19 Oblique Exercises That Should Be In Your Core Routine
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19 Oblique Exercises That Should Be In Your Core Routine

 

Do your obliques get the same love that your six pack muscles do? Are you tired of doing boring broomstick twists to “strengthen” your core? 

This isn’t your ordinary list of oblique exercises, and while the focus of this post is on targeting  your oblique muscles (internal and external), you will also be using your rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis muscles as well. These muscles not only look great sculpted, they also have a greater purpose; they help us move better and they protect and stabilize our spine.

Watch the video below to look where these muscles are located throughout the trunk:

Most of the exercises on this list involves trunk rotation (where you rotate the trunk). Trunk rotation is often neglected when doing core training. Popular exercises like the crunch involves trunk flexion (where you bend forward). A dumbbell side bend involves trunk lateral flexion (where you bend your trunk sideways)

While adding a bit of rotation to your ab workout can definitely be useful,  I will also cover a few exercises that will work on stability and mobility while challenging your obliques.

Exercise Categories:

core_training_levels

 

1. Bicycle Crunches

bicycle-crunches

How to do them: 

  • Lay on the floor and place your hands behind your head. Your hands are placed here to support the weight of your head, not to pull your neck forward.
  •  Lift your upper torso and legs off the ground and try to connect elbow to opposite knee.
  • Keep your chin away from your chest.
  • Focus on contracting your abdominals and breathe out at the top position.

Make it harder:

  • Perform this exercise in a slow and controlled manner, this will keep more tension on the muscles and give you the “burn” that a lot of people seek when doing core exercises.

Note: Don’t fully extend your bottom leg if you have lower back issues, keep it bent and close to your body.

 

2. Band Rotations

band rotations

How to do them: 

  • Stand next to the anchor point. Place your feet about shoulder with apart. Keep a soft bend at the knees.
  • You can either clasp your hand through the band or you can grab it over hand with both hands.
  • Position your hands about chest height at the midline of the body.
  • Pivot at your feet and rotate your trunk.
  • Rotate your torso away from the anchoring point. Exhale as you rotate and inhale as you return to the starting position.
  • Rotate back towards the anchoring point. (It is important to maintain control at this portion of the exercise by not letting the resistance of the band pull you back.)

Make it harder:

  • Fully extend your arms in front of you.  The long lever increases the demand placed on the core.

Note:  You can also use a cable machine instead of a band to perform this exercise. However, the band is versatile, you can attach it to almost any sturdy and stable fixture. Which also means you can take it with you when you travel. In the example above I’m using a 1/2 inch band. This 1/2 band provides about 15-25 lbs of resistance.

 

3. Russian Twists

kettlebell russian twists

 

How to do them: 

  • Sit on the floor and grab the kettlebell by the horns.
  • Bend your knees and keep them together.
  • Get your heels off the floor and keep your chest up.
  • Twist your torso to one side and then to the other. Keep the kettlebell close to your chest throughout the movement.
  • Exhale with each twist.

Make it harder: 

  • Lift your feet higher away from the ground. This will require more stability.
  • You can also place a small ball between your knees. Squeeze the ball throughout the exercise, this will engage your adductors and adbominals to a higher degree.
  • Fully extend your arms in front of you.

Note: You can also use a dumbbell or medicine ball instead of a kettlebell. To make this exercise easier place your feet on the ground.

 

4. Band Chops

 band-chops1

 

How to do them: 

  • Attach the band to a high point. You can also use a cable machine.
  • Stand next to the anchor point. Place your feet about shoulder with apart. Keep a soft bend at the knees.
  • You can either clasp your hand through the band or you can grab it over hand with both hands.
  • For some people, it is easier to place the foot closes to the anchor point back and the opposite one forward.
  • Pivot at your feet and rotate your trunk in a downward motion.
  • Exhale as you bring the band down and inhale as you return.

Make it harder:  Try holding the contracted position for 1-2 seconds.

Note:  This is a dynamic version of a band rotation. This version also challenges your six pack muscles more than the standard version.

 

5. Seated Medball Rotational Toss

 seated-medball-rotational-toss

How to do them: 

  • Grab a medicine ball and sit next to a wall.
  • Keep your chest as upright as possible.
  • Toss the medicine ball towards the wall, catch it and repeat the sequence.
  • Exhale as you toss.

 

6. Across the Body Mountain Climbers

across-the-body-mountain-climbers

How to do them: 

  • Start in a plank position.
  • Bring one knee across your body, to the outside of the opposite arm.
  • As you start bringing that leg back, lift the opposite foot off the ground to continue the sequence.

Note:  The more you bring the leading knee outside your arm, the harder your obliques will work. This exercise can also get your heart rate up significantly.

