Ask any fitness instructor, a strong core is imperative for movement, stability, and endurance.
Your core, located in the midsection of your body, is made up of your transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominus, multifidus, and erector spinae.
Let’s focus on the obliques here!
Obliques are a muscle group that should be featured in any core workout routine. They rotate the spine, assist in side bends, and when you have strong obliques, they aid in fat loss by shrinking your waistline.
Oblique crunches are a crunch exercise that primarily targets your side abs (a.k.a. love handles). But oblique crunches aren’t the only way! Oblique exercises such as side plank crunches are one of my absolute favorites to add to my own ab workouts.
Let’s explore your options to target that side body!
What Are Obliques?
Obliques are the abdominal muscles in your torso that are located on each side of your body. They aid in posture, stabilization, and rotation. All are very important for your everyday movement!
You have two different obliques muscles— internal and external — and both are important parts of our core musculature.
Your internal obliques are located below your external obliques and above your transverse abdominis muscles. They connect your lower four ribs to your hips and the pubic crest. Your internal obliques stabilize the body through movement.
They also help in forced respiration by raising the pressure in the abdomen. Try it! Forcefully exhale while pulling your belly button to your spine. Those are your muscles at work!
Your external obliques are located across your internal obliques from the middle of your ribs to your pelvis. One function is, in conjunction with the rectus abdominis muscles, to pull the sternum downward.
They also perform the same side side-bending and opposite side rotation. Again, try these movements to feel the movement in your own body!
What Muscles Does the Oblique Crunch Work?
Oblique crunches are a great way to improve your overall core strength and tone your abdominal muscles for muscle definition.
The oblique crunch is a great exercise that engages the abdominal wall, erector spinae, and quadratus labarum.
Oblique crunches are a staple core exercise that can improve lateral stability and increase your core strength, which may help prevent back injury. You sculpt your waist, tighten your core, strengthen your back, improve your balance and flexibility.
Time needed: 2 minutes.
How to Do Oblique Crunches
Lie on the floor facing up with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on the back of your head. Do not interlace your fingers. Engage your abs.
On an exhale, using your core, lift your head, neck, and chest bringing your left elbow towards your right knee. In other words, your elbow is moving diagonally across your body as you lift and twist. Your lower back stays on the floor throughout the entire movement. Release and untwist on an inhale.
Return to the starting position and perform on the other side. Repeat 8 to 10 reps on each side to complete the set.
Personal trainer tips: To better understand the movement, in a standing position, place a barbell on your shoulders, focus on your shoulder stability as you rotate from left to right. A Pallof Press also imitates this motion.
Oblique crunch Variations: Take it up a notch by floating your feet 6 to 8 inches off of the ground.
- Lie on your back with your knees into your chest. Keep your knees together as you drop them to the left creating a twist through the spine.
- Bring your right hand behind your head with your left arm stretched out to the side.
- On an exhale, lift your chest and legs at the same time, bringing your right elbow to your knees.
- Inhale, release back to the starting position. Repeat 8 to 10 reps on each side.
Personal trainer tip: Press firmly through your extended arm for stability!
Variations: Open and stretch your hip flexors by lifting only the top leg in each rep. Keep the bottom leg firmly planted on the mat.
Side Plank Oblique Crunch / Side Plank Crunch
- Start by laying on your right side with your right forearm under your shoulder. Keep your feet and ankles stacked as your press through your forearm and feet into a side forearm plank. There should be a straight line from the tip of your head to your heels.
- Reach your left arm overhead, stretching through the left shoulder and lats, fingertips pointing to the front, palm forward.
- On an exhale, engage your core as you lift your left leg, side crunching your upper hand and left elbow to your left knee. It’s one continuous motion.
- Repeat for 8 to 10 reps before switching to your left side with your right arm overhead.
Personal trainer tip: This is a challenging crunch. Your form should be your number one priority. Pay close attention to your hips, don’t let them drop as you’re moving. If they do, consider one of the variations listed below.
Variations: There are quite a few options for this exercise! If you’re a beginner, try this side crunch from a standing position or consider bending your bottom knee coming into a modified side plank. For the more experienced, hold a light dumbbell or kettlebell in your hands or straighten your bottom arm into a standard side plank.
Oblique Crunch Reach
- Start on your back, knees bent and slightly wider than shoulder-width distance apart and hands placed lightly behind your ears.
- Exhale, lifting your torso, tapping your right hand to the outside of your left knee. Release down.
- Repeat, bringing your left hand to the outside of your right knee. This is 1 rep. Repeat for 10 to 12 reps.
Personal trainer tip: Use slow and controlled movements throughout the entire crunch.
Variation: Add a bonus crunch in between as you alternate sides!
- Start in a tabletop position, knees under your hips and wrists under your shoulders. Keep a slight bend in your elbows, you don’t want to lock them out. On an exhale, press the ground away, separating your shoulder blades as you hover your knees an inch off the ground.
- Shift your weight into your left foot and right arm as you side bend and twist under, bringing your right knee to your left elbow.
- Reset to the tabletop with hovered knees. Shift your weight into your right foot and left hand as you twist, bringing the opposite knee to your right elbow. Again, reset. This is 1 rep.
- Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.
Personal trainer tip: For the beginner, drop your knees between sets to take a quick break. This can also relieve any pressure building up in the wrists. For the more advanced, create a larger range of motion by starting in the standard plank position.
Variation: Turn this into a cardio workout by picking up the pace! Move at a pace that doesn’t compromise proper form!
- Start by lying on your back, knees bent, feet hip-width on the yoga mat, hands at the base of your neck.
- Engage your abdominals as you lift your shoulders and head off the mat. Twist while bringing your right elbow to your left knee as you extend your right leg, stretching through your right hip and hamstrings.
- Release and repeat on the opposite side, connecting your left arm to your right thigh, stretching through the left hip. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.
Personal trainer tip: Pay attention to your extended leg, keep it floating 6 to 8 inches off of the ground to target all sides of your core.
Variation: Your right heel can lightly touch the ground as you twist to the left and your left heel can graze as you rotate to the right. To take it up a notch, hold a dumbbell weight plate at chest level.
- Start in a seated position with bent knees. Lean your upper body back until you feel your core muscles engage, about 45 degrees. Float both feet off the floor to a 90-degree angle, balancing on your glutes.
- Clasp your hands in front of your chest. Rotate to the right, dropping your hands to the outside of your left thigh. Reset and switch sides, bringing your hands to the outside of your right quads.
- Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.
Trainer tip: Keep your feet or toes on the mat until you can comfortably keep them up in this exercise.
Variation: Work up to adding a little bit of heavy weight by holding a kettlebell, dumbbell, or medicine ball in your hands as you rotate!
Above all else, proper form is imperative! Always start in a neutral position and complete the recommended number of reps for each oblique workout or until your posture falters. Feel free to add more reps as you become more experienced and comfortable with the movements.
While the best way for overall weight loss is a diet tracking the number of calories you intake so is creating lean muscle. A regular oblique workout, cardio, and strength training will aid in shrinking your midsection.
Of course! It’s actually encouraged! You should work your entire core for your overall wellness.
These are some of the best oblique exercises to add to your home workout routine. This article can be a useful tool in providing variety when targeting the muscles located on the side of your torso.
Seek medical advice and approval prior to starting new physical activity.