While it’s important to train your abs to strengthen your core as well as make you look more attractive, many people forget or just don’t know how to train the obliques. Obliques are actually more important than abs if you are looking for pure athleticism. Your obliques are firing when you rotate, bend and flex your trunk. These movements are all heavily used in all sports.
The obliques are found on each side of your midsection and go from the side of your abdominals up towards the last. Having well-trained obliques is not only good because of how they make you look in front of a mirror but also when you need to perform compound exercises.
This is because these muscles are responsible for keeping you balanced when doing exercises like squats so that you avoid bending too much and do the exercise in the wrong way. Simply put, whether you train for strength gains, health, or just to look good, strengthening your obliques will help you to come closer to perfection in any of these reasons.
1. Bird Dog Crunches
- Start on all fours, placing your hands flat on the ground directly beneath your shoulders, and your knees beneath your hips with a flat back position.
- Engage your core and drive your right arm straight out from your shoulder, while your left leg drives straight back from your hip, keeping both parallel to the floor throughout the “reach” portion of this movement.
- Squeeze your right arm and left leg back to the original starting position and hold for split second before starting the second rep.
- Repeat this movement for 10 reps without setting your right arm or left back on the ground, then switch to the left arm/right leg combo.
- Complete 3-4 sets of 10 reps on each side with 30 seconds rest between each set.
Beginner modification: Reach with only your arm at first. Then as you become more comfortable, reach with just your leg before you graduate to the full movement.
2. Single-Leg Side Plank with Leg Raise
- With a mat or soft surface beneath you, lie down on your right side, stacking your feet, knees, hips and shoulders over one another in a straight line.
- Prop yourself up on your right elbow and engage your right oblique and hip flexor to maintain this rigid position. Reach your left arm straight up, directly over your shoulder.
- Next, lift your left leg straight up about 6-12 inches, while keeping your foot flexed directly forward.
- Hold this position for 10-15 seconds, keeping your core rigid while working on “lengthening” your body throughout the entire movement.
- Repeat in the same sequence on your left side. Complete 3-4 sets of 10-15 second holds on each side with 30 seconds rest between each set.
Beginner Alternative: Try a simple side plank with the top hand placed on your hip. Then work on raising your arm directly above your head. Finally, try and hold your top leg at full extension for a split second. Continue to work in this format until you can extend your leg for 10-15 seconds on each side.
Related article: 5 Plank Variations to Work More Than Just Your Abs
3. Spiderman Crunch
- Assume a push-up position, palms planted firmly on the ground.
- Maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your heels by engaging your core muscles.
- Lift your right leg a couple inches off the ground and bring your right knee towards your right elbow as you lower into a push-up.
- Return your right leg back to the ground as you push yourself back up, and repeat on the left side
- Alternate legs for 3-4 sets of 10 reps with 30 seconds rest between each set.
Beginner Alternative: Start in the push-up position and alternate lifting your feet up off the ground a few inches with a straight leg and hold each rep for a few seconds. As you make progress, start to bend your knee slightly and bring it towards your elbow.
Related article: Rock Solid Abs & Core With These 11 Plank Variations
4. Side Plank Swipers
- Start by lying on your right side, stacking your feet, knees, hips and shoulders over one another in a straight line.
- Prop yourself up on your right elbow; engage your right oblique and hip flexor to maintain this rigid position; stretch your left arm out past your head so it is in line with your body.
- Keeping your left arm straight, swipe it directly over your body towards your left hip and squeeze your left side as hard as you can while holding for a split second.
- Your right hip will drop slightly during this contraction phase, but try to keep the hips stacked over one another and off the ground throughout this movement.
- Reach back to the original starting position and repeat for 4 additional reps before switching to your left side.
- Do 3-4 sets of 5 reps per side with 30 seconds rest between each set.
Beginner Alternative: Work on a simple side plank hold while contracting the hips towards the floor and back up in a “side crunch.” Remember to try and keep the hips elevated off the floor the whole time. Then work on the arm extension portion by itself before combining the two into a full contraction.
Related article: Gain Total-Body Strength With These 17 Push-Up Variations
5. Single-Leg Toe Touches
- Lie down on your back with your legs flat against the floor and arms extended above your head.
- Lift your left leg up with your foot directly over your hip and a slight knee bend.
- Try to keep your left leg engaged in this position for the entire movement.
- Tuck your chin towards your chest, reach your right arm towards your left foot by contracting your core and hold for a split second.
- Return to the original starting position while keeping your foot and hand elevated off the ground and repeat for 4 additional reps before switching to your right leg and left arm.
- Complete 3-4 sets of 5 reps per side with 30 seconds rest between sets.
Beginner Alternative: Work from the same position on your back, but bend your knee at a 90-degree angle halfway towards your chest. Touch your elbow to the opposite knee. As you become more familiar with this movement, try to progress to the full range of motion by straightening your leg a little more each workout until your foot is directly over your hip.