7. Bird Dog

bird dog exercise

How to do them: 

  • Get in a 4 pillar position where you are facing the ground, your knees are underneath your hip bone and your wrists are underneath your shoulder.
  • Keep your spine in a neutral position.
  • Extend one leg and the opposite arm at the same time. Squeeze the butt cheek of the extended leg.
  • Your arm and leg should be somewhat parallel to the floor.
  • Pause briefly at the top position.
  • Try your best to keep your hips and shoulders facing down throughout the movement.
  • Do not rotate your body.
  • Return to the starting position by connecting elbow to opposite knee. Breathe out at this portion of the exercise.
  • Return the leg and hand back to the ground and repeat the sequence on the other side.

Make it harder:  Pause for 1-2 secs when you connect elbow to knee in the downward position. Focus on contracting the abdominals in this position.

Note:  If you take notice, the bottom position of this exercise where you connect elbow to knee, is very similar to the top position of the bicycle crunch (first exercise on this list).  The biggest difference is this exercise requires hip and shoulder stability. The bicycle crunch does not.

 

8.  Jiu Jitsu Sit Throughs

jiu-jitsu-sit-throughs

 

How to do them: 

  • Get in a 4 pillar position where you are facing the ground, your knees are underneath your hip bone and your wrists are underneath your shoulder.
  • Lift one hand and the opposite foot at the same time.  (In the example above I am doing a “left leg” sit throughs, so I lifted my right hand and left foot.)
  • Rotate your torso towards the left side and kick your left leg through. Once your leg goes through, briefly place your left heel and left butt cheek on the floor.
  • Retract your leg and go back to the 4 pillar position.
  • You can either can continue performing kick throughs on the same side or you can alternate sides.

Note:  This is a movement that is usually done as a warm up in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practice.

 

9. Animal Flow Side Kick Throughs

animal-flow-side-kick-throughs

How to do them: 

  • Get in a 4 pillar position where you are facing the ground, your knees are underneath your hip bone and your wrists are underneath your shoulder.
  • Lift one hand and the opposite foot at the same time.
  • Rotate towards the side you want to kick through and extend you leg.
  • Unike the “jiu jitsu sit throughs”, in this version you don’t place your heel or your butt on the floor. Leaving your leg up in the air will challenge your hip flexors and abs more. 
  • You point your toes in this version.
  • The hand that is in the air is pulled back, putting it as far as possible from the opposite foot.
  • Retract your leg and go back to the 4 pillar position. Land both your foot and hand at the same time.
  • You can either can continue performing side kick throughs on the same side or you can alternate sides.

Note: If you wish to learn more about the Animal Flow bodyweight discipline then head over to AnimalFlow.com

 

10. Side Plank

side plank

How to do them: 

  • Lie on your side. You can either place your hand or your forearm on the floor (The hand version will challenge more of your shoulder’s stability).
  •  Your elbow or hand should be underneath your shoulder.
  • Lift yourself up.
  •  Keep your hips and shoulder squared. Do not let them rotate to either side.
  • Don’t let your head come too forward. This is a common mistake.
  • Don’t forget to breathe throughout the exercise.

Note: This exercise builds core strength and endurance. It is a misconception that this exercise only targets your obliques. The side plank is also great to strengthen the lower back and hips. It challenges lat and shoulder stability as well.

Click here to learn more about side planks.

 

11. Side Plank with Hip Abductions

side-plank_with-hip-abductions

How to do them: 

  • Lie on your side. You can either place your hand or your forearm on the floor (The hand version will challenge more of your shoulder’s stability).
  •  Your elbow or hand should be underneath your shoulder.
  • Lift yourself up.
  • Keep your hips and shoulder squared. Do not let them rotate to either side.
  • In this version of a side plank you are going to lift your leg up, away from the leg that is supporting you.
  • Don’t let your torso collapse when you lift your leg up.

Make it harder: Control the descent of the leg that is in the air, allow 2-3 seconds before bringing it all the way down.

Note: This version requires more hip stability than the standard side plank.

 

12. Side Plank with Rotation

 side-plank-with-rotation

How to do them: 

  • Lie on your side. You can either place your hand or your forearm on the floor (The hand version will challenge more of your shoulder’s stability).
  •  Your elbow or hand should be underneath your shoulder.
  • Lift yourself up.
  • Keep your hips and shoulder squared. Do not let them rotate to either side.
  • In this version of a side plank you are going to rotate your torso. Start by bringing the free arm inward, towards the ground.  As your arm comes underneath your body, lift yourself up further away.
  • Exhale as you rotate inward.
  • Go back to the top position.

Make it harder: Use a 5 lb dumbbell on the free arm.

13. Pallof Press Iso Hold

band-pallof-press-iso-hold

How to do them: 

  • Stand next to the anchor point. Place your feet about shoulder with apart.
  • You can either clasp your hand through the band or you can grab it over hand with both hands.
  • Position your hands about chest height at the midline of the body.
  • Stay as upright as possible. Squeeze your butt. Push your arms out and keep them straight.
  • Don’t let the band’s resistance rotate towards the anchor point.
  • Breathe throughout the hold.

Make it harder: Instead of grabbing a band with more resistance, place your feet closer together or step further away from the anchor point.

