What Oblique Muscles Do The Dumbbell Side Bends Work?

Dumbbell side bends are one of the most popular exercises that help to target the oblique muscles.

What Oblique Muscles Do The Dumbbell Side Bends Work?

What is great about this exercise is that you can decide what weight to work with, making it an accessible exercise for all skill levels, meaning that if you are just starting your fitness journey, you can easily incorporate this exercise into your routine.

It’s a great exercise for those who don’t have a lot of time to exercise as you can get a lot of reps in within a short period of time, allowing you to be able to work your midsection with ease.

The oblique muscles are located in the midsection of your body and are essential for flexibility and rotation, making it a crucial exercise for many athletes and gymnasts as it helps them improve their posture and strengthen their midsection. 

In this guide, we’ll be taking you through everything you need to know about dumbbell side bends and how they can help work your oblique muscles.

Not only do we provide you with the benefits that this exercise provides, but we have also gathered instructions that can help you achieve the perfect dumbbell side bend. 

Side Bending Correctly

The dumbbell side bend is an exercise that is extremely popular but one that is often performed incorrectly.

This is because your posture while completing the exercise is essential, especially if you are wanting to target your oblique muscles.

When you do the dumbbell side bend correctly you should be able to feel the oblique muscles tighten as they are being worked.

If you don’t feel the muscles tighten, or if you feel discomfort or pain, then this is your body’s way of telling you that you are not performing the exercise correctly.

You need to make sure that your torso is upright while holding the dumbbell straight down your side.

This will ensure that your posture is correct and help to prevent any injury or pain that can occur if you are slightly slouched or leaning. 

When performing the dumbbell side bend, make sure you are tilting your torso to the side where you are holding the dumbbell.

If you tilt your torso in the opposite direction, this can cause a strain in the muscle, which in turn can be harmful and cause damage if this is not corrected. 

The best way to perform dumbbell side bends properly is by performing the side bend while holding one dumbbell and focusing on one side at a time.

Make sure you are repeating the process on each side to ensure that you are getting a balanced workout. 

What Weight Should I Use?

If you have never done the dumbbell side bend before, you may be wondering what weight you need to use. It may come as a surprise but dumbbell side bends should not be used with heavy weights.

This is because this can cause a lot of lateral compressive stress on the spine that can lead to injury.

For beginners, it’s always best to opt for a lighter weight as this will be a good starting point and allow you to gauge how much resistance you want.

However, as stated, you don’t want to select a dumbbell that is too heavy, even as you develop your experience and confidence. 

You will be able to know when the dumbbell is too heavy as it will provide a lot of resistance and strain on the oblique muscle.

If you feel that this is happening to you, then make sure that you select a lighter weight as soon as possible to prevent injury. 

What Oblique Muscles Do the Dumbbell Side Bends Work?

The Dumbbell Side Bend

Now that you know what muscles the dumbbell side bend targets, it’s important to know how to properly do the exercise as this will ensure that you are being as safe as possible when doing the side bend and will be able to work your oblique muscles without any pain or injury.

This exercise specifically targets the external and internal oblique muscles and is a strengthening exercise. It is done using a dumbbell and is suitable for beginners to try.

If you are a beginner, make sure you are starting with a lighter weight before progressing to heavier weights. 

As mentioned before, the muscles that are worked in this exercise are the oblique muscles. These oblique muscles are located at the rectus abdominis sides, which are commonly known as the six-pack abs.

There are two parts of the oblique muscles that this exercise targets which are the external and internal obliques.

The external obliques are located just above the transverse abdominis while the internal obliques are located beside them. 

The oblique muscles are important in that they help with flexibility and rotation of the trunk which is essential for compressing the midsection or core and stabilizing it.

For many athletes and gymnasts, you will feel the benefits of this exercise as it will help promote better movement in your midsection. 

Doing The Dumbbell Side Bend

Doing the side dumbbell side bend can be done by holding two dumbbells at the same time, but it will be more effective when holding one and working one side at a time.

This is because the oblique muscle will be worked properly. Doing a single-side dumbbell side bend will be more intense for your oblique muscle and allow you to really concentrate and target the one area and therefore provide you with more benefits.

Here is how you can achieve the perfect dumbbell side bend:

  1. Start the exercise by holding a dumbbell in one hand and standing up straight.
  2. Make sure that you keep your back and shoulders straight while lowering the dumbbell down your side. While you are lowering the dumbbell, make sure you focus on the movement from your rib cage without using your hip. 
  3. Straighten your torso while performing a side crunch using the opposite side. 
  4. Repeat these instructions as many times as you want to achieve the full workout.
  5. Once you feel that one side has been fully worked, swap the dumbbell to the other hand and repeat these instructions on the other side. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Side Bends Work Your Obliques?

Side bends are great because they work your oblique muscles at the sides of your waist. They work both the external and internal obliques, meaning that your oblique muscles will be toned and built faster. 

Which Muscles Are Obliques?

The oblique muscles are defined as the external and internal obliques which are abdominal muscles.

They help to provide rotation and trunk flexion and the external oblique is the thickest muscle of the two and runs to the iliac crest from the lower ribs. 

What Is The Difference Between Internal And External Obliques?

The internal and external oblique muscles have the same function as they work as rotation muscles.

However, the external oblique is an opposite side rotation muscle and the internal oblique is the same side rotation muscle. 


Dumbbell side bends work the oblique muscles thoroughly meaning that if you are wanting to work that part of your body, this exercise can help you work on your flexibility making it an ideal exercise for athletes and gymnasts wanting to improve their movement and rotation. 

Whether you have a particular fitness goal in mind or are just wanting to improve your body conditioning and strengthening, dumbbell side bends are a great way to do this thanks to the work that they do to the oblique muscles. 

TJ Daniels, Certified Personal Trainer
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