Dumbbell Side Bend

1 set of 10 reps each side
Dumbbell Side Bend Dumbbell Side Bend

4

Exercise Ball Crunch

1 set of 25 reps
Exercise Ball Crunch Exercise Ball Crunch

5

Russian Twist

1 set of 15 reps each side
Russian Twist Russian Twist

6

Jackknife Sit-Up

1 set of 15 reps
Jackknife Sit-Up Jackknife Sit-Up

7

Medicine Ball Full Twist

1 set of 10 reps each side
Medicine Ball Full Twist Medicine Ball Full Twist

8

Side Bridge

1 set of 30 seconds each side
Side Bridge Side Bridge

This circuit can be repeated as many times as you want, but my personal feeling is that anything more than four times through is probably excessive. This is a solid routine because it does not require cable equipment or other machinery that most probably don't have.

Any weighted object can be used for the V-Ups, Russian Twists and Side Bends, and it is easy to progress in this routine by bumping up the weight or number of rounds you perform.

Additionally, you can squeeze each circuit in between a few laps on the track or before and after your cardio to maximize efficiency.

However, high volume and high frequency isn't the way to go. A couple of weighted sessions per week is all you really need. Trust me: Once you begin training your abs like your other muscles, they will begin developing like them.

3rd Place:

We all keep hearing how important core strength is, so why do so many people skip their obliques? Are they really that important to train? Yes, they are, but you have to do it right.

I suggest training your obliques no more than once a week, and there's no need to use heavy weight. Higher reps is the way to go. Your put these muscles to use all the time to stabilize your frame, and surely you don't want your daily activities or other training to suffer because you trained too hard. In this case, less is more.

[WORKOUT TABLE] Oblique crunch on the floor 3 sets of 15-20 reps Barbell side bend 3 sets of 15-20 reps Plate twist 3 sets of 15-20 reps Medicine ball full twist 3 sets of 15-20 reps Push-up to side plank 1 set of 1 minute
Workout
1
Oblique Crunches - On The Floor Oblique Crunches - On The Floor

2

Barbell Side Bend

3 sets of 15-20 reps
Barbell Side Bend Barbell Side Bend

3

Plate Twist

3 sets of 15-20 reps
Plate Twist Plate Twist

4

Medicine Ball Full Twist

3 sets of 15-20 reps
Medicine Ball Full Twist Medicine Ball Full Twist

5

Push Up to Side Plank

1 set of 1 minute
Push Up to Side Plank Push Up to Side Plank

Toss these exercises into your normal abs or core workout. Or, you can do them after exercising another muscle group. If you work your obliques at the end of a workout, they won't be exhausted for other exercises where they are crucial for good form.

Just a warning: Strengthening often comes with gains in size as well. With the obliques being on the outer ranges of your waist, this can mean a thicker waist. For the bodybuilder concerned mainly about an aesthetically pleasing physique, this is not always a goal one would strive for. So train them within reason!

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