Note: Don’t take this exercise lightly. It might look easy but trust me, it is quite demanding on the core. You can also use a cable machine instead of the band. You’re goal shouldn’t be to go as heavy as possible. Your goal should be to do this exercise with great form.

14. Half Kneeling Windmill

half-kneeling-windmill

How to do them: 

  • Start on the floor where you place one foot forward and place the opposite knee on the floor.
  • Press the kettlebell up. Keep that arm straight and look up the kettlebell throughout the entire exercise.
  • Start bending your trunk laterally towards the floor.
  • To allow you to do this with ease, push the hip of the front leg out to the side.
  • Place your fingers or hand on the ground.  Pause briefly and return to the starting position.

Make it harder: Place your forearm on the ground instead of your hand. This will make your obliques work harder since you’ve increased the range of motion. You can also align your back knee with your front foot, this will create more instability.

Note: This exercise is a great primer to the more complete version, the kettlebell windmill.

 

15. Unilateral Farmer’s Walk

unilateral farmer's walk

How to do them: 

  • Grab a kettlebell and simply walk a few feet.
  • Don’t let the kettlebell pull your torso laterally. You have to resist the lateral flexion.
  • As you are walking, don’t let your head come too forward.
  • Don’t let your shoulders round forward either.
  • Keep your arm in it’s shoulder socket.

Note: This a great exercise that does so much more than just train the obliques. It also strengthens the quadratus lumborum, a muscle that assists in lateral flexion, and one that helps stabilize the spine. You will also be working on grip and hip strength as well as targeting your trapezius muscle.

16.  Windmill

kettlebell windmill

How to do them: 

  • Grab a kettlebell and stand about shoulder width apart.
  • Press the kettlebell up and stand with both feet at a 45 degree angle.
  • If the kettlebell is held in the left arm (like the picture above), the feet will be pointed towards the right.
  • Hinge at your hips by pushing your hips away from your feet. You’re hinging towards the side of the kettlebell.
  • Let your free arm slide down your leg.
  • Make sure your eyes are on the kettlebell at all times.

Note: A common mistake I see with the windmill is when people bend too forward with their spine. The downward portion of the exercise relies heavily on the hips. Remember to shoot your hips out as you are going down. This will put your spine in a more favorable position.

This exercise not only targets your obliques but it also works on hamstring flexibility and shoulder, lat and hip mobility as well.

17. Spider Man Push Ups

spiderman-push-ups

How to do them: 

  • Start in a plank position as you would in a normal push up.
  • Extend one arm in front of you. This arm is somewhat straight. The leg of the side of this arm is also straight.
  • In the opposite side (where your obliques will work the hardest), lift your leg and place the knee just on top of the arm by bending your leg. The arm should be tucked in behind the leg.
  • Push yourself up and travel forward. The opposite knee should land on top of the opposite arm.
  • You can either keep traveling forward or you can reverse the movement back to the starting position (going forward is easier than going backwards).

Note: This push up variation will require a lot more shoulder mobility than the standard version. And besides using your obliques, chest, shoulders and triceps, this exercise is great for hip mobility and inner thigh flexibility.

18. Bench Kick Throughs

bench-kick-throughs

How to do them:

  • Get in a plank position. Place your feet on a bench or on another platform. Keep your hands on the ground.
  • Bring one knee across your body towards your chest.
  • Then rotate your torso and kick the free leg through. Try to fully extend the leg.
  • Reverse the movement back where you are in a plank position.

Make it harder: Don’t let the travelling leg return back to the bench. Leave it in the air through out the entire exercise. You can also pause briefly when you kick your leg through.

Note: This exercise will also challenge the hip stability of the leg that remains on the bench.

19. Diagonal Toe Touches

diagonal-toe-touches

  • Hang from a pull up bar.
  • Pull yourself up just a bit to keep your lats engaged.
  • Raise your legs and bring them towards the outside of your hand.
  • Then bring your legs back to the hanging position.

Make it harder: Don’t allow your legs to swing at the bottom position between reps.

You may also like:

 

Now go to the gym and use some of these exercises!

I hope you have found some of these exercises interesting and that you integrate them into your existing routines.

 

 

Summary
19 Oblique Exercises That Should Be In Your Core Routine
Article Name
19 Oblique Exercises That Should Be In Your Core Routine
Description
Do your obliques get the same love that your six pack muscles do? Are you tired of doing boring broomstick twists to "strengthen" your core?
Author
Publisher Name
JLFITNESSMIAMI
Publisher Logo
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Juan Lugo
7 Comments
  • Jackey Balwani
    Reply

    Wonderful piece of work out Bro.. Love this 🙂

    March 28, 2016 at 2:43 am
  • Jon
    Reply

    Nice variety. Thank you for the simple explanation and the new workout.

    March 30, 2016 at 4:09 pm
  • Very easy exercise to workout, thank you.

    March 31, 2016 at 3:22 am
  • Carol Abernethy
    Reply

    Hi. How many different exercises and how many times a week would you suggest for a beginner? Thanks!

    May 31, 2017 at 10:26 pm

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