When it comes to the various muscle groups of the human body, some are more understandable than others. Everyone knows how to do a biceps curl…

When it comes to the abs, however, there seems to be quite a bit of difficulty in getting things straight. Some people are unsure of just how these muscles should be worked… which exercises are best, etc. The “side abs” or “obliques” fall into this category.

We’ve all seen someone working the obliques by standing with one hand up behind the head, the other hand hanging down holding a dumbbell, then bending over sideways away from the dumbbell.


This might do some good but there is a much better way to work obliques.

First, let’s look at what the muscles actually accomplish… what is their function? Well, with the obliques, that function is twisting the trunk. Obliques are oriented on a slant.

Contracting them will pull the trunk around and downward slightly, so we want to load them accordingly.

There are a couple of great exercises for this:

The best way I have found to challenge the obliques is what is known as a “Reverse Trunk Twist”.

Perform this by lying down on the floor, face up, with arms directly out to the side, palms down (like a crucifix). Next, draw the knees up and toward the body to the point where the hips and knees are both bent 90 degrees.

The thighs should be straight up and the shins horizontal to the ground. Keep the knees together. Next, begin rotating both knees/legs to one side. As you do this, be sure to keep the opposite shoulder on the ground (it will try to pull up).

Once you rotate the legs as far as you can, stop and reverse all the way to the opposite side, again keeping the shoulder(s) on the ground. That’s one “back-and-forth” rep.

Your goal here should be to perform 20 back-and-forth reps.

Be careful to keep the hips and knees at 90 degrees. There is a tendency to draw the knees in closer or allow them to fall away. There is also a tendency to allow the feet to fall downward…keep the shins parallel to the ground.

Also, your range of motion will be a bit short at first but with practice you will be able to rotate farther to each side.

A second exercise which has gained a lot in popularity is the “Plank”.

side ab workout2

Now this can be used for the front washboard abs (rectus abdominis) but a slight variation also activates the obliques quite well.

Start by assuming the face-down plank, resting on your elbows and toes. Now spread the toe stance out wide……very wide! Next, lift one leg off the ground and hold for 5-10 seconds.

Then repeat with the other leg. If you can lift one leg and hold the plank from just your elbows and the other toe, you will definitely feel it in the obliques.

Your goal should be alternating 10-second lifts for a period of 60 total seconds, but work up to that goal.

Try different foot/toe stance spacing too. With practice you will be able to use a wider stance.

Two very different exercises here, but both will work your obliques quite well. I still prefer the functionality of the twisting motion but I mix the two for the sake of variation.

Try ‘em… Give yourself time to get used to these motions. Many people have a difficult time at first, but eventually you will get it!

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