The obliques are the muscles located on the sides of the abdomen. They help you to pull your chest downward as well as flex and rotate your torso and spine. An oblique imbalance, where one side of the oblique muscles is stronger than the other, can decrease your flexibility and range of motion. It also makes the lower back more susceptible to injury. Performing oblique exercises can help correct a muscular imbalance and restore spinal rotation. As always, consult your health-care practitioner before attempting oblique imbalance exercises, especially if you have a prior lower back injury or other medical condition.
Do the Twist
Perform trunk twists, which target your obliques, by holding a dumbbell to your chest using the hand on your weaker oblique side. Stand up straight with feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Lean forward slightly, hinging at the hips and keeping your back straight. Rotate your torso to the left, tightening your abdominals as you twist your waist. Repeat on the opposite side, aiming for a total of six twists on each side. Do two sets on your strong oblique side and three or four sets on your weaker oblique side. Mix up your twist workout to keep your oblique muscles guessing and growing. For example, stagger your stance as you rotate, do twists from a seated position, or vary the speed that you twist.
Work your oblique muscles by doing crunches. Lie on your back and rotate your hips so that your knees are stacked on top of each other facing the right. Place your hands behind your head and curl your torso upward off the floor. Repeat with your waist and knees facing to the left. You can also do side crunches from a standing position by standing up straight with both knees facing forward and crunching to the side. Hold a dumbbell or the handle of a cable as you crunch to boost the intensity of the exercise. No matter which crunch you choose, aim for two sets of 15 repetitions on each side. Then do another set of crunches going only in the direction of your weaker oblique side.
Bend Like Beckham
Do side bends by standing up straight and holding a medicine ball or dumbbell above your head using the hand on your weaker oblique side. Bend to the right, squeezing your obliques. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side for a total of two sets of 15 repetitions on each side. Add another set on your weaker oblique side. To make the exercise even more challenging, stand on one foot as you bend or do the exercise on an incline bench or exercise ball.
Proceed With Caution
Do each oblique exercise slowly and with complete control. Moving too fast can overstretch your oblique muscles, which can lead to soreness and injury. Keep your abdominal muscles tight and contracted throughout each exercise to help protect your lower back and stabilize your spine. Immediately stop exercising if you experience any type of pain or extreme discomfort. Readjust your position or take a break until the pain subsides.
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