Last Updated on September 14, 2022 by TJ Daniels, Certified Personal Trainer
The key to performing most exercises more effectively is to have a solid core. Whether you’re looking to lift more weight or gain more muscle mass, having a strong foundation that can provide you stability is of the utmost importance.
However, most core training exercises focus on your sagittal plane in the center of your core instead of more lateral exercises.
This is where oblique exercises can help. These exercises will strengthen your sides which leads to a stronger core that is more resilient and more effective when lifting weights.
What Are the Obliques?
Obliques run down the sides of the abdominals and are actually composed of two muscles. The external obliques and the internal obliques.
However, in terms of working them out, just think of the obliques as one single muscle as all oblique exercises will work them both at the same time.
Together, the obliques allow us to perform a variety of functions including bending the torso forward and to the left and right, rotating or spinning the the torso, and provides stability to the hips and entire lower back area.
With this much at stake, you probably know understand why it is so important to work your obliques and keep them strong, all the while creating a solid core.
Let’s learn the eight best proven oblique exercises you can do at home that will make your core rock solid.
1. Bicycle Crunch
Although this exercise works your abdominal muscles, the twisting motion it incorporates will also work out your obliques.
It’s a simple exercise to do but is very effective at strengthening your sides. Begin by lying on your back on the floor.
You may want to lie on a mat to make it more comfortable, especially for your tailbone. Place your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers.
You should try to support your neck as you move, but don’t pull it forward or place any force on it. Lift your torso, legs, and shoulders off the floor so that only your butt and lower back are still in contact.
Then, twist to the right and lift your right knee towards your left elbow. The goal is for your knee and elbow to touch, but if you can’t do this yet just try to get as close as possible.
Remember to keep your rib cage wide and open and not compressed.
Repeat the motion on the opposite side by twisting to the left and lifting your left knee to your right elbow.
2. Cross-Body Mountain Climber
This exercise is sure to make you sweat as you train your obliques. Begin in a high plank position, making sure that your feet are kept together and that your hands lie flat on the floor and are shoulder-width apart.
Lift your left knee and as you do so, twist your torso so that it comes to meet your right elbow. Try to get your knee as close to your elbow as possible.
You want to explode on the way up, similar to a jump, but make sure you are keeping your hands planted and your back in a straight line.
Hold the position for a few beats and then lower your leg back to the starting position. Repeat the motion on the other side by lifting your right knee to meet your left elbow.
Don’t worry about moving fast as the key to this exercise is to be smooth, consistent, and controlled in your movements. Moving too fast can unbalance you and cause strain.
3. Hanging Oblique Rise
You will need a secure pull-up bar that is set higher than your head height to complete this exercise. It will not only work out your obliques, but also your abs, shoulders, and arms.
Begin by hanging from a pull-up bar with an overhand grip. Bring your knees up to your chest and at the height of the motion, twist towards your left-hand side.
Slowly lower your legs so that they don’t swing and rise them again, this time with a twist to the right.
All of the motion should be in your legs and hips and there is no need to pull up with your arms. You’re not performing chin-ups, just twisting your obliques.
4. Heel Taps
If some twisting exercises cause strain to your neck, this is a good substitute and another exercise that does not require equipment. Begin by lying on your back on the floor.
Place your arms flat at your sides, bend your knees, and plant your feet flat on the floor. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor using your ab muscles.
Try to keep your feet on the floor and lift so that your lower back is still down, but your shoulders and chest are raised.
Swivel your upper body so that you can reach down with your right hand to touch your right feel. Straighten up, and repeat the motion on the other side so that your left-hand touches your left heel.
Try not to twist or rotate your shoulders and focus on staying flat and swiveling instead.
5. Medicine Ball Rotational Toss
Medicine balls are used in a lot of different routines and you can also use them to help with your obliques. Stand two to four steps away from a solid wall in a normal standing position.
The further away from the wall you are, the more difficult the exercise will be and the more force you will need when you throw the medicine ball, so keep this in mind.
Pick up a medicine ball in both hands and twist to your right so you bring the ball back.
After twisting back, throw the ball into the wall with enough force that it bounces back and you can catch it. Repeat the action on the other side.
6. Side Bend
This is one of the easiest exercises on the list. It can be completed without equipment or with dumbbells if you wish to make it more difficult.
Begin by standing straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms hanging at your sides. Bend to the right without moving your lower half.
Hold the position for a beat and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
7. Side Plank
Planks are excellent for strengthening your core muscles and side planks put the focus on your obliques.
As there is no movement required in this exercise, it lowers the risk of strain or injury but is still an effective workout.
Begin in a high plank position with your feet together, hands flat on the floor, and shoulder-width apart.
Move your weight so that it is braced on your right side and then twist your torso so that your left side can be taken off the floor and the majority of your weight is on your right foot.
Stretch your left arm into the air over your head. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds and try to stay still.
Slowly return to the neutral high plank position and repeat on the other side so your weight is on your left side and foot and your right side is in the air.
This exercise is best performed at the gym but can also be performed at home if you’re able to secure a resistance band that will extend higher than your head.
Begin in a squat position with your feet around shoulder-width apart and grab hold of a cable with a firm, double-handed grip.
Rotate to your right and pull the cable down so that it is between knee and calf height.
Stand up from your squat and as you do, bring your arms up so they’re above your left shoulder. You should feel the motion in your core muscles.
It is possible to do the exercise with a kettlebell or dumbbell instead but make sure you aren’t trying to jump or lunge with weight. You will need to lift the weight away from your center so make sure you don’t start too heavy and that you have a firm grip.
Keep in mind with all of these exercises is that it’s easy to do them wrong.
Whenever you’re doing ab and oblique exercises you need to make sure your core is staying tight and that the majority of the movement is taking place around your trunk area.
Way too often people think that they are working their abs or their obliques when in reality they are working their hip flexors.
You will experience the best results for all your abdominal exercises when you concentrate on your trunk area and the bending around that area.
These eight exercises should help you train your obliques and help you develop a rock-solid core.
Some are described with equipment but can be executed using just your body weight.
Remember, with a more solid core, you will be able to lift more weights and gain more mass. I hope this article has helped you decide which oblique exercises to incorporate into your workouts.