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Developing Your Oblique Muscles

Your oblique muscles (side abdominals) help you bend from the side or twist your torso. Strong obliques support the lower back, warding off back pain and posture problems. Improved posture, thanks to strong obliques, slims your waist.

Knowing how the obliques work

Your abdominals consist of four muscles. Most people are used to hearing them simply called abs. The abs include the Rectus abdominis, the Transversus abdominis, and a pair of muscles called the obliques.

The oblique muscles actually include the following pair of muscles on each of your sides:

  • The external obliques form the top muscle.
  • The internal obliques lie underneath the external obliques.

Together, they cross diagonally near the side of your midsection, from the bottom of your rib cage to your pubic area. The obliques are responsible for side bending and waist twisting moves.

Oblique exercise techniques

Because doing oblique exercises properly can speed up your results, whereas doing them improperly can turn working out your waist into a waste of time, follow these tips:

  • Warm-up and stretch: Including an aerobic warm-up as well as stretching after your workouts are both essential elements for success.
  • Breathe properly: Exhale during the exertion part of an exercise. Usually, that's the most difficult part of a move. Simply blow the air out when you lift your upper torso up off the floor.
  • Use quality versus quantity: Somewhere along the way, fitness enthusiasts began to replace the quality of an oblique move with quantity. Somehow it became important to do hundreds of oblique repetitions with no attention given to proper form. This is erroneous. It is far better to do 8 to 20 repetitions with the correct form than to do numerous but sloppy moves.
  • Lift from your obliques: When doing these side oblique exercises, don't lift from your neck. Doing so could cause injury and does absolutely nothing for your waistline. The lift comes from your obliques.
  • Keep your chin up: Keep your chin slightly up throughout oblique exercises to avoid neck injury. Imagine holding an orange under your chin during the moves to ensure proper form.
  • Avoid thinking you can just zap them: As you embark on your awesome obliques journey, keep in mind that you cannot spot reduce. Shrinking your waist size is an attainable goal if you exercise faithfully and maintain a healthy diet and include a cardiovascular activity in your routine.
  • Maintain a neutral spine: In past years, fitness experts harped at clients to push their backs into the floor during oblique moves. This was good advice in that it is harmful to arch the back during abdominal exercises. However, it does not allow for the natural curve of the spine. The best current advice is not to arch or flatten the back. It is safest to keep a small distance of about an inch and a half between your back and the floor, which varies slightly depending on what's comfortable for you.

Oblique crunch

This Oblique Crunch concentrates on both the external and internal obliques.

Getting set

Lie on your back with your hands behind your head so that your fingers rest behind your ears. Open your elbows up and out to the side. Keep your shoulder blades on the floor. Lift your knees up and together as you bring them to one side. Keep them stacked on top of each other.

The exercise

Using slow and controlled movements, raise your upper torso directly off the floor. Contract or crunch your rib cage in the direction of your pelvis. Slowly return to start. Do five to ten repetitions on each side. As you progress, work up to 10 to 20 repetitions on each side.

Be sure to keep your chin up as if you are holding an orange. This will help to prevent neck injury.

Exhale as you lift your upper torso toward your pelvis. Inhale on the return to start.

Other options

Cross your arms: If the Oblique Crunch is too difficult, you can do the same move with your arms crossed over your chest. Be extra careful to keep your chin up to avoid neck injury.

Use a stability ball: To take the Oblique Crunch to an advanced level, try using a stability ball. The move is slightly different, but it works the same muscles. Place the ball on the floor near a wall. Lie sideways on the ball with your hands behind your head. Push the bottoms of your feet into the wall to help you stabilize yourself. It may take practice to achieve balance. Lift your upper torso as you crunch to the side toward your hip. Return to start. This is a challenging move so only do it if you can maintain proper form throughout.

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