Fitness and Training

Best Exercises to Sculpt Your Obliques

THERE ARE ALL kinds of muscle-fixated guys in your local gym, from top-heavy bench press behemoths and stringer tank-wearing arm day devotees to short, stocky squat and deadlift adherents with tree trunk legs. Off in the corner by the yoga mats is the gym bro who is all about abs, spending most of his dedicated exercise time ripping through rounds of sit-ups, then lifting his shirt to reveal their rippling midsection in the mirror. They might have a good handle on their six-pack muscles (the rectus abdominis), but if they want to really forge a functional, strong core that will perform in any type of setting, they’ll need to target their oblique muscles, too.

You might have heard of these muscles being called “side abs.” You might also have heard that to develop them, you’d have to pile on rep after rep of side bends. This isn’t quite the case; the obliques are more than just the side abs of your core, both in terms of their anatomy and function.

What Are Your Obliques
The obliques are two pairs of muscles that run along either side of your torso. Each consists of the external oblique, which is the closest to the surface and the largest abdominal muscle, and the internal oblique, which lies directly beneath. The muscle fibers of the external and internal obliques run perpendicular to each other, and they work together.

What Your Obliques Do
Your obliques are responsible for movements like bending from side-to-side and rotating your torso from left to right. They also assist with spinal flexion (the movement you’d typically associate with movements like crunches and situps that target those six-pack muscles). The obliques actively resist against rotation to help stabilize and protect your spine. They’re a key muscle group for stability, a muscle group that gets attacked when you twist and turn, and when you brace in those positions. That means moves like side planks and windmills will challenge your oblique muscles, as will any exercises that have you holding a load off-center while still trying to keep your hips and shoulders square.

Benefits of Training Your Obliques
Training your obliques can be beneficial for your aesthetic goals and building up a balanced, symmetrical set of core muscles. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Including exercises that target your obliques in your workouts is majorly important for healthy movement and function, too—since you use the muscles for bending, rotation, and spine stabilization, strong, healthy obliques are important for both athletic performance and everyday activities.

Unfortunately, too many guys only target their oblique muscles with exercises that only factor in one of those functions, if they target their obliques at all. Side bends and plate dips can only go so far in a well-balanced program. You’ll want to break out of that box if you want a strong, functional core. The following exercises train your obliques in all the ways they function, by using uneven loads, instability, or rotation. The result: You’ll challenge your obliques from every angle. Tack on these moves in your workout as is appropriate, or pair three to five of them together for a killer obliques circuit.

Side Plank

This is one of the most popular exercises to train your obliques, and for good reason. The plank is a simple, accessible movement, and flipping to the side gives you a potent bracing and stabilization challenge.

How to Do It:

Lie on one side with your legs straight and prop up your upper body on your forearm. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels.
Brace your abs and squeeze your glutes to hold the position.
If you want to make it harder elevate your feet or add a torso rotation.

Copenhagen Side Plank

This slightly-tougher side plank puts even more onus on the obliques.
How to Do It:

Get down on the floor on your side, placing one elbow on the floor stacked directly beneath your shoulder.
Extend your legs out, then rest your weight on the top foot and brace your core to elevate your body off the floor, resting on your elbow and foot.
Drive your bottom knee up, as if you were raising it up to run.
Hold this position, maintaining tension to keep your spine straight and your torso from falling forward, then return to the floor.
Star Plank

Add abduction to the equation with this variation of the side plank.

How to Do It:

Start in the side plank position on your side with your elbow on the floor stacked below your shoulder.
Bend your knees together on the floor. Push your elbow and bottom knee into the floor and press upward, raising your top arm and leg up in the air in the shape of a star.
Hold this position for a count, then return to the start.

Plank Rotation
preview for 3 Side Plank Variations to Level Up Your Obliques Training
3 Side Plank Variations to Level Up Your Obliques Training

Add an rotational element here, giving your obliques a challenge and introducing spinal mobility into the equation,

How to Do It:

Get into a high plank/pushup position, with your hands on the ground directly beneath your shoulders, your feet on the floor in line with your hands, squeezing your glutes and abs to create fully body tension and keep your back level.
Push one hand into the ground, then lift the other off the floor, rotating your torso to reach up to the sky.
Keep your eyes locked onto that hand as you raise up. Pause for a count, then rotate back to the starting position
Copenhagen Plank
preview for Use The Copenhagen Plank to Strengthen Your Core | Men’s Health Muscle

You’ll need a weight bench (or some other sturdy platform of similar height) for this plank variation, which challenges you to elevate your body above the ground for a tougher stabilization.

How to Do It:

Get into a side plank position, with your outside foot up on the bench. Squeeze your upper abs, hips, and obliques to keep your hips up and your spine straight.
For the standard variation, keep the leg closer to the ground off the floor.
If you want an additional challenge, you can give the version of the Copenhagen plank add the knee drives with the lower leg.

Add a twist to your Copenhagen by adding a weight.

How to Do It:

As you raise and lower the weight, it’ll challenge your obliques to stay stable and not let your torso rotate to the front, a different challenge for your core that will be much appreciated when you feel the burn the next day.

Source – Menshealth

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